Planting brassicas: ground prep, making frames, choosing nets

It’s time to plant out the main crop brassicas.  I already have plenty of over-wintered plants in the ground, as welll as my early kales, so we have plenty to eat for now.  It’s time though to put in the brassicas that will feed us from Autumn until Spring.  Although some recommend planting sprouts in July,  I’ve often struggled to get them to establish in the heat, so I’ve chosen instead for May planting, with the added bonus of longer stalks and hence more sprouts, the same holds true for the kalettes.

I’ve also planted a range of shorter lived plants, red cabbage, broccolini, calabrese as well as some winter kales.

Finally I’m planning to take the nets off fairly early, in a few months time.  I’m doing this because on balance I seem to have more success when I have easy access to the plants, to keep them tidy, harvest from them regularly, inspect them for pests and treat the pests, rather than just cover them in nets and hope for the best.  I will spray with Bacillus Thuringiensis (a natural soil bacteria) once I take the nets off, to control for caterpillars.

If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We live in the north west of England, in Lytham St Annes, which I believe is the equivalent of USA Zone 8.

We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. I do most of the planning and seed starting. We each have our own plots, but we all help each other out.

Jennie’s plot has been designed as a traditional allotment, but we put a lot of focus on minimising the work we do there.  It’s basically a plant and forget it plot, full of garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, brassicas, squash, beans and fruit trees. It’s heavily mulched to reduce weeds and easy to water.

Debbie’s plot is mostly full of perennials, it’s a garden plot.  Again we did a lot of work to keep the weeds down and Debbie’s approach is inspired by the TV programme The Ornamental Kitchen garden.

My plot is all about experimental growing, maxium productivity and year round abundance.  As with all of the other plots I did a lot of work to control the weeds, but it’s a high maintenance plot.  I’m always planting, harvesting, experimenting and generally having a great time.

Collectively the plots deliver an amazing abundance of fruit and veg all year round.  Debbie, Jennie and I are effectively self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit for much of the year.  During winter we have enough surplus to feed a few more of our friends and during the rest of the year we feed up to 22 people.

This video provides an overview:

I do an update of the allotments, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here:

Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible.  For more on self sufficiency check out these videos:

Debbie and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.

I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.

I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. Selina Ainsley says:

    Hi Steve,
    Firstly thanks so much for sharing you allotment/growing journey. I’ve been growing veg on and off since uni but now finally have my own allotment so looking forward to feeding my family with more homegrown delights this year.
    Your website and videos have really helped me – thank you.
    I am going to try and grow some brassicas (I have tried a few time but got attacked by cabbage whites) where do you get your Bacillus Thuringiensis from? Think this and netting will be my defence.
    Thanks in advance

  2. You can get Bacillus Thuringiensis on eBay, but it’s expensive, so you would likely need to share it with fellow plot holders, like I do : All the best – Steve

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