Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Flowering Cabbage and Kale
(photo from Paul Parent Garden Club)
Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Flowering Cabbage and Kale (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
The first time you hear of flowering cabbage and kale you think, vegetables used in the flower garden--are you crazy! Well let me tell you that these vegetables will look wonderful planted around your home and in your fall garden with mums and New England asters.
Right now, most of the plants are colored blue green to light green, but this will change when the weather begins to get cold. As the temperatures dip down to the thirties and forties the foliage will begin to change color from the center of the plant and will quickly spread to all the leaves. Look for white, pink and purple shades to form during late September and increase during October.
What you will like about this plant is that, when all your garden plants have given up and gone dormant for the year, this plant will just be beginning to show color. It is not uncommon to see the flowering cabbage and kale in your garden as late as February unless the plants are covered with snow. When I lived in Massachusetts, I remember that one year we had snow for the holidays but warm weather returned and melted the snow, revealing the cabbage and kale in the garden--and they lasted for many more weeks.
The flowering cabbage will actually have a small head of cabbage that will form in the center of the plant, growing two to four inches in diameter. The foliage is broad, wide, coarse, thick and leathery. It will grow six to twelve inches tall and wide. The leaves grow in a whorl around the center of the plant and can spread 12 to 15 in wide, like a regular cabbage. Flowering kale grows as a clump of leaves like a head of loose-leaf lettuce. These leaves grow as large as the cabbage plants, but are ruffled on the tip of the leaf or margins.
Some new hybrid varieties grow in the shape of a coarse and thick feather, with the edges of the leaf ruffled with multi-colored foliage. The foliage will grow 2 to 4 inches wide and 12 to 15 inches tall, forming a wonderful-looking plant that will grow 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Both types of plants begin to color up with cold weather and the color begins in the middle of the plant working its way to the edges.
These plants are started from seed during July and August, while the weather is warm, to help develop foliage, as cold weather stops the plants from growing. Like all cabbage and kale plants, cabbage loopers and foliar worms are a problem while growing from seedlings to mature plants. This problem is easily controlled today with the new organic Spinosad or Captain Jack insecticide. When the weather gets cold these insects die, due to the cold weather. (We have many cabbages and kale for sale here at Skillin's and we treat for cabbage loopers organically--the plants are in great shape!)
Plant in a sunny garden, as the sun and cold temperature combination will give you the best color. Cabbage and kale will also do very well in window boxes, planters and pots. On the ground, they seem to hold more of the foliage on the plant, as it is easier to keep them watered. So if your plants are in containers, be sure to water a couple times a week and fertilize them a couple of times after you plant them to give the plant better color. Use a liquid fertilizer such as Fish and Seaweed Blend by Neptune's Harvest every couple of weeks until the ground freezes.
These plants are unique and will give your plantings a lot of character for many weeks to come. If you do not get a centerpiece for Thanksgiving, cut one of the plants from your garden and use it as an centerpiece. If you get tired of the look and want to decorate for Christmas, cut the plants at the soil line and bring them inside the house to cook, as both plants are very tasty. They are great in cold salads and make great garnish for special meals. Great plants for fall color around your home or your next meal--the flowering cabbage or flowering kale. So pick some up this weekend when you are visiting your favorite nursery or greenhouse. You will like these plants as much as I do, so enjoy!