5 JANUARY 1974, Page 12



Denis Wood

Maud came in the other day waving the new seed catalogues in my face. "Look here," she said, "you really must get your vegetable seeds in time this year. Remember what happened before; you dozed like a dormouse until well into March, and then you couldn't get all the things I had told you to. Sjt down and make up a cropping plan at once, and get the seeds on order. You will need some now for sowing under glass, and as I am here I may as well give you a run down on the chief Brassicae.

"You sow your early cauliflower seed now under glass, transplant it out of doors in March, under cloches at first if possible, and pick it in June. Try Sutton's new Mechlese — Arcturus. Autumn cauliflowers you sow out of doors in late April, transplant in late June and eat from September onwards. There are some very good Australian ones of this kind. Try Kangaroo, Boomerang, Barrier Reef or Canberra.

"Now.cabbages, under glass you sow seeds of summer cabbage in January, harden and transplant them in March, and pick them from the end of May onwards. You won't want many of these because beans and peas will be coming in at the same time. Try May Star, or June Star, both Fl hybrids.

"Spring cabbage which you eat in April and onwards is sown out of doors in July and August, and stands through the winter. Try the variety called April. I see it has quite a good chit from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany. Winter cabbage is sown out of doors in March and April. Transplant it in June and pick it between December and April. Get January King.

"Broccoli now, you may not know it, but sprouting broccoli can lay claim to being the most nutritious of all vegetables. The first, to come in the autumn are the Italian Calabrese. You can sow a little of these in February under glass, harden them off during April and plant them out from May onwards. Otherwise sow seeds in the open ground in March and April, and transplant in June. Express Corona, an Fl hybrid, is one of these Calabrese for eating in September. The white and purple sprouting ones you sow in late April or May and transplant in June and July. Good ones are Early Purple Sprouting, for January and February, Sutton's Improved White Sprouting, ready in March and April, and the good old plain Purple Sprouting for March and April. So you see sprouting broccoli can be had from as early as September until the end of April, filling the gap when peas and beans are not available. If it is properly cooked in bundles, it is a poor man's asparagus.

"Now for your Brussels ... ," winced, but allowed her to go on. "You sow this in March and April, prick it into cropping positions in late May or June, and eat them through the winter. I had a look at some records of tests by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany. The one with the firmest sprouts, or buttons as they are called, is Castellum, an Fl hybrid, but not yet as far as I can see available in retail catalogues: but those which are, include Peer Gynt, an Fl hybrid, very early, ready in October, useful for small gardens because they are compact and can be planted closer together than other sorts. This has a 7/10 rating for solidity of button, while King Arthur and Prince Askold, both Fl hybrids, are rated 8/10.

"Now you get these on order and start to make the ground ready because Brassicas need firm ground, manured two or three months before planting. When I come again I will organise your tomatoes and green peppers for you."

When Maud had gone I wondered whether there is a variety of brussels sprout called Battleaxe. I remembered too, driving home down M4 in the drizzle of autumn evenings, when the light southerly wind would carry whiffs of the Slough Sewage Works, and with it intimations of brussels sprouts, and how at these times it was borne in on me that I am not worthy of the Greater Brassicae.