If you have started to create space from early crops in your allotment and are looking for something a bit different to grow as a late summer/autumn crop, why not try Kohlrabi? This tasty and nutritious crop comes in white, green and purple varieties – but, for late sowing, it is better to use the purple variety which can even be sown into August.
Create a firm seed bed in any reasonably light, fertile, free draining soil. Work in some general purpose compost or a handful of a suitable fertiliser. (The soil doesn’t have to be that deep as the bit we are interested in is the swollen stem growing above ground). Normally, the germination rate is high even in colder parts so sow thinly. Create a groove 1-2cm deep and sow one seed every 5cm (2″). Allow 25cm (10″) between rows. Seedlings should appear after about 10 days. Thin out to one plant every 25cm.
Kohlrabi is a brassica so is subject to the normal pests you might expect – particularly the cabbage white! But it is probably slightly more resistant and trouble-free than most other varieties in this family. They will need watering though – probably a little more than other plants.
Harvest the Kohlrabi when the swollen, round stem is about the size of a tennis ball. The leaves can be eaten as you might use Kale – but, beware, it is a strong flavour. The best bit is the swollen stem. Simply cut the top and roots off, peel the outer layer and either grate into a salad or into a slaw or cut into chunks and steam until tender (6-8 minutes). A favourite of mine is to then puree the steamed Kohlrabi – Yum.
Swedes (Swedish Turnips) are a really great vegetable. Mashed with lashings of butter and a generous dusting of black pepper – it doesn’t get much better that that! So how about cultivation?
Firstly, let’s deal with the soil and position. Swedes will not tolerate waterlogged soil; it needs to be free-draining. So, if your are down the ‘wet’ end of the allotment site, consider a raised bed or grow them on ‘ridges’ in the soil. Swedes need alkaline soil – so they will do well in the clay soil of the East Riding. Work the soil well and dig in a lot of well rotted compost to improve drainage. A light dusting of general purpose fertiliser two weeks before sowing will also help get the crop off to a good start. Choose a nice sunny spot but remember, the young plants will also benefit from a bit of shelter if we get more of the recent cold winds coming off the North Sea.
The best time to sow swede is mid-May to mid-June but, since it’s a winter crop, delaying until July won’t matter too much. You can sow direct in rows about 35cm (14″) apart. Sow the seeds (which are quite small) thinly and cover with about 1 cm (1/2″) of soil. As the seedlings emerge thin out to approximately 25cm (10″) apart. Slugs and birds will attack the young plants so you will need to take precautions and net the plants initially.
Sowing in modular trays
Alternatively, you can sow the seeds in modular trays. Fill the tray with compost and put two seeds in each module, again about 1 cm deep. Cover the seeds over, water, and keep the compost moist (but not overwatered) during germination. Plant them out when two proper leaves have formed.
Protection from pests
In addition to slugs, swedes can be susceptible to cabbage root fly and flea beetle – remember they are brassicas! Netting the plants with micro-mesh or using horticultural fleece until the plants are well established should avoid the problem as well as keeping the pigeons at bay.
Swedes will take 5 to 6 months to reach maturity. So some patience is required. But when you add a good dollop of mashed swede to your plate on a cold November or December day, you’ll be glad you stuck to the task.