Mostly, people will tell you to sow cucumbers on their side. Just to be difficult we do it differently, and sow the cucumber seed on end.....
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Calabrese Kabuki is a fast maturing variety, growing to half the height of normal varieties. It can be sown as late as 3rd week in July and will still produce tight domed heads, which can be finished under fleece if needed.
The open plant habit reduces the incidence of botrytis and mildew.
Suitable for growing baby heads of calabrese.
Seeds can be sown under glass between late February and March and from March to June if sowing outdoors. The crop is fast growing and can be harvested in the same year, usually throughout August to October.
Sowing in a greenhouse
Seeds can be sown in either small pots or in modular trays. Fill the pots or trays with seed compost and sow 2 seeds per unit at around 1.5cm deep. Cover with fine compost and press lightly to firm. Next, apply water with a watering can and rose attachment. Remove one of the seedlings when they have germinated and large enough to handle. Keep the seedlings watered and apply liquid feed weekly. After 2-3 weeks move plants to a cold frame to harden off before planting out in the open.
Sow direct into prepared seed beds from April to June. Create a shallow furrow about 2cm deep using the edge of a hoe. Sow 2-3 seeds at 45cm intervals and lightly cover with soil. Using the back of a rake, gently firm down the surface and then water with a watering can with rose attachment. After germination, reduce to one plant per 45cm spacing. If growing in rows, allow 60cm between rows.
As Calabrese is a member of the Brassica family, a sunny position and well-drained soil will provide the best results. Prepare the soil in late autumn or early winter by incorporating plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure. With very heavy clay type soils, the addition of lime can help provide some protection against club root, and coarse sand can help with drainage. Prepare the planting area by raking the surface soil to a fine, level tilth and then firm with the back of a rake. Sprinkle a general, granular fertiliser at the rate of 150gm per square metre over the surface and lightly rake in.
Plants that have been started off indoors, such as in a greenhouse, and then hardened off can be moved to their planting beds during April. Water the pots or trays about an hour before planting out. Plant out into their permanent positions, 45cm apart and 60cm between rows. Ensure the soil is firmed to support the plants and then water in. If frosts are forecast then protect the young plants with glass or polythene cloches at night.
General After Care
Water the young plants often to ensure they do not dry out and bolt (run to seed). Keep the soil between the plants and rows clear of weeds to discourage pests and diseases. A mulch of compost or bark would be beneficial in maintaining moisture and help to discourage the cabbage root fly from laying eggs. As the plants grow, apply a light sprinkling of general fertiliser every 2-3 weeks to help them develop healthy foliage and florets. A liquid vegetable fertiliser applied at every other watering is a good alternative to a granular fertiliser.
Spread fine plastic netting over the developing plants to deter birds from pecking the young developing florets.
Pests & Diseases
All brassicas are prone to attack by several pests and diseases including the Cabbage White Butterfly, which lays its eggs on the underside of leaves. The emerging caterpillars can devour a plant within just a few days. Cabbage White Fly is another troublesome pest that also lays its eggs on the underside of leaves. Check the underside of leaves regularly and remove any eggs before they hatch and cause problems.
The larvae of the Cabbage Root Fly, which lays its eggs on the soil surface at the base of plants, will burrow down and attack the roots. Nematodes, which hunt down and attack the larvae, have proved to be a good biological control method. The main disease of brassicas is the Club Root fungus. Affected plants will become stunted and show signs of discolouration on their leaves. There is no known cure but rotating crops every year can help keep the disease at bay.
The tight green heads of Calabrese can quickly change to yellow flowers, rendering it useless for cooking. Check the plants regularly and harvest while the heads are still tight. Leave the plants in the ground after cutting the heads and continue to water for a smaller second crop, which will appear on the side shoots.
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