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Calabrese Zen produces superb high domed dark green heads that should be cut first, this is then followed by delicious smaller spears which can be picked frequently.
Zen matures after around 90 -100 days. It is tolerant of downy mildew and crops best when used for Autumn harvesting from a June sowing.
Average Packet Contents : 50 Seeds
Seeds can be sown inside between late March and April, or from May 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 May 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, 40cm 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.
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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