Kohlrabi

kohlrabi

kohlrabi

Q: I love kohlrabi. I use it in soups and enjoy it as a raw vegetable snack. Last year, I bought a six-pack container of seedlings and planted them in my front yard, where they grew to maturity. This year, however, I have not been able to find any nursery that carries kohlrabi, except for packets of their seeds. Do you know of any nurseries where I can purchase plants that are already started from seed?
— Yolanda Fintor, Northridge
A: I do not know of any nurseries that carry kohlrabi seedlings but this should not be a concern. Kohlrabi is one of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed. I would recommend that you plant some indoors in cups. A month from now, you should be able to plant the developing seedlings outdoors.
Punch pencil-diameter holes in the bottoms of small Styrofoam or paper cups and fill them with potting soil. Plant three seeds, about 1/4 inch deep, in each cup. It has been shown that seeds germinate more reliably in groups than by themselves. Put cups in an aluminum foil tray to catch water that drains through the cups. Place the tray in a sunny window. After the seedlings show two sets of leaves, carefully pluck out and discard the two weaker ones and continue to nurture the remaining baby plant in each cup.
Another way to germinate seeds indoors is with peat pellets or Jiffy Pots, available at any nursery. Peat pellets are flat circles of dry peat moss and pressed wood fiber which, when dunked in water, expand into peat pots, truncated, barrel-shaped plugs with a depression in the middle for planting seeds. Once seedlings are ready for placement in the ground, the entire peat pot can be transplanted so that roots are left undisturbed. There are also petite peat and wood fiber shells known as Jiffy Pots which can be filled with potting soil and then used for germinating seeds or rooting shoot tip cuttings. Since Jiffy Pots are biodegradable, they too can be planted directly in the garden.
Kohlrabi is a combination of two German words (kohl = cabbage, rube = turnip) which point to its botanical kinship and appearance. Kohlrabi is a subspecies of Brassica oleracea, a protean species that includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and collard greens. Kohlrabi looks like a turnip, another cabbage relative, that has been growing above ground. Kohlrabi’s stocky stem resembles a turnip’s bulbous root.
Because kohlrabi, like all of the above-named cabbage kin, is really a cool-season crop, the sooner you get it in the ground, the better, as it will not do well in the Valley’s summer heat. Kohlrabi matures relatively quickly, in about 60 days. It has sensitive roots, so its stem should be cut when harvesting. It should not be pulled out of the ground because you might damage the roots of surrounding kohlrabi in the process.
Seedlings grown indoors should be protected from shock when they are taken outside. It would be wise to keep them in their little cups or pots for their first week, even as they are placed in the garden spots where they will soon be planted. At night, to protect them from the cold, cover them with inverted flowerpots or 1-gallon black plastic containers in which nursery plants are grown.
Q: I have three citrus trees (two lemons of different varieties and a lime) in containers on my deck, and I live in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu. The three nights of freezing temperatures and then the snowfall have severely damaged my trees. The leaves are shriveled and the flowers are brown. I think the trees themselves are OK, but I can’t be sure. Do I remove all of the leaves and just wait and see if the trees are viable?
— Sandra Stafford,
Malibu
A: The leaves can be cut off, but, if possible, you shouldn’t detach leaf stems from the trees. As long as leaf stems are attached, no new growth (which would be killed by another freeze) will take place until winter ends.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Several readers asked about covering plants with plastic to protect them from the cold. As long as the plastic covers a frame of some kind that surrounds the plant(s) without touching the foliage, you are fine. However, plastic that touches foliage can bring on leaf fungus.

Photo credit: tofutti break / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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