Problems with brassicas


New Member
For several years I've tried growing brassicas with minimal success. My food plot is located on a ridge top and the soil is not particularly high quality for even southern iowa. In a normal year I would till under the spring crop (oats and clover) about mid July along with fertilizer containing appropriate quantities of N. I then cultipack the soil, broadcast the seed and cultipack again. The problem is most years it's hot and dry for extended periods of time and even if I'm lucky enough to get a rain to germinate the seed, the plot dries out and what plants are growing do not thrive. Only on a very wet year have I had any luck growing brassicas.

So I've asked myself, "How can I grow brassicas successfully without tilling up the soil?" I believe tilling the soil is my problem because it dries out the already poor soil. So what is the best method without tilling then? Should I broadcast the brassica seed directly into the oats and clover, then spray the plot with round up to terminate everything allowing the brassicas to grow into the dead oats?? Any other good ideas would be appreciated!!
I do as you and plant on south facing ridge tops that can be baked if rains don't come. Last several years I've changed the technique of two ways. I've sprayed, spread seed into the clover/rye mix, then mowed at about 6 inches. The stubble helps keep deer from browsing until brasica, or anything has a chance to grow. The other way, is to simply broadcast without spraying, mow again about 6 inches. If done before a rain, then results are better. I usually spread Urea again in 30 days.
This past year, drought began early July, and I think after planting, I went nearly 3 months with no rain. Despite this, they eventually grew as rains came late, but not much tuber growth before cold weather. Planting this way won't give you a thick mass of brassica as you can see with tillage but the variety is just as effective and if weather doesn't cooperate, then your field is still a green vegetable plate. You have to be a little patient in that the growth is a bit slower that when you are staring at a field of brown dirt and can see every plant as it breaks thru.
If I had tilled this year, I would've entered winter with a ridge top of dirt, no doubt in my mind. Each tech has its advantages, but my tiller never came out of my barn this year for plantings. Rotations of brassica to clover/WR/WW mixes improve the seccess rate. Good luck. I figured anything grew on good ground in the midwest, I am used to planting and playing with my less than ideal soils. I think I have some pics on my thread of the brassica done this way. In the one field I planted I think everything from brassica to WR, WW, RC, Oats, and AWP. All came up eventually.
I use Paul's rotation so I'm planting my brassicas into last years rye, somewhere early to mid July I broadcast then roll and spray the rye down. this last year we had a dry July and first part of Aug so I had some germination and growth but not a lot so I went back in and braoadcast some rye into it. I also tried a throw and mow brassica plot like dogghr said just to compare the two and they both seemed to turn out the same, not much moisture at first but they turned out ok after the rains finally came.
I think the OP answered his own question. Lack of rain equals poor germination and poor plant growth.
You might try rutabagas and Winfred brassicas that can successfully planted in June. Should give time for tap roots to get deep enough to find moisture during dry periods. From what I can tell, the deer find them more palatable than the LC mix which I continue to use to provide variety.