Infographic: How Hard Is It To Grow That Brassica?

Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, mustard greens, oh my! I get asked, “so, how hard is that to grow?” a lot. I made this infographic to answer that question, as I see it, with regards to my favorite winter vegetable family, brassicas.

This is based on my experience in a maritime climate that is generally excellent for growing cole crops, except for the pesky cabbage root maggot and cabbage moth caterpillar, both of which tend to plague Northwest gardeners.

Quick version: Kale – easy. Chinese cabbage – hard.

Full massive resolution PDF available for personal use under Downloadables or click through for the mother of all JPEGs (might take a minute to load). Please don’t rehost the PDF or the full size JPG – send people back here to download their own copy – but please do share this post and brag to all your friends and to us in the comments about how far up the brassica difficulty ladder you’ve climbed!

What’s hardest for you?


  1. Sarah says

    Well, the only brassicas in last year’s garden (my first) were kale and arugula, so I’d say I’m pretty low down on the list. :-) Next year, I’m attempting broccoli, kohlrabi, turnips, and radishes as well. We’ll see how that goes.

    This is the sort of information that can be invaluable to new gardeners, but can also be hard to find. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. says

    For me, broccoli florets ALWAYS get aphids. And since the aphids look remarkably like the little individual florets themselves, sometimes I don’t discover the aphids have arrived until … they’re cooked. Ahem. So I sort of gave up on broccoli.

    Kale is easy, except that right now something (I suspect a mouse) is eating it as fast as it grows. Bah.

  3. Kate says

    Lurker here coming out — I had to laugh, as our climates could hardly be more different, except perhaps for moisture!

    Here in NE Florida, as a new gardener I have bok choy growing prolifically (literally the fastest, hardiest plant in my fall garden, I have to harvest it just to keep it from choking less-thriving plants) while my kale and arugula are growing steadily but not nearly as robust. I was expecting prolific kale, and had a million recipes to use it in (including our beloved kale chips), but now I’m throwing bok choy into everything that needs some greens and freezing some for the summertime. The plant does attract a fair few caterpillars, but so far nothing permanently damaging. With just 48 square feet and only enough education to be dangerous, I’m thrilled to be harvesting anything.

    Despite our varied climates, I tremendously enjoy your blog and it’s offered me so much inspiration and education. Thank you for all that you share. We are far from homesteading (and may never be,) but both strive to live simply and with low impact. And to eat really, really well ;-)

  4. says

    Great graphic! For me cauliflower is SUPER easy to grow. It’s actually our best performer overall of the larger brassicas. Arugula, radish and kale are also easy. Kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli and turnips are OK. Brussels sprouts? Total bitch. I’ve had zero luck with them. Goes to show how climate can play a factor.

  5. says

    So, now I know why broccoli is so darn good for you: it draws more nutrients from the soil in which it grows! … Off-subject here, with a suggestion to add to your reading list, and permanent library, if you don’t already own it: “A Sand County Almanac” by the legendary conservationist and earth-lover, Aldo Leopold. He wasn’t primarily a gardener, but his stewardship of the natural world around him and the passion with which he delivered his sightings (and his opinions!) would be of great interest to you, I believe.

  6. Christie says

    I’m driven nuts by how so many people say kale is easy. I get a couple leaves off it before the aphids take over. Steve Solomen doesn’t even have anything to say about problems with kale in his PNW gardening bible. I’ve tried ladybugs released at all sorts of times (bye bye) and spraying the plants with nettle tea every other day. Neither worked. I’m sad.

    • says

      What do you have – green aphids in the spring/summer or the mealy cabbage aphids in the fall/winter? The latter are more of a PITA in my experience, and some years just seem worse than others. Recommend jet blasting small starts of colonies with water, and if that doesn’t work, just harvesting and big pot blanching the leaves while swirling them around in the water, if that doesn’t gross you out too much. The damn bugs die and fall right off. Maybe not worth it in late August, but I’ll do it in winter when pickings are slimmer.

  7. Amanda N says

    Fyi in Arugula you said “Plant at least a month after summer solstice for best results” twice, but otherwise cool infographic! I need to try growing some of the things on the bottom of the list…

    • says

      Hey, thanks lady! Nice catch – a fixed version of the PDF has been uploaded. Too much work to redo all the web-side graphics, but the download should be clean now.

  8. Nicole says

    I currently have chinese cabbage growing in the front yard – 1 has bolted, the others have outer leaves that are bug ridden, but I did it for the first time this year! You might want to add that baby bac choi is a bit easier to grow.

    There should be a warning with the mustards in the PNW – will grow as weeds if you let them go to seed!

  9. Beth says

    Boron is my magic fix for supplementing soil for brassica crops. And beets, and spinach. You can buy it dirt cheap at the grocery store as Borax, in a box on the laundry detergent aisle. You only need about 2-3 tablespoons per 100′ row (yeah I have a big garden) but for me it always means the difference between getting some stupid cabbages, or not. And I like to tell my husband that it makes for “cleaner crops.” Ha. This fall I’m up to my ears in cabbage, & have in the past few weeks made a freakin’ lifetime supply of kimchi. Anyone want some kimchi?

    BTW, mustard greens make a fabulous cover crop if you aren’t using your garden space in the winter. When the stuff breaks down, they suppress a whole host of weeds, plant diseases, & pathogens.

  10. says

    What a fabulous resource, you obviously spent a lot of time putting it together – I’m book marking it. I’ve experienced many of the trials you’ve documented here and I think this will help me out a lot. Thanks!

  11. Alexandra says

    Nice looking list Erica! I have found that Brussels sprouts are my biggest brassica challenge. They are inevitably covered in aphids before any other brassica in my garden. I totally agree that the secret to contented gardening is to adore kale! Reliable like no other crop, perhaps save Swiss chard…

  12. Tanya says

    I love this list! I’m 6 weeks away from moving to the region and having your blog as a resource to figure out how to start gardening is great. I need to keep poking around to find even more newbie/getting-started-in-the-region info.

  13. Mimi says

    Slightly off topic…When mustard greens go to seed do they produce the mustard seed spice or is that another plant?

  14. Angela says

    Thanks for the list, very informative! I’m a ‘throw the seeds in and cross my fingers’ kind of gardener at this point in life, maybe I can be more scientific about it when I’m retired or something, lol. I’m having major problems with the kale/broccoli/cauli… it’ll all grow, but those disgusting cabbage moths have been laying their eggs and destroying my entire crop!! I would take aphids over those nasty worms any day I think. ugh. I even had fancy row covers this past year and the buggers still snuck in and wrecked everything. I love kale but I’m getting frustrated!!! Any ideas anyone?!?!?! (ps- I’m in Alberta, Canada)

    • says

      Depends how you feel about spraying. We use bt, which is a pretty targeted organic insecticide, about twice a season and that really cuts down on cabbage worm problems. I feel comfortable using it, but this is, of course, a personal assessment.

    • Ellee says

      Also, my mom used to pay us a penny per cabbage butterfly we caught & killed (the caterpillars were the bane of our gardening existence then too!). FYI, those worms will also attack tomato plants if brassicas are unavailable.

  15. says

    I’ve made it up to broccoli, which was frankly one of the most rewarding experiences of my gardening life. Learning the exact moment to harvest was fun. ; ) Of course, I married into a family that grows cabbage for a living, so no matter what I do with it they have pointers.


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