A popular vegetable in Germany and India, kohlrabi, derived from the words kohl meaning cabbage, and rübe meaning turnip in German, is a crunchy and versatile vegetable, just as its name suggests. This hardy perennial is easy to grow in temperate climates, so it can be a unique and delicious plant in anyone's garden. You can learn to grow and care for kohlrabi to increase your chances of a successful harvest.
Part 1 of 2: Planting Kohlrabi
Step 1. Choose a kohlrabi variety
Kohlrabi is a brassica plant, in the cabbage plant family. The increasingly popular Kohlrabi also has a wide variety of varieties all of which are easy to grow with little difference in appearance and harvest time. The biggest difference is whether you choose the green or purple variety.
- Green kohlrabi varieties include Korridor and Winner, which ripen very quickly, in just 50 days, compared to other varieties which take up to about 60 days to ripen. With a bright lime green color, this variety can be a plant that beautifies the garden.
- Purple kohlrabi varieties such as Azur Star and Hummingbird are particularly resistant to pests, as the purple leaves of the plant repel insects. In terms of taste, you won't feel a big difference.
- Stored varieties of kohlrabi, such as Kossak, Superschmelz, and Gigante are, as you might expect, larger kohlrabi than regular kohlrabi. This variety is more resistant to storage in the cellar or refrigerator, if prepared properly. In terms of taste, all these varieties have a taste that is quite similar to each other.
Step 2. Determine where to plant kohlrabi
Kohlrabi should be planted in a place that gets full sun, close to the roots of other plants, such as potatoes, beets, and onions. Kohlrabi is a plant that requires a lot of water and nutrients, so it should be given plenty of water and fertile soil. Usually, it is recommended that you grow five or six cabbage plants for each family member. Sow seeds three times as much.
Kohlrabi should be planted in a separate section of the garden with chickpeas, tomatoes and strawberries
Step 3. Prepare the soil for sowing kohlrabi
A few weeks before the last spring frost, kohlrabi can be planted, which means you can start tilling your soil ahead of time. Kohlrabi should be planted in loose, compost-rich soil. The plant is hardy in most conditions, but will thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8.
Good drainage can also help prevent rot and disease in kohlrabi plants, so make sure you choose a spot in your garden that doesn't get a lot of water
Step 4. Plant kohlrabi in cool weather
Kohlrabi is a hardy plant that is best planted about a month before the last frost in spring. Ideally, these plants should ripen before temperatures reach over 24 degrees Celsius, so you need to plant them early. Kohlrabi may also be one of the earliest plants you will plant, if you live in an environment with very hot summers. Kohlrabi will ripen within 50 - 60 days.
- If you live in an area with warm winters, it's also common to plant kohlrabi in late fall for harvesting in early winter. This plant should be able to survive the fall frosts.
- If the winter is long, you can start growing kohlrabi indoors and transplant them outside about a month before the last frost, and then plant them.
Step 5. Plant the kohlrabi seeds in parallel rows
Kohlrabi seeds should be sown in moist soil about 1.3 cm deep, 2.5 cm apart. Use your fingers to make small indentations in the soil, then cover the kohlrabi seeds with a little soil. Leave at least 2 inches (5 cm) of space between the plants, which you will trim once they start growing.
Kohlrabi should be planted in rows spaced about 30 cm apart to give them room to grow and develop
Part 2 of 2: Caring for Kohlrabi
Step 1. Remove weeds carefully on a regular basis
When you see kohlrabi seeds starting to sprout, remove any surrounding weeds very carefully, paying particular attention to milkweed and tistel, as well as other local weeds. Kohlrabi is very easily defeated by weeds at the beginning of its growth, and has a short root structure because the tubers are above the ground. The most dangerous time for the kohlrabi is the first few weeks. Let the kohlrabi thrive, then prune.
Step 2. Prune any young plants that manage to grow to a distance of 20.3 cm from each other
After a few weeks, the plant should be 15.2 cm tall, and you can start pruning off most of the growing plant to give it room for growth. Carefully dig up the plants, and rearrange them, so that they are about 20.3 cm apart from each other. Move some plants to another part of the garden if necessary.
Young kohlrabi leaves can be eaten raw, in salads, or added to stir-fries like other leafy greens. Adding kohlrabi to food is a unique and highly nutritious way to complete your dish
Step 3. Apply compost as a layer of mulch
After pruning your kohlrabi, it's important to provide it with structure and a nitrogen source, so it's a good idea to apply compost around the kohlrabi roots to help strengthen them, as well as provide nutrients to the soil. This can make a big difference in the formation of large, healthy bulbs, and the prevention of the formation of woody bulbs.
Step 4. Water the kohlrabi frequently to the deepest layers of the soil
Kohlrabi requires a lot of water, and grows well in temperate or Mediterranean climates. If the soil is dry, water-deprived kohlrabi will become woody and not tasty when eaten. If the streaks on the tubers start to look dry, increase the amount of water you give them.
When watering, apply water around the base of each kohlrabi tuber. Do not water the top of the plant, as this can increase the chances of the kohlrabi rotting. This is true for most cabbage plants
Step 5. Watch for earthworms
Kohlrabi and other cabbage plants are very susceptible to caterpillar attacks, so you should be able to control these pests as the plant develops. You will notice the appearance of holes in the leaves, and clusters of eggs on the underside of the leaves. If you see it, take action immediately.
- Clean the entire surface of the kohlrabi leaves of egg clusters, discarding the eggs when you see them. Attaching a "collar" to the stem of a kohlrabi leaf is common, by tying it so that it doesn't stick to the ground. This can control the attack of Bacillus thuringiensis, if you have a serious problem.
- Watch for signs of decay as well. The "yellowness of the cabbage" is easy to spot because of the yellowish-brown color of the leaves. Uproot the infected plant completely.
Step 6. Harvest the kohlrabi by pulling out the entire plant
Kohlrabi is ready to harvest when the stems are about 5 - 7.5 cm in diameter, and the tubers are large and healthy-looking. Bulbs of different varieties will have different sizes, so you need to take this into account as well. If you let it grow too long, the kohlrabi will be a little tough and taste bad.
The length of time for growing kohlrabi is determined by the growing conditions and variety
Step 7. Enjoy kohlrabi cooked or raw
Kohlrabi has a crunchy texture with a mild taste that makes it versatile and rich in nutrients for your dishes. Kohlrabi is like a cross between a cabbage and an apple, sweet and savory at the same time. Roast with other root crops, roast and puree kohlrabi, or serve with stir-fried vegetables.
In Germany, kohlrabi is eaten as a snack slice, sprinkled with salt, cut into slices, and served raw. This is probably the best way to enjoy these crunchy vegetables, along with a pint of beer
- Do not plant kohlrabi in full sun if the soil is dry
- Water the kohlrabi regularly to prevent it from shriveling up
- Keep rabbits away from kohlrabi as they will eat them all!