How to Grow Kohlrabi: A Comprehensive Guide

Kohlrabi (Also known as Kohl Rabi) is a unique and versatile vegetable. It's a member of the Brassica family and shares origins with other well-known vegetables such as cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Tracing its roots back to the Mediterranean region, Kohlrabi has been grown by farmers since the Roman era, and gained widespread popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages. The name "Kohlrabi" comes from the German words "kohl," which means cabbage, and "rabi," referring to a turnip. This accurately represents its appearance; it resembles an above-ground turnip!

In this guide, we will explore the steps involved in successfully growing Kohlrabi, from selecting the appropriate variety to harvesting and enjoying its unique flavor in your meals.

Selecting the Right Kohlrabi Variety

There are several kohlrabi varieties available, with the most common being purple and green. Both varieties have similar tastes and textures, so your choice depends on your preference for appearance. Some popular varieties include "Early Purple Vienna," and "Early White Vienna”. 

Choosing the Ideal Planting Site

Kohlrabi thrives in full sun and rich, fertile, well-draining soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Ensure your planting site receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

Preparing the Soil

To ensure successful growth, prepare your soil by adding compost or well-aged manure to enrich it. Additionally, make sure to break up any large clumps to promote proper root growth and drainage.

Sowing the Seeds

Sow kohlrabi seeds directly in the garden about four weeks before the last expected frost. Do not sow seeds if the soil is still frozen, or cannot be worked. Plant the seeds approximately 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows that are 18 to 24 inches apart. After the seedlings emerge, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart.

Caring for the Growing Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi requires consistent moisture for optimal growth. Water your plants regularly, providing at least 1 inch of water per week. Applying a layer of mulch can help conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.

Monitoring for Pests and Diseases

Keep an eye out for common pests, such as cabbage worms and aphids, which may target your kohlrabi plants. Employ natural pest control methods, like introducing beneficial insects or applying insecticidal soap, to manage these issues. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a safe and effective organic way to deal with caterpillars. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of disease, such as clubroot or black rot, and promptly address any problems. Planting Borage near your Kohlrabi can help repel cabbage worms. Read our article about companion planting to learn more about the benefits of borage and other exceptional companion plant options.

Harvesting Your Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is ready to harvest when the swollen stem reaches 2 to 3 inches in diameter. To harvest, cut the stem at the soil level using a sharp knife. Keep in mind that kohlrabi becomes tough and woody if left to grow too large, so timely harvesting is important!

Storing and Enjoying Your Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Enjoy kohlrabi raw in salads, slaws, sauerkraut, or as a crunchy snack, or cook it by roasting, steaming, or stir-frying.

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