Saturday, April 15, 2017

Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips

Cauliflower with inner leaves folding in

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Broccoli is touted as a “super food.”  It is chock full of vitamins and minerals A, B6, C, E, K, protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, and others.  Cauliflower is an age-old standby and has great nutritional value as well-protein, vitamins B6, C, K, folate, many minerals-potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and others.  Both are healthy and versatile.  Broccoli nutrition Cauliflower nutrition

Broccoli is a kale.  It is thought its ancestor came from the eastern Mediterranean and was developed into the first “broccoli” with the distinct florets we grow them for today.  Purple was the preferred form in colonial times and coming back as a popular form today.  

Cauliflower is from the same family as broccoli.  The earliest accounts of the vegetable share its origins as Cypress.  It was the English that developed it into the form we enjoy today.  Cauliflower came to the colonies in the 1600's.  Both were some of the first vegetables to make the trip to colonies.

For planting, purple sprouting broccoli must be planted in the fall for a spring harvest.  Other types of broccoli and cauliflower can be planted in the spring and fall.  Sow when the first crocus blooms in spring (April in my zone) or when phlox and asters bloom for fall plantings (July).

Today, there are many varieties that have different days to maturity.  You can plant a variety to get a continuous supply, even in the dead of winter.  Cauliflower comes in many colors today-white, orange, green, chartreuse, and purple.

If growing from seed for spring, you will start your seedlings indoors 6-8 weeks prior to average date of the last frost.  They are ready to transplant when they have 5-6 leaves.

Here is a link to frost dates:  Frost dates
You can change the settings to how lucky you are feeling.  Choosing 50% would be the average date of the last frost.  Changing it to 30% chance means there is only a 30% chance, on average, you will get another frost.

I typically use the 50% as a gauge on when to start watching the extended forecast.  When it looks like there is a good run of warm weather, I plant.  

As with most vegetables, broccoli and cabbage enjoy a fertile soil so enrich the soil with compost.  Plant about 18" apart.  Add an inch of compost and supplement with a high nitrogen fertilizer when planting like composted chicken manure.  Give another dressing of fertilizer just when heads begin to form.  They like cool soil temps so mulching will boost your harvests.  Be sure to rotate the location where you plant in the garden as broccoli does attract pests.  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

For cauliflower, the new varieties have been bred so that their inner leaves remain over the floret.  If you plant an heirloom or if your new variety does not have its leaves behave, you will have to take the largest leaves and place over the floret and secure.  If the white floret is exposed to sun, it will yellow.  The curds must have formed before the temperatures reach 80 degrees.

To get extend harvests, plant different varieties with varying days to maturity.  Just look for "Days to Harvest" on the seed packet to get succession harvesting types.  Broccoli should be harvested before the florets open; cauliflower when the outer florets begin to separate.  Don't worry if you harvest later than that, they'll still taste great.  I think it is pretty to add broccoli florets with their pretty yellow flowers to salads.

Broccoli flowering
For broccoli, the sprouting type keep on giving.  When you harvest the center floret, you will get side shoots sometimes for weeks afterwards.  The leaves of broccoli tastes just like the florets.  They are great to add to salads and provide leaves even in the heat of summer when most lettuce has left the garden party.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

If you want a little bit of both broccoli and cauliflower, try the heirloom variety “Nine Star Perennial.”  It really is a perennial!

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