Thursday, May 21, 2015

Broccoli

I'm not sure what the story is, but I have had several issues getting transplants going this year.  On top of that, my seedlings seem to be growing at a much slower pace - or maybe it just seems that way because of how far behind I was to begin with.

I'm now doing a mass hardening off, trying to get everything in the ground by next week.  Three flats that will be planted out within the next couple of days are sitting on the sunny back deck, while six flats with next weeks plantings are hardening off in the relative protection of the north facing front porch for now:

Next Weeks Plantings Hardening Off
 
Aside from the slow growth - which may simply be my perception - I've also had other issues, especially with the brassicas.  First there was spotty germination.  Then I had a handful of seedlings that germinated but refused to shed their seed coat.  I tried to keep the seedling moist, hoping that the seed coat would pop off, but most of them just stopped growing.  This happened with several different varieties of veg from different sources, so I'm thinking it must have been something I did.  I likely messed up on one of two counts - either when I sowed the seeds (I've heard that sowing too shallowly can cause this) or in taking care of them (my grow light stand was full to bursting at one point and some of the cells did dry out a bit too much a few times).

So on to the broccoli which was started at the end of April, 3 weeks behind schedule.  It wasn't until I was trying to figure out where to put everything that I realized that I had way too little space and far too many brassicas to plant.  Ideally, I would love to devote one or even two full beds to broccoli.  As it stands, my affection for Chinese greens has limited the available space for broccoli to a paltry 4' x 4' spot.

Last year (based on square foot planting recommendations), I planted the broccoli 12” apart in all directions but a recent post by Daphne made me realize that I was likely planting them much too closely.  I wanted to increase the spacing, but I also had 4 varieties to grow this spring….in a 4’ x 4’ spot.  What to do, what to do…

I decided to space the plants 12” apart in two rows spaced 24” apart, which will allow me to squeeze in 2 plants per variety.  I’m hoping that this is enough space to give me some halfway decent results.  As for varieties, I’m growing Packman and Munchkin from last year as well as two new ones.


Arcadia (70 days, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
This variety produces a medium sized head and plenty of side shoots.  The description on Pinetree indicates that this is a good variety if you have to "pack in the plants with limited space to grow, like a raised bed".  I'm not exactly sure what this means, as the spacing recommendations for it are the same as any other variety of broccoli.

Arcadia - 3 Weeks

Aspabroc (50 days, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
Aspabroc is a kai lan/broccoli hybrid developed in Japan in the early 1990's.  Based on the name, you can guess what it's supposed to taste like - a combination of asparagus and broccoli, of course!  I'll give you my honest opinion on that as soon as I take my first bite.

Stokes Seeds gives a detailed description of what I should expect: "Plants produce tiny broccoli heads in 50 days from transplant plus 3-5 shoots in 10 days.  Continues producing heads for 4 weeks."  That sounds pretty good to me.

Aspabroc - 3 Weeks
 
Since I was having germination issues with brassicas, I didn't automatically thin the plants in each cell, but decided to wait until all of the cells had at least one viable plant.  Good thing I did that as I had either no germination or failure to shed the seed coat on all of the Packman and Munchkin seedlings.  Instead of 2 of each variety, I ended up with 4 Arcadia & 3 Aspabroc instead, all of which are now transplanted.  That left me with one empty spot, which I will be filling with baby choy.

I'll be starting some replacement Packman & Munchkin seedlings in a few weeks & trying for a fall crop on those.

And now for what has me really excited...I took this photo this morning:

Do I smell some cherries in the not too distant future?
 
We have had a couple of very chilly nights in the past few days  - not below 0C (32F), but close - and I went out to examine the cherry tree on each of these chilly mornings, half expecting to see a bunch of immature cherries on the ground.  So far so good, though.  My fingers are crossed that most of them make it to the finish line.

Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

18 comments:

  1. May I suggest you do a grid with 16" in all directions. The outer two rows with three plants and the inner one row with two. That will give you 8 plants but give them more space to breathe.

    And don't you just hate when seeds don't germinate? My recent ones are my lettuce. I sowed a set about two weeks ago. Well a week later three were doing well and three cells didn't germinate. Sigh. I've got them up with new seed now, but they are so far behind the other ones. I swear I kept them well watered. I'm wondering if maybe it was just too hot in that room. We had a very hot week at that time.

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    1. Wish I hadn't put the plants in the ground already...16" spacing sounds much better - thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely be doing that when I do my fall planting.

      I hope you have good results with your 2nd sowing of lettuce - if your weather is anything like ours in the last few days, too much heat shouldn't be a problem!

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  2. Daphne's plan sounds good to me. I generally space brassicas about 18 inches apart, but the outer plants only get about 9 inches from the edges of the beds. It usually works (although the cauliflowers seemed to disagree this spring). The Atlantis brokali that I grew earlier this year is a broccoli/gai lan cross, the Aspabroc is probably quite similar and if it's as good as the brokali that I grew I think yhat you'll love it.

    I've had germination issues too, lettuce and peppers that don't sprout and peppers with crinkly leaves. My eggplant seedlings look so pathetic that I think I'll have to buy some replacements. It can be so discouraging, but we keep on trying. Whatever we can get to grow is always so good!

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    1. I'll definitely be using the 16" spacing for my next planting. I do have high hopes for the Aspabroc - I have yet to find a green that I don't like!

      Boy, it seems everyone is having germination issues of one kind or another this year...I'm also still having those dang spinach issues, but this time it's with Renegade, not Viroflay. What upsets me the most is when the seed is new - aren't these companies supposed to do germination tests on them?

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  3. I have grown "Kaibroc" (Kailaan + Broccoli) and Brokali "Apollo" before, and both were very tasty, though perhaps not as prolific as I had expected. If you have the space to grow lots, then I recommend them highly.

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    1. There seem to be so many crosses between broccoli and Asian type greens - and I plan on trying all of them! I do try to squeeze in as many greens as I can into the beds & each year am taking notes on who needs more or can do with less spacing so that I can maximize those harvests. The seed packets are often of little help as their suggestions are usually too generic.

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  4. I understand how they got the name Aspabroc, but boy-that's a mouthful to pronounce, isn't it?

    I grew Arcadia last year and enjoyed it very much.
    And I think Daphne is spot on with spacing in a grid like that--you can plant much closer that way. Good luck!

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    1. You just have to laugh at some of the variety names out there...I mean, Bloody Butcher tomato? Who on earth thought that sounded appetizing?

      I normally do plant in blocks, but when I was rethinking the broccoli spacing I kept thinking 12", 18"...the even spacing on the 6's, if you know what I mean. It didn't even occur to me to do an odd #. Now of course I can't understand why I didn't think of that!

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  5. I often have problems with brassica seedlings so I bought some young plants this year. Your Aspabroc sounds interesting, I'm growing Asparagus kale this year which is a kale which is supposed to taste of asparagus, it's going to be interesting to see if it does. I think brassicas really do like some room to grow but I'm still tempted to pack more in than I should.

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    1. One of the reasons I don't like growing extras as many people often do is that I end up doing just that - packing them all in as I can't stand to get rid of perfectly healthy seedlings. But if you don't grow extras, there is the risk of not having enough if one or more of them fail. I'm slowly learning which varieties are worth growing more of and which ones are fairly reliable.

      Asparagus kale sounds like another interesting variety...I'm looking forward to hearing if the taste does, in fact, correspond to the name.

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  6. Yay for cherries! And I hope your broccoli plants go into 'catchup' mode when you get them planted. I have grown Apollo for several years and I love it. The heads are smaller but the long stems are tender and edible, and I think it is good raw or cooked.

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    1. That sounds like a great variety - I've added it to my list. I enjoy broccoli stems just as much as the heads, so long as they are tender. So many times, the stems have to be peeled and what's left is barely enough for a mouthful.

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  7. I plant the brassicas in a checkerboard pattern, every other square. They are heavy feeders so Mel's "just a scoop of compost" theory won't cut it and I think you have to add some organic fertilizer. They also develop huge root systems. This year while I have a second plot, I am planting them in-ground and so far they are doing great (Arcadia and Fiesta). By the way, when I watered my seedlings, I added a splash of Earth Juice Grow or liquid kelp to the watering can.

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    1. I do believe it was from Mel's original book that I got my 12" spacing from for last year. So in your checkerboard pattern, you would plant the seedlings 24" apart but the rows would be 12" apart, right? That would still give me my 8 plants in a 4'x4' square. Maybe I'll try that method in the future as well & compare it with the 16" overall spacing.

      The seeding mix I use to grow seedlings is supposed to have both macro & micro nutrients in it, so I generally don't fertilize them unless they stay in their cells for longer than 6 weeks. I'm thinking I may have to reconsider that, especially for heavy feeders like brassicas. I'm starting a few Joi Choi plants (another spring failure!) and I'll give them some diluted kelp fertilizer when watering and see how they do - thanks for the advice!

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  8. I'll be watching for your updates on brassicas. I've started a few plants that are already in the ground but I tend not to start too many this early as they heavily bolt in our hot summers. So I will also try starting some in a week or two that will produce in the fall. I'm really new at brassicas and haven't had much luck in the past so will see what works for you (obviously not that far from me) and I'll have to figure out what to do myself.

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    1. I don't have that much experience with them either, especially broccoli, but I've had good results with collards, kale & Chinese greens, even during the summer. I think variety has a lot to do with how quickly plants bolt - I grew both a generic Pak Choi & Joi Choi hybrid a couple of years ago and Joi Choi grew twice as large and bolted weeks after the other one.

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  9. I noticed today that at last things are starting to grow away. I hope that you don't have wood pigeons eyeing up your cherry tree,

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    1. We don't have any wood pigeons around here but we do get mourning doves hanging out under our birdfeeder. I'm sure there are all manner of birds that will try to get at those cherries and just today I purchased some netting that I will be putting on my tree asap.

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