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Becoming a broccoli-growing pro

Mature broccoli plant

Several of you asked very astute questions on my broccoli post last week. Let's see if I can some up the answers all in one post.

In terms of variety selection, I haven't really hit a dud yet...but I also choose those that promise one big head (since you can always get multiple smaller heads later after cutting the main event). I've grown Packman, Marathon, and Blue Wind, and as I recall they all did great for me. Blue Wind is the variety we're growing this year.

Planting dates will vary widely depending on where you live and what type of spring you're experiencing. I've had best luck starting mine inside at the beginning of March, then transplanting into the garden as soon as there will be no lows below 28. This year, that date came early --- March 27.

Buggy broccoli

And then there are the questions none of you asked, but which I think are equally important to producing good broccoli. First --- food. Broccoli is a very hungry crop, so the more you can feed them the better. They also need full sun to put on those fast growth spurts before the bugs hit.

Which brings me to the biggest problem organic growers will have with broccoli --- caterpillars. The big green cabbage worms actually don't bug us much as long as we plant early and I squash the few I notice, but the less obvious southern cabbage worms can be a doozy. See that head in the second photo above with spaces between its florets? Southern cabbage worms have been eating it from the inside out, and they're a bear to clear out of the head in the kitchen too.

The solution to cabbage worms (assuming you don't want to spray insecticides) is planting early and keeping your garden crucifer-free in the summer months. If you can harvest your broccoli before the beginning of June, you probably won't have to deal with many southern cabbage worms. And if you pull the spring plants soon thereafter rather than letting them push out an extra floret or two throughout the summer months, cabbage worms won't be able to get a foothold on your garden and be ready to hit the ground running next year.

If all else fails, don't despair --- there's always the fall crop! Start seeds inside around the middle of June and you'll be eating another round of broccoli before you know it. Good luck!



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Since broccoli is a cold-weather plant and can stand some frost, I start mine in January and put them out in late February or March under insect netting. That's the only way I can keep those damned (expletive deleted) cabbage moths off the brassicas. Finally got a decent crop this year and the cooler weather we've been having has helped me harvest two crops already. They're producing third side-shoots already. Yay broccoli!

Cauliflower - not so good however. :(

Comment by Nayan Mon May 29 08:54:39 2017
Have you considered using dipel to control caterpillars?
Comment by Su Ba Mon May 29 14:19:30 2017

Thank you for the answers! To the other commenter, yes, cauliflower is tricky. I've read that if the temperatures drop below 50, they have a tendency to bolt.

Comment by Gardener Tue May 30 13:50:22 2017
What about using a physical barrier - some kind of insect netting?
Comment by Daniel Tue May 30 17:00:28 2017