Broccoli

Now is a good time to plant broccoli. Most gardeners think it should be planted in the spring. But most years I have found a later planting produces a better yield, less bug damage and the early falls light frost actually improves the flavor. If you live in the south wait until August to start seeds, but us northern gardeners can start now. One cup of lightly cooked broccoli provides double the adult’s daily quota of vitamin C and half the minimum requirement for vitamin A (and less than 50 calories). Raw broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. A few years ago, researchers at John’s Hopkins University discovered that this compound stimulates enzymes that help break down cancer causing chemicals. Broccoli originally grew in Europe. It is related to cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. It is the flower that is harvested while it is in the bud stage. First you need to choose and prepare your planting site. Broccoli does best in an organically rich soil that is not to acidic. Phosphorus is necessary for good broccoli production, and the soil’s pH should be at least 6.2 so that the phosphorus present will be available to plant roots. If your soil is naturally acidic, you can add finely ground dolomite lime or lots of compost. Studies have shown that the compost increased both the soil pH and the level of available phosphorus. While your adding that compost think about which kind of broccoli you want to grow. Do you want a big central head (Botrytis group) or lots of side shoots from a sprouter plant ( Italica group)? With sprouting broccoli, your get lots of bonus sideshoots after the main head is cut. These small secondary heads (sprouts) can grow from any junction where a leaf joins the main trunk. And the lowest side shoots are protected from damaging frost by the upper parts of the plant. giving you something to harvest weeks after the rest of the garden has gone black. You can start broccoli seeds indoors and set out the transplants when they are four weeks old, or you can sow the seeds right where you want them to grow in the garden. By starting the seeds indoor, you can control temperature (the high 70s is ideal for broccoli seed germination) and soil moisture, and get your plants up fast. It is most convenient to start broccoli seeds in pots that are large enough to accommodate the plants from sowing right through to transplanting. Use two- or three-inch plastic pots or household items of similar size, such as disposable cups, to give the roots plenty of room to grow. Punch several drainage holes in the bottom of containers that lack them, for seedlings will die if water collects around their roots. If you are reusing old pots, scrub them out and rinse them with a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water to destroy any lurking disease organisms. Use a soiless mix for potting, as these mixes are weed-free and have a light, fluffy texture that encourages quick growth. Pour the mix into a bucket and stir in enough water to make it damp but not soggy. Fill each pot to within a half inch of the top, tapping the pot gently to firm the mix. Now, use a pencil to make a furrow an inch long and half an inch deep across the center of each pot. Sow four or five seeds, cover them with more mix, and press down gently. Be sure to label each container with the variety name and sowing date.  Arrange the pots in a tray (an old roasting pan is fine), and cover them loosely with transparent plastic wrap to retain moisture. To speed germination, place the tray in a warm spot such as the top of the refrigerator or television. Transplants are also easier to keep weeded. And you must keep your young broccoli well weeded. If you buy transplants from a garden center, look for ones with fewer than six true leaves and no woody patches on the main stems. Broccoli needs a regular supply of water, so if the skies don’t cooperate you need to supplement. A good thick mulch of straw or compost will help retain moisture and moderate soil temperatures- the roots stay cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. Additional nutrients can be added throughout the growing season by side dressing your crop monthly with blood meal, fish emulsion, or your favorite organic fertilizer. Principle insect and disease problems are the cabbage looper and imported cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, flea beetles, blackleg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows. Harvest the center green flower bud cluster of broccoli while the buds are still tight and before any yellow petals begin to show. Cut the central stem five to six inches below the head. If left to bloom, the buds would open as bright yellow flowers. Generally, when individual buds of broccoli are match-head size and distinct (loose) in appearance, the head is as large as it is going to get. After growing a certain variety for several seasons you will soon know the potential size for heads of that variety. The size of the head produced depends on variety, season and fertilization. A strange new vegetable is invading produce departments throughout the United States. This produce stranger, broccoflower, is the result of a genetic cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Although its physical attributes resemble cauliflower, it has the color and flavor of broccoli.

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Leafminers

Leafminers are small 1.5cm whitish grubs with a black head that feed in between leaves making strange almost transparent patterns in leaves of  hosts. The adult is a small fly (most having a yellow spot on their back) that lays it's eggs on the leaves and when they hatch, grubs work inside leaves eating the centers out. There are several different species. Each species named for the plant they attack....ie: Lilac leafminers, azalea leafminers, spinach leafminers, boxwood leafminers etc. Found everywhere in North America. Flies occur in early summer and lay eggs in holes that they pierce in leaves. Eggs hatch within 4 days and begin feeding. When they have completed feeding they drop to the ground and pupate. They overwinter in this stage. They feed on beets, beans, tomatoes, swiss chard, spinach, celery, lilacs and many boxwood varieties. They have been know to feed on other delicate leafy veggies and some ornamental like azaleas. They cause unsightly yellowish blisters on the leaves of host plants in a very erractic manner(they look like trails). There can be as many as half a dozen present per leaf in serious infestations. Fortunately these guys rarely do much damage though unless....it's your spinach or chard.

Control

1) Hand Pick

If you see the trails, you can crush them between thumb and forefinger. Or you can remove the affected leaves and drop them in soapy water or burn.

2) Row Covers

Protect you crops with row covers before the flies emerge

3) Till Around Susceptible Plants

If you till the areas where you have them you will uncover the larva and birds will greedily eat them or you can pick them up and drop in soapy water.

4) Parasitic Wasps

Hymenopterous (wasp) parasites are one natural predator.

5) Plan Your Harvest

Harvest beets and other veggies earlier then you normally would to decrease loss of veggies.

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Herbs

Dyers Greenwood 

poor soil in an open sunny position with good drainage is ideal. Plant in autumn or spring, or sow seed outdoors in autumn after rubbing them between sheets of sandpaper. Prune soft growth after flowering. Also called dyer’s broom.

American Cranesbill

divide mature plants in early spring or sow in autumn or spring where plants are to grow after rubbing seeds between sheets of sandpaper. Grow in full sun or light shade in moist, leafy soil. Plant self seed profusely and soon develop into thick clumps. Also called spotted cranesbill, alum root and crowfoot.

Herb Bennet

sow in early spring or autumn where flowers are to grow and thin to 6 inches apart. Grow in fertile soil in full sun or semi shade. Also called wood avens and clove root.

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Companion Planting Tip

Broccoli is benefited if interplanted with bean, celery, chamomile,dill, mint, nasturtium, onion, potato, sage, and rosemary reduces striped cucumber beetles. Do not combine with lettuce, strawberry, or tomato.

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When re-potting plants, place a wet teabag over the drainage hole to keep the soil from falling out

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Rose hips (that swollen part behind the flower) are an excellant vitamin C source. They are often used for tea. The Navajo make a tan dye from the leaves and twigs of roses

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Brandie

"A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.”

 

 

 

 
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