broccoli fail

njitgradApril 14, 2014

What did I do wrong? My seedlings were nice and healthy looking, I hardened them off for a week, planted them in large GeoPots with a 5-1-1 mix, and nearly two weeks later all of the leaves are turning reddish and I am not seeing much new growth.

This was my first time doing broccoli as well as my first try with the 5-1-1. My perlite looks a bit chunky but I'm assuming that wouldn't cause growth issues.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You don't say anything about what nutrients you added to the mix or what feeding they have had. Plus the purpling of leaves is also common with young plants exposed to unusually cool temps.

So I'd suggest a good feeding and some patience until the weather warms up a bit.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:44PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

My first thought was that they look like they are dying for some real soil with phosphorus.........Does broccoli grow well in containers?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:46PM
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They haven't failed yet. Those plants aren't dying.

What have the temps been there?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:29PM
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I agree with Wayne...looks like phosphorus deficiency (which can be a real deficiency or induced by prolonged cool, wet weather). Did you fertilize?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:40PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Broccoli grows great in containers with 5-1-1 mix. Whenever young plants are moved to the outside from indoors they experience stress. It could be temperatures, it could be damage to the roots when you were transplanting, it could be that you added lime to the mix right before planting and it hasn't "cooled down" yet, it could be fertilizer that came into contact with the roots. If you added any fertilizer at all, it is highly unlikely that you have a deficiency this soon. It is very likely that your broccoli will perk up and be fine in a week or so if you don't over react and start adding things to the mix.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:40PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Just an FYI about those grow bags.
If you have gophers in the area, they WILL chew through the bags and eat the plants! So if you have gophers, you might want to put your grow bags on some plywood or something. Nancy

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:56PM
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Since lime has been mentioned, I'll say a little about it.

"Lime" is a loaded word. It can refer to several very different products. Be sure to know what you want (need) before you buy, and make sure that is what you are getting.

Most agricultural lime is some form of crushed limestone which is very benign. But there are different types of limestone. Again, know what you want and what you are getting.

I could not seem to find a single site that explains all the different types of lime and its uses.

Here is a link that might be useful: Agricultural lime

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:22PM
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I used Dynamite CRF in my 5-1-1. Details of this are posted in a recent thread (see below).

Here is a link that might be useful: 5-1-1: did I do the math/chemistry correctly?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Four days later and no change in growth or appearance. I just assumed that broccoli would thrive in cooler weather using a 5-1-1 mix. We had a nice weekend with temps in the lower 70s with plenty of sunshine followed by a cold snap on Monday night. I must have done something wrong and I need to find out what that is before I use the 5-1-1 for my tomatoes in 4 weeks.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 1:41PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I read your other thread and think your recipe sounds about perfect. The only thing that may have caused temporary problems is adding the lime just before planting and maybe not fully drenching your mix before planting. Ideally, you want to mix in the lime and thoroughly water a week or two before planting. The first year I used 5-1-1 in 2010 I did mine the way you did and it did seem to take a couple weeks for my plants (tomatoes and peppers) to start showing growth. I was surprised at how much I needed to water in the beginning, and realized later that the bark was just too dry in the beginning.

What kind of broccoli did you plant? This is a picture of my broccoli on April 15. I planted seeds for decicco and Packman broccoli on March 1, and on April 10 I put them out into 5-1-1 that had been made a week in advance. We got almost 3 inches of rain on that 5-1-1 before I planted.

The cold spell we had earlier this week was worse than I expected. We got an inch of snow and an overnight low of 22. The packmans came through fine, although they are showing some purple on older leaves. The decicco was damaged enough that I pulled it out yesterday and replaced it with my backup seedlings. When I pulled the plants out I noticed that the roots had grown quite a bit even though the plants hadn't appeared to grow at all. Your plants may be busy growing roots. If I were you, I would water them every day until they show noticeable growth. It may be that your pot is well watered but the area around the roots is not wet enough.

I wouldn't give up yet. IIRC, broccoli does take a while to get established. Although it can survive cold night temps, it prefers temperatures above 60.

This post was edited by Ohiofem on Fri, Apr 18, 14 at 16:52

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 2:26PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

So what have you done for them in the interim of all the suggestions above? Have you given them a supplemental feeding? One of the quick fixes like some 1/2 strength MG? If so what and if not why? Most any newly transplanted and stressed plant can benefit from it.

Assuming the 5-1-1 was mixed properly then the odds heavily favor the weather being the issue. Especially this year.

I'm only putting out my broccoli today. They tolerate cooler weather yes, but not cold weather and it has been too cold down here for them until this weekend.

If you have 4 weeks until you pot up your tomatoes then there is plenty of time for the broccoli to recover.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Here's my broccoli today, packman on the left and decicco on the right. I've grown both before, and the decicco always looks puny compared to the packman.

I agree with Dave. Try dilute fertilizer. Your CRF is dispersed throughout the container and takes a while to start working. I also agree that I planted my broccoli too soon. There is a danger of buttoning if the seedlings get too cold in the beginning. Sure hope that doesn't happen.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Because I'm so busy this weekend the only fertilizer I'll be able to apply would be what I have on hand which is DynaGro Foliage Pro 9-3-6. Is that a good choice?

If so, do I follow the application rate and watering frequency on the label, or does anyone experienced have with this food have a better recommendation? How much diluted solution should I add to each container, and should it be done all at once with a watering can?

My plan was to re-use these containers for my summer veggies once the broccoli bolted so if they don't start growing soon, I'll have to start a new plan for next year.

BTW, how frequently should 5-1-1 be watered? Although the surface seems dry it certainly feels moist enough beneath it when I gently move the mix around by hand.

One thing I'll be doing differently is starting my 5-1-1 for my summer veggies 3-4 weeks ahead of time and then just let them sit in containers in the garden until planting time. Periodic April/May rain showers should activate the CRF by planting time, right?

Here is a link that might be useful: Dyna-Gro 9-3-6

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:04PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Before you use fertilizer, you might want to water each container thoroughly with plain water to make sure the entire mix is wet through. It is almost impossible to overwater 5-1-1 in a fabric container. Excess water is wicked away by the earth and evaporates through the sides. Like I said before, my experience the first time I used 5-1-1 was that it took a couple weeks of watering a container for me to feel that it really was well watered because I didn't get my mix wet enough before I started. The peat and pine bark are like sponges. Remember that your seedlings only occupy the top few inches of the mix, where you said it seems dry.

I think DynaGro Foliage Pro 9-3-6 would be an excellent choice for perking up the plants at this stage. Some of us -- including me -- use it through the season because the CRF is not enough to feed hungry veggies. I would dilute it to half strength (1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water). Don't waste it on the whole container; all you need to do is pour about 1-2 cups of the fertilizer water around each plant so it gets to the root zone. This is the opposite of what you want to do when the plant roots are filling the container. Then you want the fertilizer water to reach every nook and cranny where roots are growing.

Making the mix two weeks in advance is enough. It can take that long for the lime to be activated. Longer than that, and your CRF may release too much fertilizer before it's needed. I actually add the lime and then wait a week or two before adding the CRF and mixing again just before planting.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 6:05PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Could the "issue" be that you're expecting your continers to act the same as the earth? Because while the containers will warm up faster in the sun, they will also cool down faster in cold. So what you have, when air temperatures aren't stable, is plants in soil wherethe temperatures fluctuate much more than the soil in the ground. Does that make sense?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 6:53PM
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sunnibel7, wouldn't that imply that broccoli wouldn't grow so great in containers especially in a 5-1-1 mix? my understanding was that it's an early season crop which is why I put them outside in early April.

ohiofem, on Saturday I soaked the containers first, then fertilized like you recommended. I will take a look tomorrow to see if any improvement is noted

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 2:55PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

It implies that containers vary more than the ground and may need different measures taken if the plants show signs of stress. My reasoning was that your cold nights might be affecting your container broccoli more than they would broccoli planted in ground, thus causing more pronounced purpling, which as Dave mentioned early on, is common in young plants exposed to cold temps.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:05AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

In my experience most plants in large containers do better at handling spring cold temps than those in the ground. The containers warm up more during the day and hold that warmth more during cold spells. Plants like eggplants, okra, and peppers produce more and sooner for me in containers. Those plants in the ground are not as likely to do as well in my Midwestern climate as they do further south.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:29AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I set out my early broccoli recently. The first bunch was subjected to 2 freezing nights before the roots were fully established in the soil. I covered up the first 10 plants with large overturned plastic plant containers. The wind blew the container off 1 plant. It got down to 28ð that night. The next night is got down to 24ð and all were covered again. Now several days later they are all doing fine except the one plant that was uncovered the one night.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:57AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Ohiofem, I'm confused by your response, since earlier you mention how your broccoli, also in containers, shows purpling on the older leaves in response to the cold snap. The ground is more stable in temperature than the containers. In the spring, the ground tends to be more stablely cold than containers, but in current conditions won't freeze overnight from a short cold spell the way a container can (due to the container's comparatively small size). My overall point is that maybe nothing is wrong with the 5-1-1 mix used, the purpling and yellowing may be just an artifact of too much cold.

Yes, heat loving plants set out in containers may begin the season more strongly, though by midsummer (here anyhow) the ones in the ground tend to do better because the ground is more stable and doesn't heat up as much as a pot in the sun. And you don't need to fertilize them so much since you don't have to water them so frequently. Every method of growing has its pros and cons, and what is an advantage in one region may be a disadvantage in another.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:48AM
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Well I'm about to throw in the towel since it's been about 16 days since I fertilized the roots and have seen very little if any recovery or growth. Still scratching my head because everything started out so good. I just hope that these containers will work well for my summer veggies.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 9:17AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I'm sorry to hear that your broccoli didn't work out. My Packman broccoli is doing very well, with 2-inch heads already forming. The two Decicco broccoli plants in the same pot have not shown much growth, but they are healthy.

I am baffled by your results and sorry we couldn't help. But I don't see any reason to think your mix won't work for other vegetables.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 12:58PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

OK, as I commented in your other post (in Container Gardening) I think your 5-1-1 is to coarse. Plus you have a lot of chunkky perlite. I would've added some some DE (flor dri) to help maintain more moisture, or jus more peat moss. As a result the texture of your mix, it has (IMO) very low moisture retention property. I could see in that video demonstration too. . Just take a look at Ohiofem's 511 texture and yours. I see a marked difference there.
Keep in mind that broccoli , as a member of brassica, is water loving plant and won't mind wet feet. You can give them as much water you want, they won't mind is.
So probably, IMO, 5-1-1 is not an ideal mix for broccoli.

BTW: I am using it for my peppers. I add about 15% DE (Ultra sorb).

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 10:53PM
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