Growing Broccoli in Southern MD

je_suis_jo(7a)April 16, 2012

I tried to grow broccoli last year for the first time by direct sowing some seeds. They didn't grow very well and I finally ended up pulling them out. This year I bought transplants and I have some that are starting to form heads (yay!!!) My question is how do I tell when the heads are ready to cut? And how long do I let them form side shoots, assuming they don't bolt? When do people in SoMD finally call it quits with their broccoli? I'm also asking so I can plan for growing veggies in their place.

They're Packman broccoli from Lowes, in a raised bed (different from last year) that gets about 6-7 hours of sun. The soil is from a nursery, but I don't think it had any compost/fertilizer in it. I only gave it some 10-10-10 fertilizer about 2 weeks ago. I've been watering everyday because its been so hot and I feel like the bed is draining too quickly/much.

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They are ready to harvest when the florets are just about opening. Also, remember that Broccoli is a vegetable with multiple harvests. When you cut the main head, more side-shoots will grow.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:29PM
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Make sure to wash the head of broccoli really well unless you appreciate extra protein in your produce! I only grew broccoli once, was grossed out by the cabbage worms hidden in all the little crevices...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:44AM
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I don't know if the broccoli in zone 7 is any less tasty than in zone 5, but I let my broccoli form side shoots until it freezes solid in late fall. It's actually even better in the fall than in the mid summer. You could underplant lettuce and let the broccoli shade it from the heat of summer, and get good lettuce all season -- that's in case you want to leave the broccoli in AND use the space at the same time.

You can get the cabbage worms out by soaking for a half hour in water with a tablespoon of salt added. If the worms get too bad in late summer, just wait until fall and they'll be gone. But you have to keep cutting the side shoots before they turn to flowers (yellow) because if they do the plant will stop making side shoots (because it will have successfully gone to seed)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 1:45AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Howdy neighbor and fellow SoMDer. I can't answer your question directly, but I can say that you don't want to let it go through frost. The high heat of our summers makes it taste pretty gross and at a certain point they become laden with tons of harlequin plant bugs. Having grown up in zone 4/5 where they do indeed grow it all summer long, I think the difference is our hot nights. In my old garden (down here) I used to harvest the big head, then pull the plants because I had small space to work with. Sounds like you may want to do the same. When I lived in Alexandria, I harvested around late May through early June, depending on the weather. Here we're averaging 5 degrees cooler, so that probably shifts things a little later. Basically when it gets hot and stays hot they will start struggling and you'll see it. Here at the new house I didn't get a good crop last spring, this spring we'll see. Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Firstly, you can use the heads at any time you want. They are at thier peak just before the buds start separating . They go down hill fast when the yellow flowers began appearing. Packman produces good side shoots, but two cuutings is as far as I go with them. The cabbages worms are easy to control with Bt. Harlequins take a little heavier artillery like carbaryl or permethrin.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:22PM
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Thanks for all the responses, they've been really helpful! I'll post a picture when i'm not lazily lounging in bed on my tablet.
I'll definitely remember about soaking the broccoli. I've seen signs of something munching but not found anything yet.
@Sunni-yay! Nice to see another SoMDer here; I'm a Virginia transplant but the only gardening I ever did before moving here was watch my grandfather tend his roses. But back to broc, I didn't think it would be able to last until May. That makes me feel better!
Its kind of funny to me when you think about it, I imagine most people you talk to would say they don't eat flowers, but if they eat broccoli then they actually do...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Hmmmm -- yeah, sounds like I can't really speak from zone 5 to a zone 7er about broccoli! I tend to forget how differently things act in different conditions.

I was given 40 (!) cabbage seedlings last November. I planted most of them in my Z5 garden under cover, and some of them in North Carolina in a friend's bed. All my Z5 plants gave lovely tasty leaves during the winter, then bolted this spring--no heads. I just got the report from my friend -- the ones I planted in his garden made heads!! I guess they didn't "vernalize" or whatever brassicas do in cold weather.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:26PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Elisa, it is really hard to imagine the difference until you experience it! When I moved down here I had allthe wrong instincts about when to plant what. And it took a really long time to adjust my thinking. Warm weather crops are a little more similar, but even so, I didn't know about tomato pollen and high temperatures until I moved here either. Probably because upstate NY doesn't have but a week of what I would call really hot weather a year.

Jo- yes, May is a month for fretting over the cool weather crops, wondering if they are going to produce before they croak from the heat. In a typical year, early to mid June is when I clear them out.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:39AM
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