Growing large heads of broccoli question

engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)December 20, 2009

I've seen some pictures on here of really large heads of broccoli that someone grew, and I was wondering why I can't seem to grow them that big. This fall, I put a couple in self watering containers, with slow release fertilizer mixed into the top 2" of the growing medium - and still only harvested heads between 2-3". What am I missing? The area gets full sunlight for quite a long time each day. Thanks


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Don't know what your doing wrong. Are harvesting to soon? I'm cutting heads fully as wide as my open hand. As a matter of fact I cut some today and had it for lunch.
As for the way I grow it I'm lazy. I do raised beds, stick them in the ground and try to keep the weeds to a minimum. Nothing else.
I'll be putting even more in the ground in a couple months but this time I'm tripling what I have now.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:23PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Are you talking about pictures like these?

Or like this?

EG, Luck. That is what I am saying. It sounds like you should be more successful what is the variety? Did you grow it from seed or buy seedlings? I will tell you this, I have read a lot and many places say that you don't want to stress Broccoli and Cauliflower as seedlings. If you do, this will cause them to "button" up early. I grow all my own seedlings. This way I can get them when I want them and the varieties that I want to grow. It is really easy, IMO.

Next spring will be the 3 time I have grown broccoli. Last spring, this fall the other two. I have also read that soil has a lot to do with it too. I use a lot of compost and my soil tests show that my phosphorus and Potassium counts are off the scale! Nitrogen is a little low. I add some nitrogen, compost, and plant away. My fall broccoli was where I had spring potatoes. I put out 100 plants and harvested probably around 150 pounds. My season was cut short by 13 inches of snow and sub-zero cold, a month earlier than usual.

Maybe they don't like Self watering containers? I haven't heard of anyone using them to grow broccoli in. Try another variety.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 1:11AM
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You are growing the wrong variety. There is currently only one variety of broccoli that will consistently produce 9 inch heads here in North Alabama. That is Bonanza from Burpee. I start seed about the middle of January with a target plant out date of mid March. It is crucially important to have spring broccoli in the ground before the 25th of March. Any later planting will bolt in the heat.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 2:17AM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Mcleod - not harvesting too soon, they just don't get very big. De Cicco is what I grow, and that may be my biggest problem.

jrslick - Yes! I want heads like that. I've started from seed, and bought transplants too. Either way, it's the same result.

fusion power - Bonanza, huh? I've never heard of that one before. Guess i'll place an order with Burpee, then. Thanks! I set out transplants last year during the first week of February, and come May - they bolted like crazy.


Here is a link that might be useful: Here's what my broccoli looks like

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 9:37AM
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I expect you are correct, DeCicco is closer to a sprouting broccoli, lots of side shoots, but not a large central head. There are lots of cultivars that make nice cultivars here. They do have to be early cultivars tho, for either spring or fall. Our growing window is not long enough for main season broccoli. Green Goliath is the only open pollinated variety that makes a large head for me. Have very good luck with Superdome, Everest, Galleon, Early Dividend, Blue Wind, Southern Comet. Decent luck with Packman, Bonanza, Barbados, Coronado Crown. Gypsy is somewhat dissapointing and Belstar does not do much for me. Packman makes nice large heads, but shows a lot of brown bead in spring plantings.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 10:23AM
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Jrslick - what variety / varieties do you grow? We live in similar climates.

I've always grown sprouting types, as the sideshoots keep me well stocked with broccoli all summer long. I'd like to try some other types though.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 11:31AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I have grown Packman in the spring, Green Magic and Arcadia (those are the ones that are in the picture) this fall. I also tried Marathon however, there was a failure to thrive as seedlings. I think they dried out too much. I never planted them out.

All the seeds I got were from Johnny's. I would go with a hybrid if you are truly wanting a large main head.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 12:14PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

This fall the side shoots have been extra nice and so very tender and tasty. The original heads were good on most of several varieties.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 1:07PM
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Are you ever right!! I don't recall a fall with better side shoot production, and DeCicco is a good one for that. Central heads are decent but not superior with that variety.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 3:53PM
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I've had good luck getting nice, large heads out of Arcadia as well.

A couple of years ago in the fall at the local farmer's market, one of the vendors had heads of broccoli that I swear were probably 16 inches across, most amazing. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask him what kind it was. That was in 2007, which was a near perfect year climate wise here in SE Michigan

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 4:56PM
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It was one of the best years for me with side shoots too! I've been growing nutribud for years. While the central head is rather small, the sideshoots for the rest of the season make up for it.

For market this year, I will grow Packman, Belstar, and Arcadia.

Thanks for the tips Jay.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 5:19PM
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