raven song

January 31, 2011

broccoli planting guide practical and essential advice

broccoli_plant

Broccoli is one of the super vegetables with great nutritional and health benefits . The best is what your grow, fresh wonderful taste, nutritious, healthy, promotes sustainability andcabbage moth lowers your carbon footprint. Each climate has its own challenges. Mine is cool temperate but hot summers. I dont grow it in summer because of the white cabbage moth, which can chew up all your broccoli, leaving the only option of heaps of spraying or enclosing fully in bird mesh. The wise look for natures solution, which is grow your broccoli for winter cropping. It loves the cold temperatures, tastes sweeter, there are no moths in winter and you can harvest it for three months. But nature has some specifications. You need to sow the broccoli in late summer to get it ready for maturity in winter. Here in Bundanoon, Australia this is later January to early February where we often get heat waves, which dry out seed beds and fry the emerging seedlings, plus you have the moth to deal with. After years of battling I have come up with a working solution, read on. First prepare your soil. My bed had garlic in it before, now stored plaited under the house. I put mature cow manure (sourced from local cattle sale yards for free) and chicken manure from my chooks on the bed and then dug it over and raked it. I have liquid manure on the bubble ready for when the plant is full size. Now we are going to build a simple frame over the bed to cover with shade cloth to protect the seed bed and seedlings form the hot sun ( from35 to 45 C). I live near a huge eucalypt forest, so I collect the fallen sticks with the help of my supervisor Wilson the Beagle.  My design needs 14 sticks, you can use tomatoes stakes from the gardening supply shop. But if you have a Forrest that saves on carbon as well. The frame floor plan is 1.8 metres by 1.6 metres and the height is about 1.7 to top of stake and 1.6 to top of cross bar. It is made that that size to end up with about 12 mature broccoli and high enough to get in and work. cross bars and pad

 Step 1. cut stakes to 2m and hammer in as per above floor plan. Step 2. put up four top bars as shown in the picture, using tying wire to bind them on to the uprights. Or alternatively use a cordless drill to drill holes and then use it for driving in some self tapping phillips head screws. Step 3 finish offshade cloth on the frall sticks upame by fastening two diagonal sticks as shown to stabilise the frame. Step 4.  Then tying on some shade cloth or equivalent. I used 90% cover for the roof and eastern side and then some old open weave synthetic curtain material for the other 3 sides. The trick here is to use a large needle, that can take a thin gardening twine, string or fishing line. Then you just lash/sew the material on using big sowing loops say 75 mil or 3 inches apart, tying the twine of at either end. Step 5  Now fasten 3 sticks to the bottoms of the material as shown roughly sewing on. This stops the material from blowing about and allows you to hold it down with rocks or bricks. Step 6  As the seedlings emerge you will need to fix some thin plastic bird mesh to the front and roughly lash the sides together to protect from the cabbage moth. Note the front is the non sun side which is south here in the southern hemisphere. Step 7  Break up the ground again with a rake and then rake it smooth. Mark out four rows about 400mm apart and about 300mm from the frame sides. I use a small stick either end to mark the rows. Mark out a furrow with a stick. Then using a commercial seedling mix, grab a handful and put a thin layer say five to ten mm on the bottom. Then put your seeds in the furrow about 12mm or half an inch apart.  Cover with layer say ten mm of seedling sowingmix. Gentle firm down mix with your hand and then water with spray from a hose or watering canbottom sticks. Keep the row moist. In hot weather like right now I cover the row with and old cotton sheet and water it. Keep checking to see if seedlings emerge and take off if weather cools down. If you get good germination your will have far more seedlings than you need. Pick out the best for yourself and give or sell the rest, encourage others to grow veges. Keep three times more than you need and thin out as they grow picking the best. When the broccoli head matures cut it off for eating. After that side shoots of broccoli keep growing over the next couple of months.

I am growing four varieties. Shogun winter pick, Ramoso Calabrese, Waltham and Di Cicco Early. My aim is to see which are the best and then let the best plants go to seed and collect the seeds to grow for next season. The ones you keep for side, first grow tall stems and then set yellow flowers which then turn to seed. You let the seed dry on the plant. Then you cut the branches with the seed heads and hold over a bucket. Twist and scrunch the seed heads and they will collect in the bucket. Then store in an air tigh container, keep dark by wrapping container in Aluminium foil. With growing you own seeds you get the seed that is most suited to your soil and climate, can make a huge difference.

Sounds like a lot of work, but heh its fun, grows great broccoli and keeps you mindful and  focussed  on the simple things in life and  away from any doom and gloom life may be presenting . . And the locals may think your nuts but that’s fun too. And remember my old gardening mentor, Bill Allen  many years ago used to lean over the fence and say ‘the only good flower is a cauliflower’. He grew up as a farm worker when times were hard. Kept his own milking cow, chickens, veges and grew a turkey for Xmas. So he knew how to do it he had too.

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