by John Martin
These two are very sensitive to weather conditions. We can usually do well with them in the spring but have never been able to get them to settle down to consistently large heads and regular timing as one can do with some other vegetables. The hot/cold wet/dry conditions here just push them around too much.
We grow broccoli and Cauliflower only in the spring. Others have success in the fall but at our CSA shares get too large in the fall so we don’t plant these late.
We’re still trialing broccolis. Green King and Premium Crop from Fedco are two we like. We select for seedling vigor, a first large head, and most importantly good side shoots. For Cauliflower, we like Snow Crown at 70 days and Candid Charm at 95 days. Both are vigorous, Candid Charm is whiter and larger, but we want the 70 days on Snow Crown in hopes of succession. (We’ve also had some success with that purple Graffiti – but it’s a novelty.)
However, we’ve been unable to regularize succession in either Broccoli or Cauliflower. Seeding a couple weeks later doesn’t work for us. The later ones just catch up, terrified of the coming heat I guess. The only succession we’ve ever accomplished is varietal: sometimes the two cauliflowers will come at three weeks apart as the package says, but some times not. So we just plant them in the greenhouse all at one time and hope for some spread at ripening. That’s why good side shoots are so important on the broccoli. Cut the first head low to promote larger side shoot growth.
We seed Broccoli and Cauliflower the second week in March using the 2”x2” soil blocker in the greeehouse. Any 2” cup will work, but it is important to press the soil very firmly into the cup or block before seeding. The blocker dimples the blocks about 3/8” deep. We seed one per block and then 2 per block on about 20% so that we can fill in gaps after germination by splitting the doubles. A pinch of peat fills the dimple covering the seed. If the soil mix was pretty wet to begin with, first watering from above with a soaker works.
Brassicas germinate cold so we just set them on tables in the unheated greenhouse with no heat mat. Growing For Market described an inexpensive mister system that we installed in the greenhouse last year. The brassicas really liked the regular watering and more humid conditions.
We transplant Broccoli and Cauliflower the third week in April spacing 18” in the row and 18” between rows. They can manage the cold, but we cover all brassicas with remay in the spring to exclude flea beetles. Water-in immediately after covering, then use short regular watering for the first few weeks. Be careful, under the remay they can dry out rapidly and you can’t see it.
After about 3 weeks (or when it gets so hot you begin to worry about them) remove the remay and marvel at the weed competition under there. These are very tender when first uncovered so if the hoe is handy, they’re pretty easy to clean up before they harden. The stems of many brassicas spiral out of the ground so don’t get too close with the hoe, clean up around the stem by hand.