Photo by Rick Gush
Weâ€™ve only planted about 50 broccoli plants in the garden this year, but there are some really sturdy plants among the crop, and all signs point to another super-abundant broccoli crop again this winter.
Creating a good start for young plants is the best gardening technique I know. If the young plants have superior momentum coming at the time of planting and then continue that momentum in the garden, the results will be optimal.
A lot of people I know insist upon starting their own seedlings. I think they often cause trouble for themselves in this manner. Seeds are fairly tough customers; they will germinate, even in non-optimal conditions, such as dim light. Unfortunately, seedlings that have experienced a period of low light will grow thin and spindly, and when these skinny seedlings are set out in the garden, they wonâ€™t have the same chance of success as the more robust seedlings. I always tell people that if youâ€™re going to start seeds in the house, make sure you have some hefty artificial lighting. I recommend at least 40 watts per square foot.
The next trick to growing super vegetables is to feed them like a madman. In the case of these monster broccoli plants, I think the handful of manure underneath each planting hole was the winning trick. I usually mix in manure, either fresh, several weeks in advance, or processed on the day of planting. However, for these plants, I also added a handful of manure 7 inches below the surface. I think having more manure down below the surface is very effective. Farmers here in Italy have told me to use a handful of hoof and horn meal under the surface. The load of phosphorus and potassium really helps with the growth of strong root systems.
Iâ€™ve also been using a lot of liquid fertilizer on the crops this fall. I use manure tea when I have it, but Iâ€™ll admit I use the non-organic powdered stuff sometimes, too. In any case, I like to spray it on the leaves, not just on the ground. Making the manure tea is pretty easy, but hauling the fresh manure up to the garden is inevitable a messy affair, so I donâ€™t always do it as often as I should.
The broccoli crop also had the benefit of organic iron sulphate snail pellets when they were young, and Iâ€™ve already sprayed Bacillus thuringiensis three times as prevention against the cabbage worms. Some days, I see dozens of cabbage white butterflies flitting around the plants, so I know thereâ€™s a bunch of cabbage-worm eggs among the plantings. I like how well Bt works. Iâ€™m not sure exactly how Bt lives and survives once it is sprayed on the plants, but re-treatment after rains seems to be the prudent move.