Tips for growing broccoli and cauliflower

Tips for growing broccoli and cauliflower

Q: Every year I have tried to grow broccoli and cauliflower and they never do well. The broccoli blooms too fast and the cauliflower is small and discolored. How can I successfully grow these in California?

ONE: Broccoli and cauliflower are both cool seasonal vegetables, but our weather is not cool enough long enough.

If you bought and planted them in late summer or early fall, they probably got a few days of hot weather (high 80s or mid 90s). This would in many cases be enough to induce flowering in broccoli. To avoid this problem, do not plant broccoli until late November or mid-December.

Even when we have planted our broccoli late (more due to procrastination than good planning), we have never gotten a nice, big head from any of our plants. Usually we get a small head head that is 3-4 inches across, then maybe a dozen small side shoots. We have had better luck growing budding broccoli, which gives an even smaller head but many smaller side shoots. Remember that the stems and leaves are edible and quite tasty, so you can make more use of the plant, even when it stops producing bouquets.

Cauliflower is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in soil moisture. Make sure your irrigation is working properly, and mulch generously. Exposure to sunlight will cause the cauliflower to discolour, so it should remain in the shade while it grows. When the head begins to develop, gather the leaves and tie them with a rubber band so that they cover and protect the baby cauliflower.

Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and other cabbage crops all seem to be bothered by the same pests. Cabbage loops will leave random holes on the leaves and can completely defoliate tender young plants. Look for 1-2-inch-long green worms on the underside of the leaves. Regular use of Bacillus thuringiensis (often labeled as Caterpillar Killer) is effective.

Aphids are often the worst pest. Our weather gets cool in the winter, but almost never cold enough to kill the aphids. Spraying them off with a strong jet of water is immediately satisfying and effective. Using insecticidal soap is also helpful. (Use only soap specially made for plants – do not make your own with dishwashing detergent!)

Despite our best efforts, we always end up with a lot of aphids in our broccoli, probably because there are just too many nooks and crannies to store them. We tried rinsing them off in a sink full of cold water, but always ended up with what we called “Fear Factor Broccoli.” Finally, we learned that it is reasonably effective to soak the sliced ​​broccoli in salted water for about 10 minutes before rinsing in cold water.

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