(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING BROCCOLI
Broccoli loves the climate here in Sitka and with a few tips you can have delicious broccoli to eat for months.
Broccoli is from the brassica family and is a fairly heavy feeder. Preparation should begin in the fall by amending your bed with nitrogen rich fertilizer and lime (or salmon carcasses, seaweed and seashell sand).
Start your seeds indoors mid-March. They sprout up fast and grow tall quickly, so for best results after germination reduce the temperature in the room to 40-50 degrees F and turn the trays 180 degrees at least once a day to keep the seedlings from getting leggy and falling over. It is also a good idea to have an oscillating fan in the room blowing gently across the trays to make the seedlings as strong as possible.
Transplant seedlings outdoors mid-April in a bed that has not had brassica’s planted in it the year before. Make a dish-shaped depression in the soil, then dig a hole in the bottom of it for the seedling and bury it up to its first set of true leaves. The depression acts as a catch basin for water and will keep the seedling from drying out.
If your seedlings are a bit spindly, just do your best to prop them up and as they grow they will get stronger and straighten up on their own. Space the seedlings about 20 inches apart. It’s tempting to crowd them together to get more plants in the garden, but broccoli plants that are too close together produce small heads.
Mulch the entire bed with a generous layer of seaweed but try to keep the seaweed from touching the seedlings to prevent rot. Cover the entire bed with floating row cover to protect the plants from the dreaded root maggot fly using hoops to keep the cover up off the plants if possible. Leave the cover on until at least July 15.
In a few months you will see tiny broccoli head starting to form. Some varieties of broccoli produce small heads and some varieties of broccoli produce large heads. Immature heads are very tightly formed, mature heads are loosely formed and overly mature heads open up into flowers.
The key is to harvest before the heads flower regardless of size. Harvest heads with a knife cutting the stem at a sharp angle. This prevents water from setting on the stump and causing the plant to rot. Broccoli leaves are edible and can be used like kale and broccoli stems can be eaten raw or cooked. If the skin is tough just peel it away and eat the center.
Unfortunately, slugs LOVE broccoli. Damaged leaves aren’t so bad, but when a slug crawls across a head and leaves a slimy, rotten track behind it, it can be very aggravating. It’s easy to become discouraged and think the entire plant is ruined, but don’t pull it out. Just harvest the damaged head, eat the good parts and leave the plant in the ground because most varieties of broccoli will produce more, smaller heads called “sprouts” for months to come. I have harvested fresh broccoli from my garden for Thanksgiving.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241