Broccoli is one of those vegetables that can be a little bit “hit or miss” in Kansas, especially in the spring. The cool parts of the growing season, spring and fall both, can sometimes be too short and too erratic to have great broccoli. Over the years we have tried several kinds of broccoli, some that performed well and others not so much.
This year, we chose to plant ‘Burgundy,’ a variety of purple sprouting broccoli. Sprouting broccoli is selected for high quality, uniform, and prolific side shoots. Many older “heading type” broccoli varieties would produce some side shoots, newer varieties not as much. Sprouting broccoli is designed to have the center “head” shoot pinched out at a small size to encourage more side shoots.
We started these plants from seed in mid-February and transplanted them into the garden on March 17th. They are supposed to take about 37 days from transplant to maturity…but the weather was definitely not helpful on that front this year. About a week ago, the plants were showing the development of the center shoot. (About 60 days after transplanting – thanks, cold snaps!)
I snipped out the center stalk, and you can already see the side shoots starting to grow.
This is what the shoots are looking like now. I love the purple color! So often with purple vegetables, the color is disappointing, but this is beautiful. It is important to note that the color will fade to a beautiful dark green once it is cooked.
From a flavor standpoint, this broccoli is strong. The little bit that I have nibbled on, it has a very strong mustard flavor. Most homegrown broccoli is that way, and once it is cooked, it has great flavor – but it is not the mild and water flavor you maybe have come to expect from even fresh grocery store broccoli.
The idea with the side shoots is that they should continue to develop and be produced until it gets too hot, potentially having a higher yield for a single plant than with a heading type.
If you wanted to give this plant a try (and you can find the seeds available!), you should start the seeds indoors in mid- to late June, then transplant outside in late July. With some luck and decent weather, you should have some awesome broccoli sometime in September!
After a week of warmer temperatures and MORE rain, the garden has grown a lot! We also planted some of the warm season plants and plan to plant more this coming week.
The peas in particular have grown significantly and most of them are starting to flower.
Most years, we may have one variety of peas planted in one area. This year we have 5 different pea varieties – one heirloom shelling pea, one snow pea, one sugar snap pea, and two peas for containers. This is the ‘Peas in a Pot’ variety. It is about 10 inches tlal and is already flowering and setting pods.
The sprouting broccoli in the barrel planter is starting to head in the center. Next week we will probably remove that small head in order to encourage development of side shoots. Sprouting broccoli doesn’t form large central heads, but it won’t be very productive if the central head isn’t removed.
The tomatoes were all planted this week, although we are waiting until next week for the peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and melons. Because of the grafted plants, we couldn’t plant them deeper, resulting in some creative staking to keep the plants upright until the stems have gotten stronger.
We planted this Dragon Tongue Arugula in the Grocery Garden. This variety has highly lobed leaves with red veins. It has proven to be a very slow grower so far and the germination wasn’t great. We will wait and see if it improves with time.
The new Prairie Star Annual trial garden was planted this week too. If you have driven by, you probably saw the row of big containers. These are for demonstrating the Prairie Star Annual Flower trials. We are excited for this new usage of the front of the Demo Garden space. Hopefully this area will be a beautiful color show all summer.
It’s time to start our regular Friday reviews of the Demonstration Garden!
We have more growing in the garden than some years at this time. Except for the tomato and vertical gardens, which are empty, most of the other areas have lettuces, other leafy greens, peas, or root veggies.
We had our first harvest of many of our leafy greens this week. This is the Elegance Greens Mix from the Grocery Garden. It got a little bigger than I prefer for salads, but we will be trying to stay on top of harvesting moving forward. Watch for harvest updates and track our produce value from the Grocery Garden as the season progresses.
The green sprouting broccoli that is in one of our barrel planters has enjoyed the cool weather and is looking great. It isn’t showing signs of heading yet, but I expect it will be soon. Another boon of the cool weather is that the cabbageworms aren’t around either!
In what may be the first live demonstration of the challenges of growing heirlooms, this ‘Brown Dutch’ heirloom lettuce in the Colonial Garden is already starting to bolt. It is most likely reacting to the temperature fluctuations from warm to cold. But for whatever reason, this variety is not as tolerant to that and more prone to bolt.
The pallet garden we planted last year to strawberries is back up and growing. It is flowering and setting fruit. I don’t love the fact that the plants are so small. I think they are probably showing the lack of nutrients available to them in the pallet, and I don’t know that fertilizing right now is going to improve the fruit. It will be important for plant health if we want to keep it going for next season though. Now…how to fertilize and keep the nutrients where we put them? Ah, the challenges of pallets!
The Japanese bunching onions and carrots that we overwintered were harvested this week. The carrots weren’t in great condition. I think that overwintered carrots are best harvested in January or February, before it starts getting too warm!
Our poor tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are still waiting to be planted. It has just been TOO COLD. With the early, warm temps 6-8 weeks ago, we started thinking early spring. But the reality is that the temperatures in the past two weeks have been too cold for these plants to be outside without suffering cold injury. We are hoping to plant tomatoes this next week and the peppers in two weeks.
With a week of warm weather and some rain, the garden continues to grow quickly. After this week, we have almost everything planted. We planted seeds of cucumbers and other vines, the scorzonera, and a few other miscellaneous things. I think all that we have yet to plant is the oca (hasn’t arrived yet) and some of the flowers. Of course, the vegetables that will be part of the fall garden are also not yet planted.
Of course, there is always something that goes wrong. This poor tomato plant is showing signs of herbicide injury. It is the only one, which means it is probably something in the soil. We added some compost, but other areas that have compost added are looking okay. We may never know exactly what happened! We will let it grow for a little longer to see if it outgrows the problem.
The Chinese broccoli (in the Oriental Garden) is just starting to produce the edible flower buds. This type of broccoli is not supposed to produce large, individual heads but rather lots of smaller shoots. You can already see some of the side shoots developing. I think that we will need to harvest the initial center shoots to encourage more side branching for best yields.
We harvested the lettuce in the pallet garden and then planted some more strawberries. We also moved it to it’s permanent summer spot, which is a little bit shadier. It probably better mimics a balcony or patio situation this way, and maybe the lettuce will stay nice longer.
We did harvest the lettuce beds again this week, resulting in a multitude of bags of lettuce. It was looking really good and showing the pattern well. I couldn’t get a great picture because of the sun and shadow, but I think you get the idea.
Have a great weekend!
Given the lesson of the other sprouting broccoli, when the Purple Peacock Sprouting Broccoli started putting on a head, I took it off fairly soon.
As you can see from this view, it doesn’t look nearly as purple up close. And then there is the caterpillar. We haven’t treated for the cabbageworms recently, so I wasn’t surprised to see one. What was surprising is that I actually found six caterpillars in this small head of broccoli. Yes, that’s a lot. Yikes!
Here’s the green sprouting broccoli that I cut several weeks ago. It also has some nice side shoots growing. Once things thaw out, we may have to cut some of these. Broccoli is typically damaged once the temperature dips below 24, so I’ll be interested to see how these plants come out of the cold.