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Herb Borage StarFlower Stunning Flowers! Blue for Bees!

The herb Borage – Borago officinalis, StarFlower, has stunning Blue-for-bees flowers! Thanks to Ask a Prepper for this lovely image! 

Beautiful Borage Herb Plant in full blue bloom!

Borage at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA by Cerena Childress

Borage, aka StarFlower, is grown commercially for its seed oil, but is also a heavenly, cheerful, prolifically blooming plant to dress up your winter/spring home garden! Look at all those buds! It isn’t stopping anytime soon either!

This herb is the highest known plant source of gamma-linolenic acid (an Omega 6 fatty acid, also known as GLA – an anti-inflammatory) and the seed oil is often marketed as a GLA supplement. It is also a source of B vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, choline, and, of course, trace minerals. In alternative medicine it is used for stimulating breast milk production and as an adrenal gland tonic used to relieve stress.

Borage is thought to have originated in North Africa, went up through Spain, and is now a common warm climate Mediterranean plant. For us SoCal gardeners that means it is right at home here in our Mediterranean climate. It likes our ‘winter’ and grows happily through midsummer. By late summer it looks a little tired and most gardeners pull it.

Herb Borage, StarFlower, can grow both blue and pink flowers on the same plant at the same time!Single Herb Borage, StarFlower, flowers can be blue AND pink!

The magical Star shaped flowers are a bonus to us humans. Don’t be surprised if occasionally there are pink blossoms among your blue blossoms, on the same plant at the same time, or some flowers that are blue and pink! Sometimes blue ones turn pink! Your prolific plant will produce 100s of flowers during its life!

PLANTING & CARE

Some say to plant 12″ apart,  but considering how big they get I would say at least 3′ apart! Healthy Borage, Borago officinalis, can take up a fair footprint, 2 to 3′ wide, so allow enough space unless you don’t mind clipping it back. However, it is a tad prickly, so you might want to use gloves when you do.

Since it gets 2 – 3′ high, place it so it doesn’t shade out other shorter plants like strawberries.

It prospers in full sun, even partial shade.

Sandy soil is its favorite, some say rich soil, but it adapts to most anywhere as long as there is good drainage. Adding compost gives more flowers!

Seeds do well planted after the last frost date.  1/4 to 1/2″ deep. But when covered by the mother foliage, it self-seeds readily abundantly! You will have little plants to give away or add the young tender leaves to your salad or steam them as greens!

Herb Borage, StarFlower, is fairly hardy. Frosted foliage!

If you are in a cold zone or want an earlier start, sow seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the last average frost date. Barely cover the seeds and keep them moist. At about 3″ tall, pop them in the ground! It can stand a tad of frost, but that keyword is ‘average.’ Keep a weather watch. Water and cover them if you need to.

During the season, moist is good; soggy is not. When they start to bloom, fertilize with a high phosphorus organic fertilizer. If the flowers drop back later, do it again.

It’s work, but if you want a shorter plant, pinch and prune to encourage branching.

One of its old names was Lungwort, the leaves thought to look like lungs.

The lovey blue Borage, StarFlower, herb flowers are Bees' favorite color!

At Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA March 2018 on a rainy morning. Cerena Childress photo

PESTS & DISEASES

Due to its fuzzy nature, Borage has no pests. Another name for it has been common bugloss. Bugloss – we like that! And I’ve never seen it with any diseases. Every part of this plant is fuzzy except for those pretty little baby naked flowers! It’s a pollinator’s paradise and blue is one of Bees’ favorite colors! Borage is a valuable companion plant because it brings bees/pollinators and is a good honey plant! Two of its common names are Bee Plant & Beebread! More bees, more strawberries! Grow some of the bees’ other favorite blue flowers as well – Agapanthus, anise hyssop, crocus, hyacinth, salvias, blue spirea, germander, bog sage, obedient plant, and many others. Your garden will literally be humming.

COMPANION! Planting borage with strawberries and squash is smart! It attracts bees and increases the yield! Borage also repels pests such as Tomato hornworms, Japanese Beetles, cabbage worms and moths! It aids plants it is interplanted with by increasing resistance to pests and disease. It is also helpful to, and compatible with, most plants. Forget the corners and borders! Plant this beauty right in the middle of your garden, between plants, so it can do the most good. Make it the hub of the wheel!

Herb Borage, StarFlower, seeds are easy to gather!SEEDSAVING! Self seeds like crazy! The seeds in the image have broken loose, but not yet fallen. Generally there are four black/brown nutlets. They know how to hide in plain sight, the same color as your soil. Expect babies you can transplant or giveaway. Be careful with that – Borage has a taproot, so dig deep enough not to damage it. Transplant early, at 3 to 4″, while that taproot is still short. If you are just starting, get your seeds early spring before the seed houses run out!

Borage oil is made from the seeds. Per Wiki: ‘Borage seed oil has one of the highest amounts of γ-linolenic acid of seed oils — higher than blackcurrant seed oil or evening primrose oil, to which it is considered similar. GLA typically comprises about 24% of the oil.’

Please check these and other sites for extensive details on healthy and medicinal use:

Pros: Mercola, Take Control of Your Health
Pros & Cons: WebMD Watch out for those PAs! Use only products that are certified and labeled PA-free.

Martha Stewart uses the Herb Borage, StarFlower, in a lovely fish, cucumber & tahini dish!

Martha Stewart’s Gently Steamed Fish with Cucumber, Borage, and Tahini Sauce with sprigs of Cilantro flowers.

EDIBLE! Toss some of those magical sweet flowers on top of your salads to make Borage beauty! This herb can be used in soups, young leaves in salads, dried leaves brewed hot in teas, borage-lemonade, strawberry-borage cocktails, preserves, borage jelly, dips, various sauces, cooked as a stand-alone vegetable, or used in desserts in the form of fresh or candied flowers, flowers frozen in ice cubes to float in your lemonade or cocktails (especially in Pimms Cup – see the very last paragraph of the Pimms post)! If you are Italian, wilt some cut up leaves in a fry pan with olive oil and garlic, cool, roll into little patties, dip in batter and make fritters! Or stuff your ravioli with Borage paste. If you are a beekeeper, leave those flowers alone so you will get Borage Honey!

If you don’t want it in your veggie garden or to use it for food or medicinal purposes, grow it in your Butterfly Garden!

The more common names a plant has, and Borage has many, the more uses it serves, the more loved it is, and the more widespread it is! Borage is beautiful, edible, brings and is food for bees, is a valued companion plant for several reasons, is medicinal, and with that tap root, even makes nutritious compost! In the right location, a row can be a living windbreak. If you want to, you can do business and grow it for its oil! In Permaculture terms serving many functions is called Stacking.

Bee glorious! Plant some Borage!

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6.3.19 Updated


Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

 

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Broccoli Head Queen of the Brassicas

In SoCal’s ‘winter,’ Brassicas reign! 

Broccoli vs Kale? Do both!

Broccoli This green veggie made the list of top 10 superfoods, which comes as no surprise. One cup florets contain 20 calories, 2 grams protein, and is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A and C. You’ll also find a touch of almost every other vitamin and mineral in it. Moreover, broccoli is brimming with plant compounds like indoles and isothiocynates, shown to help fight cancer. Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

In addition to its nutritional goodness, broccoli won’t bust your wallet. It made the top 10 list of healthy foods for under $3.

Kale This popular member of the cabbage family is also packed with good-for-you nutrients. One cup of chopped kale has 33 calories and 2 grams of protein. It has close to seven times the daily recommended dose of vitamin K and over twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, and a good source of calcium, iron, and folate. Kale contains the plant compound lutein, which has been linked to eye health.

FANTASTIC VARIETIES!

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, some make tons of side shoots, small heads, large heads! For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties. Packman is the exception! It can quickly produce 9″ heads! Brocs come in green or purple!

Cruiser 58 days to harvest; tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58 – 80 days; Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Does best when transplanted outside mid-spring or late summer. Considered a spring variety.  Disease resistant.
DeCicco 48 to 65 days; Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety. Early, so smaller main heads.
Green Comet 55 days; early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant. Plentiful 3″+ side shoot mini heads!
Green Goliath 60 days; heavy producer, tolerant of extremes. Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Nutribud 80 days; per Island Seed & Feed, is the most nutritious per studies, having significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains! Not the largest heads and it doesn’t like hot weather.
Packman 53 days; early hybrid, 9” head! Excellent side-shoot production.
Purple broccoli contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Waltham 29 85 days; late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

Baby Broccoli Variety Artwork F1 2015 AAS Winner!

Rather than the headers then side shoots, try Baby Broccoli! Here is Broccoli Artwork F1 the 2015 AAS – All-America Selections’ Edible – Vegetable Winner! They say ‘Artwork is a unique and beautiful dark green stem broccoli that has only recently become available to home gardeners. Previously, stem or baby broccoli was exclusively available in gourmet markets and upscale restaurants. Now home gardeners can make the art of gardening come alive with this delicious, long-yielding variety.

Artwork starts out similar to a regular crown broccoli but after harvesting that first crown, easy-to-harvest tender, and tasty side shoots continue to appear long into the season, resisting warm temperature bolting better than other stem broccolis currently on the market.’ See if it lives up to their review for you!

Purple Broccoli and Romanesco Fractals, a Hybrid with Cauliflower

Left: Purple Broccoli, aka broccoli of Sicily! Same as regular broccoli, just purple. Gorgeous! When cooked, it reverts to green, so eat it raw for the color!

Right: Amazing Romanesco fractal hybrid of traditional broccoli and cauliflower. First documented in Italy.

Super Productive Purple Sprouting Broccoli!  Broccoli Rabe is quite Bitter but compliments other rich foods!

Left: Outrageous Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli Red Fire F1! Look at all those side sprouts!

Right: What’s Broccoli Rabe? Pronounced like “Rob,” it is NOT a Broccoli! Bon Appetit says ‘It’s actually more closely related to a turnip, even though it has those little buds, similar to those found on broccoli florets.’ And it’s b i t t e r ! Good in combo with fat sweet rich foods!

Another hybrid! Broccolini or baby broccoli is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. It is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan, both cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea.

IN YOUR SoCal GARDEN….

♦ Broccoli can be started in the ground from seed late July, August. If you grew transplants, as soon as they are ready, or transplants are available in the nursery, plant them then for sooner heads. Protect with coverings if the weather is hot. At the same time you plant your transplants you can also start seeds. That gives you a second round of plants in succession to keep a steady fresh table supply. Keep planting every one or two months through January. In January, be mindful of the days to maturity per the variety. Think about how you will be wanting space to start your spring for summer plants.

Brassicas don’t link up with Mycorrhizae Fungi. It won’t hurt them. It just wastes your time and money to use them.

  • Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting (suddenly making long flower stalks).
  • Brocs LOVE recently manured ground. Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal. Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.
  • Depending on the variety/ies you choose, seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows. Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the north most so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will soon be planting.
  • There is no need to mulch during fall and winter growing, but your Brocs and kale that you may keep over summer are the first plants you will mulch as weather warms! Mulch them deep! They thrive when it’s cooler. Mulch helps keep soil cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition.
  • An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day.
  • Put a ring of nitrogen to the drip line around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, to grow bigger heads.
  • The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary sprouts produce heads from a 1/2 to 3 inches depending on the variety you choose. Sidedressing can increase yields and the size of your side shoots.
  • Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

The days to maturity on seed packs starts with when you put the seed in the soil.  The days to maturity on transplants is from the time of transplant. Broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like DeCicco above. So don’t expect clockwork.

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a strong steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost, foliar feed with manure tea, or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest! John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the world’s record for his 1993 35 lb (no typo) broc! He uses organic methods! And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

Allow Space for Wise Companion Planting! And plant companions before your crop so the companions can help your main crop immediately.

Cilantro is #1! It makes it grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!
Lettuce amongst the Brassicas confuses Cabbage Moths which dislike Lettuce.
Chives, Coriander, Garlic, Geraniums, Lavender, Mint family (caution – invasive), and onions are said to repel aphids.
Mustard and Nasturtium can be planted near more valuable plants as traps for aphids. A word to the wise, in some areas nasturtiums are snail habitat.
Calendula is a trap plant for pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sticky sap that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.

PESTS & DISEASES

Brocs are truly susceptible to aphids. Yuk. Black, grayish greenish soft little leggy things that blend right in with the side shoot florettes. If you snap your fingers on the side shoot, you will see the aphids go flying. Those side shoots I remove. If aphids are in curled leaves, I hold the leaf open and hose them away with a strong burst of water! Then I keep my eagle eyes on them, each day, checking to get rid of them before another colony forms. Sprinkle cinnamon around your plants stem to repel the ants that care for the aphids. Sprinkle again after watering until the ants are gone.

Important planting tip: Research shows there are less aphids when you intermingle different varieties of brocs together!

Often whiteflies follow aphids. Aphids and whiteflies mean ants. ARGENTINE ants prefer sweet baits year-round. Protein baits are attractive to Argentine ants primarily in the spring.  See more Veggie Pests – Aphids and Ants!

Remove yellowing leaves asap because whiteflies are attracted to yellow. Also, dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison. A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

Brassicas are susceptible to mildew. Plant them far enough apart per the variety/ies you are planting so there is good airflow. Water no more than they need. Too much water or too much manure make mildew habitat and soft leaves aphids and whiteflies like. Water in mornings at ground level so leaves have time to dry if they get wet.

HARVESTING

With traditional varieties, harvest the main head while the buds are tight! Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form. Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high, so get it in the fridge asap or it goes limp! It should not be stored with fruits, such as apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds.

Edible Flowers! If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor! You can get more side shoots, but things will slow down and there comes a time when you pull the plant.

When it gets late in their season, cut lower foliage off on their sunny side so small summer plants can be started under them while you are still harvesting your winter plants!

Broccoli Seed Pods  Broccoli Seeds

SeedSaving! 

Broccoli must be kept separated from other cole crops by a mile to prevent cross-pollination. That is impossible in community gardens of lesser size. Another factor to consider is Broccoli are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. For most of us that isn’t going to happen. Then, you need two years to do it! Broccoli, like all the Brassicas – cabbages, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts – are biennials. So unless you have some extreme weather shifts, and they flower early, you wait overwinter until next spring. If you have an early opportunity to save seeds, lucky you! They are viable 5 years.

If you are in a snow zone, dig up the seed plants at the end of the first growing season if the winter temps in your area fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Replant in pots of sand. Store the sand pots over the winter between 32 and 40 degrees F. Transplant the seed broccoli back to the garden the following spring. Allow the plant to go to seed, or bolt, during the second season.

If your plants are that mile or more apart from others they would hybridize with, and you want seeds, leave the flowers, let the seed pods come. Let them stay on the plant until dry. Keep a close watch. When the birds first start after them you know they are ready. Or poke some holes in a plastic bag. Pop the bag over the drying seed pods and wait until they are entirely dry. Harvest your pods. Maybe leave some for late winter food for the birds. Let them dry further, a week or more off the plant. No moisture, no rotting. In a baggie, rub them between your hands to pop them open to release the seeds. Store in a glass jar out of sunlight. 

NUTRITIOUS FEASTING!

Broccoli is an absolutely delicious and nutritious food, especially those sprouts! Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. These nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten – like Kale. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops. Recent studies have shown that broccoli SPROUTS may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people. If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

Broccoli Sprouts by Getty

There are so many ways to eat Broccoli! Sprouts! Fresh and simple in a mixed salad with thin almond slices and your favorite dressing. Fresh bits & dip! Steamed, drizzled with olive oil and a touch of squeezed lemon! Quiche, omelets, frittata. Broc pesto. Sweet & spicy stir fry with other tasties. Garlic roasted for trail treats and snacks for the kids. Commingled with feta in a bow tie pasta dish; alfredo. Broc & cheddar soup on an extra cool day. Baked potato casserole with ALL the trimmings! Tasty with rice and tofu, a sprinkle of soy sauce. Try in a Butternut squash curry. On Pizza! Details at The Kitchen!

To your happy gardening and healthy living! 

11.4.18, 7.30.19 Updated

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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Broccoli, the Queen of Brassicas! Rancheria Community Garden Dec 2016

Radiant Calabrese Broccoli, Rancheria Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA Dec 2016!

Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Researchers have reported that cruciferous vegetables contain potent natural anti-cancer agents if eaten rawThese nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops.

Recent studies have shown that broccoli sprouts may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people. If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

They are also high in vitamin C, which may protect against atherosclerosis.  Four ounces of RAW broccoli contains twice the vitamin C in an equivalent amount of reconstituted orange juice. Cooking halves the amount of this vitamin.

Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, English HeirloomVARIETIES

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, have small heads, large heads, some make tons of side shoots, others less! For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties. They come in Green or purple! Purples turn green or blue when cooked. At left is an Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, a beautiful English Heirloom producing like crazy!

Besides regular brocs, there are fancies like Romanesco that grows in a spiral! It’s taste is mild and more like cauliflower than broccoli. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Broccoli Raab, aka Rapini, is fast-growing, also known as turnip broccoli, forms multiple small heads and tends to branch out.

Some favorite varieties:

DeCicco 48-65 days – Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety.  Early, so smaller main heads.
Packman 53 days – early hybrid, 9” head! Excellent side-shoot production.
Green Comet 55 days – early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant.
Nutribud 55-70 days – is unusually high in free glutamine which is one of the building blocks of protein, a primary energy source of the brain and a major healing nutrient! Purple broccoli, in addition to this, contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Cruiser 58 days – tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58-90 days – Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Disease resistant.
Green Goliath 60 days – heavy producer, tolerant of extremes. Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Waltham 29  85 days – medium heads, late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

Broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like Calabrese above. So don’t expect clockwork. The advantage is they don’t come in all at once and you have table supply for an extended period, especially if you plant different varieties at the same time. After the main head is harvested, you will have an abundant supply of side shoots which will further extend your harvest time. Some varieties even produce mini side shoots at the same time as the main head!

Companion Plants Broccoli Lettuce repel Cabbage MothTasty image from GrowVeg!

COMPANIONS

Plant Lettuce amongst the Brassicas to repel cabbage moths. In hot summer, big brocs shelter and shade delicate lettuces. When it isn’t hot, put smaller companions on the sunny side of your brocs. Cut lower foliage off so they get sun. Mint nearby deters cabbage moths from laying eggs. Since mint is invasive, plant it in containers.

Cilantro makes broccoli grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!

To deter pests plant Onion family, plant Chamomile, Aromatic herbs, especially Catmint, Hyssop, Mint, Dill, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Lemon Balm. Plant your herbs in containers so they can be moved around during the year to help specific seasonal plants.

Generally brocs are happy with Basil, Beans, Beets, Celery, Chard, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Potato,  Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tomato

Not happy with Tomatoes?, strawberry, lettuce?!, bush & pole beans.

In summer, plant cucumbers under them to reduce the attraction of striped cucumber beetles to the cukes.

Radish reduces green peach aphids.

Be advised! Dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing.  Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison, so plant lettuces from transplants under them. A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

PLANTING

Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting, but if they don’t get enough sun they will just grow tall. More sun helps make a tougher plant less attractive to aphids.

Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability. Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal for broccoli plants and especially early plantings of broccoli. They LOVE recently manured ground.

If you will be planting by seed, per Cornell, best germination temperature is 45 F to 85 F, but will germinate at soil temps as low as 40 F.

Though those are best temps, in SoCal, if there are no Bagrada Bugs, fall plantings are started late July. While there is little space for big winter plants, small nursery patches can be planted. Leave enough room between seedlings so you can get your trowel in to lift them out to transplant later when space becomes available. If seeds and nurseries aren’t your thing, wait until your local nursery has transplants! If we aren’t having a heatwave, late August they might start trickling in. Labor Day weekend is a favorite planting time for some gardeners. October is just fine too!

Successive plantings may be done all winter long. If brocs are a favorite, the last round is usually planted in January because spring brings the interest in summer plants and we need room for them! We need space to amend soil for the next plantings, and time to let it settle and for the soil organisms to establish and flourish. The weather shifts, our body shifts with the seasons and we are looking forward to those summer treats again!

Seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows. Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the northmost so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will plant later on. Plant for plenty of air circulation to help avoid mildew.

The number of plants you choose to grow depends on your needs. If Broccoli is a staple for you, plant plenty so after the main heads are taken, you will get enough side shoots. When you need space for summer crops, and as other crops come in, you may decide to keep only 1 or 2 plants for side shoots to garnish your summer salads.

Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

MAINTENANCE, IRRIGATION/MULCH

For year ’round growers, mulch early in spring to keep the ground cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition. In cool moist areas, forget the mulch. It brings slugs.

An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become well established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day. When they get up to about a foot tall, lay back on the water so the leaves aren’t too soft, attract aphids.

Compost/Fertilizer Put a ring of granular nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants for bigger heads.

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest.

PESTS & DISEASES

Pests

Research shows there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! The plants mature at different rates. Aphids usually mean too soft a plant. Less feeding, less water. Immediately check curled leaves. Spray them away with a vigorous stream of water every day until gone, taking special care where new leaves are forming. Check the undersides of the leaves too. If the aphids have infested side shoots, remove the shoots. Some recommend sprinkling cinnamon on the ground to dissuade the ants that tend the aphids.

Cutworms, Flea Beetles, and Diamond Back Moth.

The nemesis is the green looper! This cabbage caterpillar makes your plants holey faster than thou can believe! Get Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis. It is sold in nurseries as Thuricide, Dipel, Bactus, Biological Worm Control, Leptox, SOK, Novabac or Tribacture.

Diseases

Club Root, Black Rot, Black Leg, Wirestem, Alternaria Leaf Spot, and Downy Mildew

Immediately when you plant your transplants, treat for mildew. Apply your baking soda mix. Drench under and upper sides of the foliage of young plants to get them off to a great start! A super combo is 1 regular Aspirin dissolved, a 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk, heaping tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon liquid dish soap per gallon/watering can. Reapply every 10 days or so, and after significant rains. Prevention is so much better than after mildew has set in. See Aspirin Solution.

Small or no heads? Weather can be the culprit. Per Bonnie Plants, “If transplants sit exposed to cold below 40 degrees for a week or two, the chilling injury triggers heads to form way too early.” A small head on a small plant means you won’t get a large head. A head may not form If the growing tip is injured by rough handling, insects or weather. Your broc is considered to have gone ‘blind.’ If you have enough growing season time left, start over with a transplant if possible.

HARVEST

Potentially you have five kinds of harvests! Leaves, heads, side shoots, flowers, seeds! Leaves are edible, same as collards!

The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. Harvest the main head while the buds are tight!  Broccoli heads should not have any yellow petals. Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form. Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

Side heads will develop rapidly in some varieties after the main head has been harvested, some even before! Harvesting of the broccoli side heads may continue for several weeks or all summer! Side shoot heads are 1 to 3″ in diameter. Sidedressing with fertilizer can increase yields and size of these sprout shoots.

Broccoli is highly perishable. The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high. Harvest it last, and get it into the fridge asap before it goes limp! Broccoli should not be stored with apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds. Freeze what you won’t use right away.

If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor! Hold the stalk with one hand, zip your other hand along the stalk to gather the beautiful flowers! Clip off stalks you don’t need and you will likely get more side shoots!

Broccoli Seed SaveSAVING SEEDS

All varieties in this large species will cross with each other. Separate different varieties at least 1000 feet for satisfactory results or at least 1 mile for purity. Caging with introduced pollinators or alternate day caging is also recommended in small gardens. Because Brassicas are biennial, two year plants, plants to be left for seed production, if in cold climates, should be mulched in the fall or carefully dug, trimmed and stored for the winter in a humid area with temperatures between 35-40° F. In SoCal they can be left in the ground to overwinter. Flowering plants can reach 4′ in height and need at least 2′ to 3′ spacing, depending on the size of the variety, for good seed production.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi grown for seed should not be trimmed for consumption. Brussels sprouts, collards and kale can be lightly trimmed for eating without affecting quality seed production. If small amounts of seeds are wanted, allow the fine little pods to dry to a light brown color before picking and opening by hand. Lower pods dry first followed by those progressively higher on the plant. Watch daily to get them before the birds do, or cover the plant with bird netting! For larger amounts of seeds pull the entire plant after a majority of pods have dried. Green pods rarely produce viable seeds even if allowed to dry after the plant is pulled.

Crush unopened pods in a cloth bag with a mallet or by walking on them. Chaff can be winnowed. Remove the seeds so no moisture will remain to rot them.

Viability  2 – 3 years, but up to 5 years in good cool and dry storage conditions.

CULINARY TREATS!

Broccoli is a popular raw hors d’œuvre vegetable for good reason! That is when it is most nutritious! Light and quick steaming is second best.

All Brassica leaves can be eaten the same as collard leaves! Steamed over rice, or toss in a wok with oil, sprinkled with soy sauce or a sauce of your choice. Dr. Amy Simmone, University of Florida Food Safety Specialist and native of Thailand, states that in her country broccoli leaves are stir-fried or sautéed with garlic and oyster sauce and served with rice. She says that broccoli leaves taste a bit like young tender collard greens.

Use to top pastas or even pizzas! Broccoli along with almonds makes a delish creamy soup. Cheese and Broccoli Quiche!

Broccoli Bright Beautiful Edible FlowersThe top portion of broccoli is actually flower buds. Given time each will burst into a bright beautiful yellow flower, which is why they are called florets. The small yellow edible flowers have a mild spiciness, mild broccoli flavor. They are quite pretty and terrific sprinkled on salads, and are delicious in a stir-fry or steamer.

Tarladalal of India says: Combine broccoli, baby corn, spinach and other vegetables of your choice, cook in a thick creamy white sauce or red sauce. Pour in a baking dish, garnish with cheese and bake to make au gratins. You can also use as lasagna sheets in this recipe.

Broccoli has been with us in the US since 1923, when two Italian brothers planted the first crop near San Jose, California. John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the 1993 world’s record for his 35 lb (no typo) broc!  He uses organic methods, including mycorrhizal fungi!  And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Basil Dried Herb Gift Label
Sweet image from Collard Green Princess!

Since basil doesn’t survive winter, not even coastal SoCal ‘winter,’ except sometimes, if you are growing African Blue Basil and the winter is mild, make some Basil Powder!  Delicious sprinkled over oil tossed salads, added to stews and steamed veggies! Grow purple basil as well as the green. Put it in a pretty little glass jar, add a bright ribbon or green garden twine, label, and it is a sweet organic homemade gift!

The best time to harvest is just as the plant starts to bud, well before flowers bloom. Different varieties of herbs flower at different times, so, heads up!  Be on the lookout for buds or newly opened flowers as your clue to harvest ASAP!  Harvest after the dew has dried, and before hot midday sun; evening is fine. You missed the ‘bud window’ and your plants are already blooming? Not to worry. Just know your powder will be less pungent and you will need to use more to get the flavor you want. So keep watch on your plants to take advantage of this tasty window!

Harvest the topmost leaves first. Snip leaves or branches, pinch off flower buds to keep the plant productive. Harvest the entire top half of your plants, or, of course, you can use as much or as little as you want. You can also cut the entire plant about 6 to 8 inches above ground, leaving at least one node with two young shoots intact. The plant should produce a second, but smaller harvest several weeks later.

Traditional Method

Wash, dry – spinner or flat and patted on paper towels. Dry is good; mold is bad.

Use some string, or plant twine, or wool, or a ‘shrink-to-fit’ rubber band, to securely tie the stem end of your basil bunch. If you are tying, make your knots good and tight; when the basil dries it shrinks.

Hang your basil upside down to dry – string a taut line from eyehook to eyehook for a drying area for all your herbs! Choose a dry spot out of the sun, not over the toaster or stove, not burnt nor moldy. Indoors it can take about 4 weeks. If you hang it in a dry attic or airy porch, it might take only 2 weeks or so. It’s dried just right when it’s nice and crunchy and breaks easily.

Organic Gardening.com uses this simple method instead!

  • Don’t tie basil stalks together or hang them to dry as you might other herbs. (mold factor)
  • Pinch or snip leaves from the stems and place them on a screen or absorbent towel.
  • Stir daily and allow to dry until crackly.
  • Store in an airtight container.

You can store stems and leaves whole in zip baggies. You can crumble into particles. Or you can make a fine powder. I use my mini coffee bean machine – only for herbs.

Non Traditional Methods

  • Oven:  Preserving Your Harvest says ‘If using cookie sheets to dry the herbs, place the herbs to be dried on parchment paper to avoid direct contact with the metal trays. Metal contact darkens the color of the herb being dried, causing the Basil to lose its bright green color.‘  Blake2012 says ‘Dry in a very cool oven (high temperatures will result in tasteless herbs).’
  • Sliding tray racks
  • Dehydrator
  • Sun dried
  • Freeze dried – retains green color!
  • Microwave or Freezer! Fastest of all! Caution from Whole Grain Texan! ‘A word of warning: Plant material will catch on fire in the microwave if you dry it out too much — I once had a little mishap when sterilizing sphagnum moss– but if you do it in 30 second intervals it won’t be a problem.’ So don’t let your kids do this without supervision, and don’t be a kid yourself!
  • Though not a drying method, put finely chopped basil in olive oil ‘ice’ cubes!

These methods can be used for any herbs! 

Mint, tarragon, lemon balm parsley, dill, rosemary, chopped chives! Modify your methods for plant differences, ie sage has a much thicker leaf. Have you dried Arugula?!  It’s much like basil, and in fact, is used as a basil substitute! Dried arugula is reported to have a smoky, savory flavor, even a little salty.  Tasty used in tuna salad, vegetable broth, mushroom soup, on scrambled eggs. Sprinkle basil or arugula over your dried kale snacks!

Use your basil on pasta, omelets, scrambled eggs, roast meat and/or veggies, sausages, in salad dressings, on fish. Use in delicious sauces, gravies, dressings, any recipes that use fresh Basil. Now you can say you have two season basil! That’s why we call it ‘seasoning!’ Enjoy it summer fresh, and in winter too!

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