I was looking for cabbage seedlings and...well....I came home with broccoli I have never grown broccoli before so I don't know what to expect. I do expect they would be prime targets for the bunnies so i plan on fashioning wire cages for them. it is still forcasted to be in mid 80's for highs for a while, should I put some type of shade cloth over them?
I couldn't say for your area, however here is a link to the Regional Gardening News - click on your area in the map and it will take you to that area's page where you can sign up for monthly gardening news or just do your own research.
Also, your local University Extension Office will have a website with this type of info, and access to your local Master Gardeners group - these two usually will have monthly newsletters as well plus local phone numbers.
And last of all - there could be a local (your town) gardening group on yahoo or google (small and local is good)
My guess would be that you should cover 'em, but I have no experience where you live.
The two main types of broccoli are "Italian" which is the usual types, and "Sprouting" which, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is planted in summer to overwinter and produce copious individual broccoli sprouts in spring. I love Purple Sprouting Broccoli. It produces large amounts of sprouts in April or May when not much else is happening in my garden. I'm not sure about Oklahoma, but maybe your winters are mild enough to try the sprouting types. Most of the advice here works well in the PNW but maybe could be modified with the regional information in the previous poster's links.
I space my Italian broccoli about 12" apart. The later varieties are bigger. Sprouting broccoli should be much more widely spaced, as the plants get very big in the spring. I mixed in 1/4 cup or so of complete organic fertilizer into the soil around each planting hole. If growing from seed, I'd plant 3-4 seeds into each spot and thin down to one per spot. Staggering your planting times for Italian broccoli can be a good idea if you are mainly growing for your own family's use. Here, that could be 2-3 plantings from April to July for Italian broccoli, if direct seeding.
For summer growing, the main pest is the cabbage worm, Pieris rapae. It turns into a pretty greenish white butterfly called the cabbage white. The cabbage worms themselves are very small and live on the undersides of the leaves. They chew holes in the leaves. I check my plants regularly and squish or remove any worms by hand.
We also get gray aphids on brassicas here. So far these have not attacked the broccoli too much. But standard aphid control techniques (soapy water) could be used.
Other than that, harvest the heads as the buds swell up and begin to separate from each other, but before blooming occurs. Slice off the heads with a knife rather than pulling out the plants, to allow side shoots to develop. Some varieties are better than others at side shoot production, so unless you need the space in the garden for the next planting, keep the plants watered and see if they will produce a round or two of side shoots.
We grew our broccoli in the spring from seed and harvested throughout the summer. It's shooting up and flowering now (read: Didn't cut the remaining heads in time) and about ready to peter out.
My wife hates those worms, and I have to inspect the florets upon harvesting and before using. We usually put them in a bowl with salt water and hold them down with a collander or another bowl to make the caterpillars come out (they're the same color as the broccoli, darn it!). I hear you can cover the heads with netting (or pantyhose!) if you see the butterflies or use bt or the like. I just pick 'em off. I tend to get more worms in the heads that have some afternoon shade (we have two gardens, both with broccoli. The old one got afternoon shade...and more caterpillars).
I've never tried the overwinter method, but I doubt it would work well with IL winters... Otherwise they've always been easy to grow, do need some space for their big leaves, and do better with more sun (at least on our lot. OK has much more sun than IL!).
I did it! I did it! I have some pretty little broccoli heads waiting in the garden and it didn't take a bit of work. a few had something munching the leaves for a while but they didn't seem any worse for the wear. I think broccoli will have a place in my fall garden from now on!
Awesome! And you know what? Even after the frosts and winds and other bad weather, our broccoli is still producing. So maybe I'll eat my words about overwintering, as well as eat some broccoli! Less worms here in the fall too...
broccoli are gross feeders so give them plenty of food and water, also row cover would be ideal to keep the cabbage worms out of them and that would give them the shade they would need..if you have some row cover..floating type..skip all the other protections.
also remember..once you get a head..they don't grow larger, just gross as they open, so cut the head, leaving upper leaves etc..and you will get smaller heads all around the top of the plant, cut those as soon as they are ready and you could even get more smaller heads..same will work for other coles such as cabbage.
Bloom where you are planted.
Perhaps it won't work in extreme winter climates but broccoli does like cold. I tell ya last winter with the hard freezes here, the broccoli seemed to enjoy waking up in the morning with ice on it.
I do seem to be having some bunnies munching on my broccoli and kohlrabi leaves over in the side yard. The caterpillars can also do some damage but BT will take care of most of them if they are a real problem.
i took the main heads and left the side shoots. we are now getting some hard freezes so I will be interested to see if the little ones develop. I am soooo pleased. I love it when something grows carefree in the garden. especially something that I love to eat and is a superfood!
I think the bunnies got my kohlrabi too. they just dissapeared. I sure would like to get my chicken moat around the garden on the fast track. sigh. always something gets priority. our central heat is down now and the main gas fireplace has issues, someone stole my hubbies glasses from his luggage ( it was missing in las vegas for a while, they left everything else....weird..why the glasses?) and I refuse to let him spend money on anything else till he gets new tires. they are freakin bald and he drives alot.
Broccoli is care fee. Its takes the cold and thrives. In the spring they can be transplanted as soon as the ground can be worked so start them indoors early on. If you want to discourage cabbage loopers, plant some radishes around the base when you transplant the broc. The young tender radish makes an easier meal.
If the bugs don't eat the leaves, they make a fine potherb, can be used in salad or as a perky substitute for cabbage in coleslaw. The outer edges of the leaves are more tender. The stems will get woody, especially after you cut the main head, but can be simmered to add flavor to a broccoli soup stock.
If you can grow broccoli, you should be able to grow all the cole plants: radishes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi, collards, mustard, cabbages, the cultural practices are the same.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.