When to plant Broccoli & Lettuce for autumn?

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

I am considering growing broccoli and lettuce for the first time, and as an autumn harvest.

For the broccoli i am thinking of "Early Purple Sprouting"

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/119240/

And for the lettuce i was thinking of Loose leaf "Royal Red"

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/63510/

I am in southern VA, should i go ahead and start some seed now, or wait just a tad bit longer?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Hi,
Broccoli, cauliflowers, beets, turnips, carrots, mustard & collard greens, cabbages, kale, are known as the "cole" crops, and they love cool/cold (an average of down to about 42 on a regular basis). Perfect crops for a autumn/fall/ winter garden. And far fewer BUGS!!!!

Temps colder than 30 for a consistently long period would require some protection for the leafy veggies, like a pvc hoop covered with plastic (not touching the leaves - it would burn any leaf touching it), or some sheets or light weight blanket thrown over it.

Depending on your average day- and nighttime temps there now, you could probably go ahead and direct seed some broccoli. If it's too hot (say consistently above 90, they might stall on you...)

Broccoli & cauliflowers are HUNGRY HIPPOS and WATER HOGS!!! Your growing medium should be fairly rich with organics like composted manure, composted leaf mold, homemade compost, etc. Then, when they're established as teenagers, they'll want to be fed something weakly, weekly. Go for once a week feedings. A balanced fertilizer (13-13-13 or 14-14-14 sprinkled at a rate of about 1/2 ounce per square foot (per plant) of growing area should do it. Water it in, and do your regular, consistent watering in between. Keeping the soil consistently moist is key. Don't dry out too much between watering.

Try a broccoli variety called Arcadia. It is a beautiful plant to grow. Also, Green Magic and Green Comet are good ones. I'd recommend Snowball or Snow Crown cauliflowers.

Keep in touch.

P.S. They do wonderfully well in self-watering grow buckets (eBuckets), because of the built-in water reservoir. As long as you keep the reservoir filled, they can drink at will, which helps if you can't get to watering as regularly as you'd like to. LMK if you're interested in learning how to make an eBucket, and I'll guide you through it. There's an eBucket thread over on the Self Contained Vegetable Gardens forum.

Pic #1 Arcadia Broccoli Head
Pic #2 Arcadia Broccoli Side shoots after picking main head
Pic #3 Broccoli in eBuckets (I grow in raised beds now because I acquired space)
Pic #4 Arcadia Broccoli crown fresh picked!
Pic #5 PVC Hoop with perforated plastic covering for protection. Perforations allow water, air, light through. If it gets too cold, I throw sheets over the plastic. Extreme cold for too long: shove a small space heater underneath the hoop! Just a little heat will do.

Linda

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Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

Lately now our day time temps vary anywhere in the 80's, sometimes a spell in the mid 70's when a front passes through, only occasionally does it hit low 90s now (only for the heat index mainly now).

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

You are "GOOD TO GO!" Drop those seeds!

(and, keep posting your progress here.)

P.S. Broccoli can take awhile, depending on the temps. From the time I drop a seed (indoors, under fluorescent lights...) to the time I cut the crown averages 120 days. But, that's just in my back yard. Yours may produce much sooner, since you're in a colder zone.

I prefer to start my seeds indoors for a number of reasons that include:
1) My blooming pillbug population
2) My outdoor temps aren't there yet
3) Having a larger transplant seedling (mine usually have 6-8 true leaves)
4) Gardening control issues. I hedge my bets and try to control what grows where, and how many grow at all. I HATE, HATE, HATE destroying seedlings to thinning. Save the seeds, LOL!

LMK how many days to cutting your first crown!

Linda

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

i will definitely get the supplies this friday to get going then (since that is the only day i have to get into town basically, lol), then i can grab my seed, containers, etc.

sadly starting indoors is not an option for me as even the southern window can be lacking of enough light for these guys just because of how small the window is, lol. Other seeds will do quite well there, but i tried broccoli and lettuce once and they got too tall and spindly from being so desperate to get to the light outdoors, so i will have to direct seed. a local nursery here keeps seed all year round based on season, like now they would be putting the autumn crop seed rack out on display, so will swing by there during my errands on friday.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Good deal!

I'll be starting seeds indoors this weekend! We can compare notes and pics, LOL!

Delhi, LA

Where I live in Northeast Louisiana, September the first is the date I shoot far. It might be a little hot to start with but will soon cool down enough for them to do good. We don't bother with trying to cover anything. Small cabbage, befrore the heads get real big have no problem handling the cold. The first time I planted lettuce we had hard freezes for a week. When the weather warmed up the lettuce wasn't hurt at all. Came as a surprize to me. Cold doesn't hurt collards or carrots. I've pulled carrots frozen hard as a rock and carried them in for my wife to cook. In fact I grow as much or more veggies in the winter than spring.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Ditto, what they said. I grow green goliath broccoli and it makes a crown and when you cut that, it keeps on making smaller side crowns, sometimes until April. Plant some seed two weeks apart unless you want a lot of broccoli or cabbages at once! I grew black seeded simpson lettuce until about March, just harvesting the outer leaves as needed for meals. I also grew oak leaf and a red tipped lettuce whose name I dont remember. Like Jim, the freeze did not hurt my cole crops. It probably gets a bit colder there than here so you probably should be prepared to cover like Linda said if too many freezes in a row. Last year I grew romaine for the first time and I had lettuce until April this year. I usually grow from seed but saw the romaine plants at HD and decided to try it. Like Jim, I have the best success with a fall garden. It gets real hot real quick where I live so a spring garden is a real challenge. I'll be looking forward to hearing of your success as well. Go for it! I just started my first seeds for plant out in September.

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

well i managed to scavenge up 4 good size containers already, lol. Each roughly 4-5 gallon sized each. Even had some leftover soil that i ALMOST could fill one of them completely up with, lol. That much less to check off of my list on friday. :)

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SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Make sure you buy potting MIX for your containers...soil in containers will eventually compress hard as a brick...

This message was edited Aug 14, 2013 4:27 PM

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

oh yes thats what that is, potting mix, lol, im just used to calling it soil for some reason :)

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

It's time for me to plant them here in Zone 8a, so you it's time for you as well.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9b)

I'm starting on these seedlings tonight. For my zone it says to start the sugar snap peas in September but do you guys think it will be fine to start them mid-August? I'm sowing most the seeds on my raised bed and doing some indoors.

Where I live the temperatures get into the high 90s and low of 60s at night. Any tips?


Wish me luck!

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Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

I think it's still too warm for peas. Peas like it on the cool/cold side. I would wait a little longer. Do you have a planting guide for your area?

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Sacramento is still too hot for the most picky of cool season crops. You might look for the varieties that handle the heat for one planting before it starts to cool off. September can also be quite hot, though the days are shorter so it has a better chance to cool off at night.

I would try to find one each lettuce, radish and so on that can mature fast, and tolerate the heat better. If you have a slightly shadier part of the garden, try them there.

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

alrighty, seed is planted as of today! :)

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

and the "Early purple sprouting" broccoli has arrived today, that will be the "2 weeks later" round of seed start. There was also a bonus package of "Spring / Hanover" Kale that was included with it. I assume the two are treated the same since they are somewhat related?

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

yes, kale is a cole crop as well and gets sweeter tasting with colder temperatures.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9b)

Quote from Diana_K :
Sacramento is still too hot for the most picky of cool season crops. You might look for the varieties that handle the heat for one planting before it starts to cool off. September can also be quite hot, though the days are shorter so it has a better chance to cool off at night.

I would try to find one each lettuce, radish and so on that can mature fast, and tolerate the heat better. If you have a slightly shadier part of the garden, try them there.


I wish I knew earlier. :/ but good thing I saved half the seeds and can try again if it doesn't work out.

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

Holy Salad Bar! Lettuce seedlings! I didnt expect them to pop out of the soil so darned fast, lol! :) (sowed seed Friday Aug. 17th)

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Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Yay! In zone 7a the temps will cool down by 1 month from today and your lettuce still wont be big enough to harvest leaves. You might be able to eat your thinnings by then. Well done!

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

Hello Broccoli seedlings! :)

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Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

and the other half of my Cole Crop (the carrots). The scarlet nantes have some nice form coming along, and the Black Knight carrots are getting some nice size on them. the ones on the furthest to the right of the photo are about 6 inches tall now.

Also i had planted some Russet potato eyes that were on some of the potatoes in my potato bin that were going mad with growth, so i figured "Ah, what the heck, always fun to see what i can get out of them before the frost date"

No word from the Kale yet, although its too difficult to tell the difference between seedlings and weed sprouts at the moment in my garden, LOL, so i will just leave everything be until i can identify the weeds from the Kale.

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Sacramento, CA(Zone 9b)

Saw the posts from the rest of you on the germination process so I thought I would share also.

My seedlings have germinated. Took about 7 days for peas, broccoli, and both the lettuce. I was pretty surprise they all germinated so fast, but then I took into consideration the heat we do have in Sacramento right now. Now I'm wondering how hard it's going to be to separate them apart once they have true leaves. I've transplanted seedlings and separated them apart easily before because they were sown indoors but never from the ground itself. I'm worry about disturbing the roots most of all.

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Sacramento, CA(Zone 9b)

Quote from stephanietx :
I think it's still too warm for peas. Peas like it on the cool/cold side. I would wait a little longer. Do you have a planting guide for your area?


I do and according to it September is best to sow seeds for peas. I started some sooner and saved some for later. Going to experiment.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

One thing I have observed working with the cole crop seedlings, is that they germinate well in the heat, but then appreciate a cooler ambient temp to continue growing well without stalling. I have screwy ventilation in my two grow rooms, which works to my growing advantage. I start my seeds in the warm room, and move them to the cool room after they get their 1st set of true leaves. The cool room gets them acclimated for going outside into cooler weather.

My current experiment involves a flat of broccoli seedlings that were started back in April by another DGer who gave them to me. They've been growing under lights since then, and have gone through a number of changes, from absolutely gorgeous-looking to leggy and barely holding on right now.

I have to hold them inside a bit longer cause it's still entirely too hot out for them. Maybe another 4 weeks, if they last that long. I'm wondering if they'll make any sort of head, having been stalled out for so long...

Experiments...

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

that sounds about like what happened to mine that last time that i started some indoors, lol. Today i have noticed the lettuce starting to form true leaves, the broccoli seedlings are definitely bigger. But i may have to restart my kale seed. I was starting to notice seedlings until this brutally heavy rain we had yesterday, now today i cant find them at all. Either the rain was beating on them too severely or all that rain lured in more slugs to come mow it all down.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Sluggo PLUS will handle your slugs and pillbugs...

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

definitely going to be getting some of that, lol.

by the way, when do you start giving the lettuce and broccoli a weak feeding per week?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

JMC1987,
Watch the broccoli after they get the first set of true leaves. One day you're gonna be standing there looking at them, and they're gonna lean over and say, "you know, we sure could use a little sumptin' right now..." That's when you feed 'em.

I use the Miracle Grow and put enough granules to barely color a gallon of water, and I only feed them as much as they will take up in about 15 minutes. I bottom feed in the drip tray and use a turkey baster to suck up any remaining solution. I usually feed my plants at night, but I never leave water in the trays at night.

Linda

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

i had thought about using some of the leftover decaf coffee grounds for the lettuce, seeing as they are a natural source of nitrogen. or would those be too strong?

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9b)

Quote from Gymgirl :
One thing I have observed working with the cole crop seedlings, is that they germinate well in the heat, but then appreciate a cooler ambient temp to continue growing well without stalling. I have screwy ventilation in my two grow rooms, which works to my growing advantage. I start my seeds in the warm room, and move them to the cool room after they get their 1st set of true leaves. The cool room gets them acclimated for going outside into cooler weather.

My current experiment involves a flat of broccoli seedlings that were started back in April by another DGer who gave them to me. They've been growing under lights since then, and have gone through a number of changes, from absolutely gorgeous-looking to leggy and barely holding on right now.

I have to hold them inside a bit longer cause it's still entirely too hot out for them. Maybe another 4 weeks, if they last that long. I'm wondering if they'll make any sort of head, having been stalled out for so long...

Experiments...


I assume I should invest in some shade netting then.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Silvermist,
Most gardening sites say broccoli n cauliflowers need full sun. When I first started veggie gardening, I used 5-gallon self-watering eBuckets. Consequently, I was able to move my plants with the sun patterns in my yard. And, I made an interesting observation -- while my brocioli n caulis grew very well in the coolest areas with the brightest light, they swooned and fainted in the sunniest areas that got warmer.

Since then, I've started growing in raised beds. The first season I grew them in the sunniest bed, and the full-on sun kept them too warm in our warm winter. The next season, I planted in a bed running N-S on my west fence line. It only got bright, fitered light from noon until 6pm. Also, there is a constant cold air flow along this bed. They grew fine there.

So, my recommendation would be:
1. the brightest, coldest area
2. dappled bright light, coldest area
3. Full sun area with a constant, chilly airflow

The cole crops really need the cool-cold temps, and do best (for me) growing in temps between 43-55. They are ok down to 28 with freeze protection. We rarely have more than a couple dips below 30 during our winters, and usually for just a few hours. Sustained freezes and I'll throw a plastic tarp n some sheets over my hoop.

And, to answer your question, yeah, you might want a shade cover to generate more cold...

Linda

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

So here is the lettuce and broccoli progress now.

The lettuce plants are really beginning to take off now (im amazed at how fast they are growing). The broccoli are just starting to work on their first true leaves.

Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987
Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

Currently i have them situated where they will get full sun up until about 1:30PM while we are still in the remaining bit of heat of the summer we still have left, i will increase their exposure as the temps cool down.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Those are looking great! You don't have issues with pill bugs, do you? I don't see any munchie holes anywhere, LOL. That's a good thing!

I've got to get on the ball...

Starting some flats this weekend!

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

i have seen pill bugs in other places around the property, but nothing to report in what i am growing these in. I made sure to get fresh bags of potting mix for these guys ;)

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

i finally have a large bottle of that Sluggo Plus heading my way, i have had it with the vanishing seedlings. Kale must be one of their favorites or something, this is the second planting that they have literally wiped the slate totally clean. Also i have lost 2 broccoli seedlings, their stalks parially chewed in half, also one lettuce seedling gone, just a bit of a leaf remaining. I officially declare war, LOL!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Pill bugs is one of the reasons I start my seedlings inside under lights. To grow them big enough to transplant out and stand a chance against those seed mongers!

I used to battle a few slugs, too.

Then, I got Sluggo PLUS. No slugs. No pill bugs...

Cascade, VA(Zone 7a)

Alrighty, i am happy with how these guys are coming along! And thank goodness that Sluggo Plus finally came in today. I did notice some munched leaves on my lettuce today so its arrival is perfectly timed! I also got more Kale seed, and put those in the ground with a good sprinkling of sluggo right on top.

Here are some updated photos of the broccoli and lettuce. You can see the lettuce starting to get its red coloring that "royal red" is well known for :)

Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987 Thumbnail by jmc1987

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