Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Harvesting Broccoli and Tomato Troubles

Harvesting Broccoli

Near the end of last summer, I planted some broccoli because I thought I might get in a harvest before cold weather set in. I didn't, but the broccoli thrived throughout the winter. In January, I started harvesting the broccoli.

Since I have never grown broccoli before, I wasn't quite sure when to harvest. I figured it was better to do it too early than too late, so I cut off the central heads when they were about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. I had read that if you let the broccoli continue to grow, it will put out lots of side shoots that will provide as much broccoli as the central head did.

This was definitely the case. A couple of weeks after I removed the central head, I had another harvest. So, I wondered if I could just keep doing this. I harvested a 3rd time on several of my plants, but when the heads were cooked the flavor was not quite right. Further, the heads are no longer compact as they were; the individual flowers are beginning to separate. So I have learned two things from my broccoli experiment. Put in a big crop in the fall, and get ready to harvest in mid-winter. Second, after two harvests, cut them down.

I have a number of small plants in the ground right now, and I am racing against time to see if I can get a harvest in before it gets too hot.

Tomato Troubles

No matter what, I always try to plant tomatoes. It seems like no matter how little preparation I do, I always get a big harvest. But I have always bought plants for transplanting. This year I decided to plant seeds and make my own transplants.

I bought a package of Big Boy seeds, and planted in a bunch of small containers back in January (in my garage). None of them sprouted. I replanted 6 containers in mid-February, and only 3 of them sprouted. A week ago, despite their small size, I decided to go ahead and put them in the garden.

The first one died on Day 2. The second and third seemed to be doing OK, but then we got 3 days of cold rain. Today, the second plant is dead, and the third is looking pretty poor. Looks like I will have to buy transplants again this year. (I also had one of my zucchinis die for no apparent reason).

The lesson learned is to plant in somewhat larger pots, inside, in about mid-January. Transplant them outside in mid-March when they are sturdy. Weak tomato plants don't last very long in the garden.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Phase I is Complete

I came back from my European trip on March 5th to find that some of the squash had died. The temperature got down to 26 degrees twice while I was gone, and while my wife covered them up, the cold got the weaker ones.

Still, there were 5 or 6 that survived, and while they don't look good, I am hoping they come back now that temperatures are in the 70's and 80's. The 10-day forecast has no freezing weather, which probably means we are out of the woods.

Carrots have broken ground, and the peas are coming on strongly. It's been a month today since I planted them, and the carrots look like they are only a week old. I guess they only sprouted when it warmed up a bit more. I would guess that 80% of the peas sprouted, but their stems are very weak right at the ground. It looks possible that something has been chewing on them. The cilantro has really exploded; we have far more than we can use and I had only put out two plants last fall. We also had a lot of broccoli heads ready for harvest.

Of the seeds I had planted, I recognize a couple of jalapenos, a couple of crookneck squash, and a couple of okra coming up. There are some other plants coming up, but I can't tell if they are weeds or something I planted.

Today I also went ahead and put all inside plants in the garden. This included 3 tomato plants I grew from seeds (they are really small; I am not sure they will survive), 4 jalapenos, 2 okra plants, and a zucchini. In addition I put out a basil plant I had been growing since last summer (it looks like a small tree) and some oregano.

Phase I of the garden is in. Once I pull up all of the carrots, and the peas and broccoli are done, I will plant more warm weather plants.