Monthly Archives: July 2015

 LARRY’S BLOG: BEST OF THE BEST

BROCCOLI

Anyone stressed over not finding a good variety of broccoli to plant need worry no longer: a search of the literature reveals more than two dozen varieties, most of which taste pretty much the same. But the judicious gardener, knowing a few tricks, can do much better than an average ‘plant and hope.’

Broccoli belongs to the Brassica genus and is closely related to other cole crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. The secret to growing a ‘best-of-the-best’ head of any cole crop is to “GROW IT FAST.” In addition, it appears that hybrid varieties provide the best production of central heads and produce better in hot weather.

In the spring, two recommended varieties for early harvest are ‘Signal’ and ‘Arcadia.’ A general consensus winner for all seasons is ‘Belstar’

But a caveat on specific broccoli varieties favored by gardeners is necessary here. For every favorite listed by one source, other gardeners often rate the same variety as less than desirable. But since ‘grow it fast’ is the key to getting the best results, here are few varieties that appear to pass the general consensus test:

  1. Packman. 51 days to harvest; produces good, firm heads.
  2. Signal. 51 days to harvest, noted for consistent early maturity.
  3. Early Dividend. 50 days to harvest, produces plenty of fruit bearing side shoots after main heads are harvested.
  4. Arcadia (65 days), longer  time,  but one of the best for fall and winter, with excellent resistance to plant diseases.
  5. Bule Ribbon, 52 days to harvest; very heavy yield.

The days to harvest of the above listed varieties are for transplanted seedlings. Planting broccoli from seeds will add another 22-30 days to the harvest time.

For those willing to wait the extra 25 or so days, seeds sown directly into the ground often produce more vigorous plants with increased resistance to disease, insects, and plant stress. Seeds should be sown 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, 2-3 seeds per hole, spaced 12-15 inches apart. A nitrogen boost is crucial in getting broccoli varieties off to a fast start. Good sources are aged manure or a complete nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, worked into the soil.

For best flavor, the central heads should be harvested when the unopened flower buds are just beginning to swell, but before they open and reveal yellow petals.

Plant and Seed Sources

Four local places to find broccoli seedlings are Armstrong Nursery, Rogers’ Gardens, Home Deport, and the Plant Stand in Costa Mesa. All four places generally carry seedlings all year round, but the varieties can change with the season.

The same four garden/nurseries also carry broccoli seeds, but the availability of any specific variety is also uncertain, based on how often seed packets are ordered  to replace sold-out inventories. Another good source of broccoli seeds is amazon.com, which lists several varieties. The best way to find out what seed varieties and what seedling varieties are currently available is to call each of the stores. If you’re lucky, you could get someone knowledgable who can provide the information you want. The best sources by phone would be Rogers’ Gardens and the Plant Stand; Home Depot could be difficult.

Armstrong Gardens (Irvine): (949) 857-9278

Armstrong Gardens (Newport Beach): (949) 646-3925

Rogers’ Gardens (Newport Beach):(949) 640-5800

Costco (Fountain Valley): ask for the outdoor nursery (714) 434-0502

Plant Stand (Costa Mesa): (800) 698-1077

Meet the gardeners: Joanna Itoh

GETTING TO KNOW JOANNA ITOH

Joanna calls herself a global nomad, having lived in several countries before moving to California in 1994. Before that, she lived in Texas, Japan, Australia, France and India. She has worked on the UCI campus since 2003; first as an International Student Advisor and now as the Graduate Admissions Manager. Joanna is married and has two married adult sons and one granddaughter, who loves to garden.

Joanna With Arden

What is your background?

My older sister is an avid gardener, but I didn’t actually start to garden until I heard from a friend who worked at UCI that she had a plot at the UCI Arroyo Vista Community Garden (AVCG’s previous name at a different location). My husband comes from a farming family in Japan, so I thought that with his help, I could manage to grow something. So we got started. That was the beginning, about 10 years ago.

 

What prompted your interest in gardening?

Not long after starting to garden, I became aware of wonderful opportunities through the UC Master Gardener program to learn more about gardening. So I attended the annual gardening seminar at the Huntington Beach Public Library and talks at the Great Park. (Note that this workshop no longer takes place, but that Master Gardener talks take place at the Great Park and many other locations throughout the year.) I realized that I still wanted to learn more, so decided to apply to the Master Gardener program. The MG training was an intense course in gardening that trained me and my classmates to be prepared to provide research based information to the public about gardening

 

Do you have favorite plants?

I like to grow vegetables primarily, and I like especially to grow my husband and my favorite Japanese vegetables like cucumbers, eggplants and spinach. I started asparagus bed a couple of years ago and have enjoyed munching on tasty shoots this spring. Currently, I’m growing tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and just pulled out my onions recently.

 

In your opinion, what would you say is the biggest problem faced by most gardeners? What advice can you offer to solve that problem?

I think the biggest problem faced by gardeners is a lack of time and knowledge about gardening. I wish that we could offer Basic Gardening Boot Camp for our beginning gardeners. I’m happy that our Master Gardener in the Garden program which began last month will allow gardeners to ask questions and get advice from the Master Gardeners who garden at the AVCG.

My advice is commit 3-4 hours to spend in the garden every week and make a point to learn as much as you can about gardening using the internet, books from the library, and fellow gardeners. Also, consider forming a gardening partnership at the garden to co-garden with other gardeners. You can help each other out when you’re out of town and need some help watering, you can share your harvests and plan what you’re going to plant cooperatively. I do this with a couple of friends and enjoy it a lot.

 

What gardening resources would you recommend to our members?

My favorite resources are classes put on by the UC Master Gardener program. I also belong to the OC Organic Gardening Club which is a great place to learn from speakers. They have twice a year Seed Starting “Bonanzas” which we have done at the AVCG as well. I also like seed company websites and listserves that provide useful information.

 

Thanks for letting me share my gardening experiences with you.

 

And thank you Joanna for all the hours you put into keeping AVCG running and for being a valuable resource to your fellow gardeners. For information on the UC Master Gardeners in Orange County, please go to: http://uccemg.com/

Mary Bailey

July 2, 2015

Master Gardeners in the Garden

Dear Gardeners:

If you have questions related to your gardening, please come to the AVCG
garden between 4 and 5 pm on Saturday, July 18 to consult with Master
Gardeners. We will have some resources for you.

This will be the second Master Gardeners in the Garden Event at the AVCG,
which we hope to offer to our gardeners every month. The Master Gardeners
are your fellow AVCGardeners who also happen to be Master Gardeners. We
hope to see you there!

AVCG Master Gardeners
AVCG Steering Committee