Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mama's Got a New Favorite

Until recently, I think I would have ranked okra as my favorite vegetable to grow. It thrives in our Arizona summers, it's gorgeous, and it makes yummy dinners. What's not to love? Well, don't tell okra, but I may have a new favorite. Look at this gorgeous broccoli:

Sigh. Ain't it purdy? And it's producing like crazy too. Those big plants each have a big head of broccoli on them AND about five little florets growing underneath. I mean, how awesome is that?

OK, so it's gorgeous. Big deal. So is okra. And it can produce a ton. So can okra. And it's easy is to grow, but so is okra. And it can take extreme Arizona temperatures (more about that below), but so can okra. What really sets it apart? Why aren't okra and broccoli tied? Why is broccoli my new favorite?

My 6 year old will eat it. Happily. She's EXCITED to watch it grow so she can eat it, which is very rare indeed. So that's it. Slam dunk. Mama's got a new favorite.

Assuming I've convinced you that you should grow broccoli, what do you need to know about growing it in Arizona? Not too much really. It's pretty easy. I think the key is just planting it at the right time. Last year I waited until Christmas time, which turned out to be way too late. Just as it started forming itty bitty florets, we had a warm spell in January and the broccoli started bolting. Major bummer.

This year, I started it in early November, and life is golden. Here's what I've done so far to take care of it:
  • Planted it in full sun. 
  • Watered it every two to three days.
  • Gave it some fish emulsion fertilizer every two to three weeks or so. 
  • Covered it with sheets during the major frosts.  
Pretty easy overall. It particularly impressed me during the frosts, which dropped down into the 20s. One night, for instance, I forgot to cover it, and it looked like this in the morning:

I thought it was a goner for sure, but based on the advice of the wise people in the Tucson Backyard Gardening Facebook group, I just left it undisturbed, let it warm up, and voila! It was back to normal (perhaps even thriving more) in no time.

Another key appears to be giving it full sun. I have six broccoli plants right now. All are producing, but the ones getting the most sun are the biggest and most productive. Fair enough. I like a little sunshine too.

I haven't harvested it yet, so I don't have any tips for you there. However, the wise and funny Erica at Northwest Edible Life has probably said everything that needs to be said on the subject, so I would say just listen to her: Take a look for tips on figuring out EXACTLY when to harvest your broccoli and for making your broccoli plants produce the most they can. Also, she's got tips for making chicken pinatas. Need I say more?


Jan and Mike Petroff said...

Nice blog post. Was surprised to see that broccoli recovered after the frost!

claudette said...

Thanks! I was surprised too! :)