Planting season is upon us (well, it’s more appropriately called “start seeds indoors” season). The first plant of the season is broccoli. I’ve tried growing broccoli in the past and although the plants grew well, I never got them to head out. I think it’s because broccoli is a cool-weather crop and I always started too late. Thus, I started plenty early this year.
There is a wealth of information about when to plant and how to plant and what to plant on the Internet. My favorite guide for vegetables is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s online guide. I also go to Utah State’s website for local information but it’s harder to find what I want and not as well organized as the UIUC guide.
According to the various guides, broccoli can be moved outside 2-4 weeks before the last frost date and it takes 4-6 weeks from planting the seed to transplanting. The average last freeze date in South Jordan is April 26 so I just do the math: 4 weeks + 2 weeks from April 26 is 8 weeks which means now is the time to plant broccoli seeds. One thing to remember is that April 26 is just the average last freeze date which means it can and does freeze after April 26. Thus, for the kind of plants that have to be planted “after all danger of frost is over” (e.g. tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, etc.) I use Mothers Day, May 11 this year, as my “all danger of frost being over” date. All the agriculture science says that the best method to determine when to plant is not with planting schedules based on frost dates but to measure the soil temperature. At one point I had a soil thermometer but I haven’t been able to find it since we moved. The only problem with using a soil thermometer is that soil temp doesn’t mean anything when I’m trying to start my seeds indoors. Thus I use soil temp for plants that get direct seeded in the garden but I stick with the old fashioned planting calendar for seeds started indoors.
I’m trying two different varieties of broccoli this year: Hybrid Packman (supposed to grow well in Utah) and Hybrid Green Goliath. The peat pellets with the thread tied around them (on the right hand side) are the Packman variety. I also got out my indoor grow lamps with the special bulbs that are supposed to be as close to sunlight as possible. I got these lights a few years ago and they really do a good job. The stems of indoor-grown plants are usually thin and spindly but with these lights the stems grow nice and thick and the plants are much hardier for transplanting. I just hope my neighbors don’t look in the basement window and call the cops on me because they think I’m growing marijuana.
Sam wanted to be in the picture
Hopefully this year I’ll be able to get a head or two of broccoli and then I can see whether home-grown broccoli has any taste-difference over store-bought and whether it’s worthy any continued effort in upcoming years. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about gardening: philosophy on what’s worth growing in the garden, thoughts on hybrid vs. heirloom seeds, genetic engineered plants, seed banks, etc. I’ll dive into them in later posts but for now it’s just fun to kick off the gardening season even though there is still plenty of unmelted snow on the ground.