Broccoli/brassicas now?

fiddlerchick(10 Los Angeles)January 26, 2011

Hello Southern California Gardeners,

I�m all excited about finally getting to do some planting this weekend after having my planting time hijacked by the more pressing need to dig more concrete chunks out of the yard to make room for the plants, and would like your advice about the following:

Is it too late to bother with direct sowing calabrese broccoli and plants of that ilk (I also have several colors of cauliflower, a variety of cabbages and a kailaan)? We live in Chinatown (downtown/metro L.A. area) and the weather has been so crazy during the past couple years that we�ve lived here that I can�t even guess what�s going to happen this year....

For that matter, should broccoli and its relatives be direct-sown at all? I assume there is a very good reason why the common wisdom is to start them in flats, but the last time I tried to start some summer annuals (eggplants & peppers) in little peat pots, they did indeed sprout, but got ransacked by our four cats and then cooked by the infernal temperature inside our uninsulated house during a mid-spring heat wave, so the only thing that actually grew out of that experiment was a colony of some sort of disgusting wingless flies!

I�m definitely going to put in some salad seeds and other small, leafy stuff like kale and bok choi, but am reluctant to open my hermetically sealed packets of big brassicas if this is likely to be an exercise in futility.

Your advice would be most gratefully appreciated!

Many thanks,

Brenda K

P.S. I�d also really appreciate some guidance about feeding my plants. To my great delight, my little key lime tree is finally producing its very first lime since I put it in a couple years ago, and it and its neighbors (Japanese satsuma & moro blood orange) are sporting lots of tiny new leaves, my eggplant and pepper transplants left over from last summer are producing (!), or trying their best to, so should I go ahead and feed everyone, or try to convince them to stay dormant until spring really gets here. We�ve had steady late spring-like temps/conditions here in L.A. for a few weeks now, but that could change at any time.

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queenofthemountain - SoCal 9b

I am in north LA. I started my brassicas in early November for transplant in December. While it was colder and rainy they didn't do much but are now growing pretty fast.

If you want to direct sow them I would do it immediately. I am not confident that even my earlier plantings won't end up bolting before I can harvest anything - who knows what the weather will do.

But keep in mind your future plans for your garden real estate. I try to plant the slow-growing winter vegetables as soon as I can in Nov/Dec, so they will be finished by the time I have the tomatoes ready to set out. If you'll need the space for summer plants, I would have at least some of those ready to go in the moment the brassicas are done.

You might like a book called "52 Weeks in the California Garden" by Robert Smaus. It has helped me a lot with what to do when, because planting times based on last frost date and that sort of four-season information usually doesn't apply here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Southern California Vegetable Planting Schedule

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 10:58PM
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I think it will cool again, that's what it did last year after we hit the 90s in Jan, but who knows anymore. I've got some bok choi bolting now, so I'm going to plant more brassicas soon and if they bolt, I'll just eat the flowers in a salad.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 4:51PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If it cools down again for an extended period, they will do okay. If the weather continues warm do not bother. Cauliflower is difficult in southern california, as it needs consistent cool temperatures--our intervals of Santa Ana wind warmth ruins the heads. Right along the coast is best.

I planted broccolini this year in late september or early october and have gotten a good crop, but this warm January is ruining them.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 1:37PM
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fiddlerchick(10 Los Angeles)

Thank you everyone for your helpful responses! I�m definitely going to pick up a copy of 52 Weeks.

I chose the Calabrese broccoli since it is supposed to be heat-tolerant, and the colored varieties of cauliflower I bought are supposed to work ok as miniatures, so I wonder if that will cut down on the time it takes to mature, and enhance the probability that I can coordinate them with a long-ish spell of reasonable cool weather?

I guess I�ll go ahead and roll the dice and see what I get. This year I have a plan for how to wedge in the summer annuals in case the brassicas actually work.

@Dicot: I sure remember that! We got our summer weather in the dead of winter, and then no summer to speak of!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 2:32PM
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