Brassicae and Oklahoma Sun

chickencoupeJanuary 19, 2014

In planning the garden and where to plant my late-summer sown brassicaes:

In 2011 when I hadn't a clue but to plant and wait I started some Brussell Sprouts on the East side of the house that gets, primarily shade. It received direct sun about 3-4 hours. That seedling did well but I did not see it to fruition. I could continue here but it's probably the darkest place to plant anything.

Avoiding blistering sun is the goal while ensuring adequate fall sunlight for brussels, cabbage and cauliflower (but not broccoli). Or am I just nit-picking this to death?

The option of nutrient-dense soil is available under dappled shade West of the house . I don't have the tools to measure it but I'm guessing it drops the temp by about 5 degrees. I had squash here in drastic heat of 2011 and they continued better than any other vegetables plants but continued to wilt. Was extremely hot that year. It did teach me about dappled shade. Thus, I intentionally worked that soil for such purposes.

At that time broccoli was nearby just out of reach of the dappled shade and they continued but were stunted in growth. They even volunteered the next year (2012). I think it was a very good variety of broccoli, too.

I could plant them on the South side of the house where they will receive the morning sunrise but not direct until about 9-10am and then be in light shade from 1pm and darker until sunset. This will require a new plot and may not be sufficient for this season. *shrugs It is much colder on this side of the house, btw. My Red Russian Kale is located here and seems to thrive in it. No. It REALLY thrives there and will be going into it's 5th (?) season without going to seed in that h-kulture plot. lol

Thanks for any thoughts on this. I'm too undecided! I just don't know the growth behavior of these brassicaes. If I could keep up, I would plant them in all these places to determine the best growth.

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Best guess: The soil pH is probably way too high. That's been our biggest hindrance in the yields from our garden. (I'll be working on that this spring, mixing iron sulfate and magnesium sulfate into our beds.) For most plants in a garden, soil pH should be neutral or even slightly acidic, from 6.5 to 7.0. Here in Duncan, our soil pH is still 7.4, even after mixing in a lot of compost and other amendments. The squash and sweet potatoes like the higher pH, the rest? Not so much.

To measure soil pH, you can get a cheap test kit at your local nursery. WalMart has them, sometimes, during planting season. Better: Get a soil test done through your county extension agent's office.

Check the pH in your water, too, especially if you are on city water. Dawn and others warned me about that, but I hadda learn it the hard way.

YMMV. Batteries not included.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 12:24PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Warren, I was shocked when I first tested my own soil and water pH after we moved here. I expected it to be alkaline, but I wasn't expecting it to be nearly as bad as I eventually discovered it was. It probably would have been smarter for me to bring along a test kit and test the soil before we bought the place. (Live and learn.)

Bon, Did you plant the Brussels Sprouts in winter for a spring harvest or in late summer for a winter harvest? In our climate, the temperatures often get too hot too early and the brussels sprouts fail to form sprouts. Or, they form them and the sprouts bolt almost immediately---before the gardener can harvest them. So, if you didn't get a harvest from spring brussels sprouts, that is fairly normal. I have to get the transplants in the ground before the end of January in order to get any harvest at all, and then I only get it if May stays fairly cool and cloudy and rainy. If you didn't get a late fall/early winter harvest from brussels sprouts, I'm inclined to think they were in too much shade for that time of the year. Remember that when we plant edible crops for a fall and winter harvest, they are getting less intense light and fewer hours per day of it. I try to pick planting areas in winter time for brassica plantings that will shade them in the afternoons later in spring, but when I chose planting spots in the summer for brassicas, I have to choose a spot that will get as much sun as possible in, let's say, September through December. The easiest way to do that in summer is to plant them in full sun, use shade cloth to partially shade them in August, and then remove the shade cloth sometime in September (the timing depends on when the daily high temps drop back down out of the stratosphere).

Broccoli plants will produce in more shade than most crops, so you probably could put them in a morning sun/afternoon shade situation in winter/spring and they'd be just fine. They might or might not produce in grown in dappled shade all day.

Cabbage tolerates quite a lot of shade.

Sometimes when brassicas underperform and don't look as good as you know they should, it can be a boron deficiency, especially in well-drained soils where nutrients leach out easily, or in areas with soil pH above 7 or so, or in areas where periodic extremely heavy rainfall (like so often happens in central OK in April through June) leaches nutrients out of the soil.

Maybe it will help to remember it this way: with crops you plant from which you'll harvest the leaves to eat, there's a lot of shade tolerance. Many leafy crops produce well with only morning sun for maybe 3 hours a day or with dappled shade all day. With crops you plant from which you'll harvest the flowers (broccoli and brussels sprouts included) to eat, moderate shade is tolerated. With crops you plant from which you harvest the fruit or seeds, the more sun the merrier. (Well, up to a point. In our very hot intense summer weather, even tomatoes and peppers are happy with mid-day or late-day shade as long as they get at least 6 hours of full, direct sun per day.)

The only way to figure out what grows best in each available planting area on your own property is to plant the same crop (preferably the same variety too) in various areas at the very same time in a given year and compare the harvest from the different areas. That's not something you learn in a year or two, but over the years you develop a feel for it that becomes instinctive in terms of what does best in each location. I didn't keep elaborate lists of what produced best in each location---I just kept it in my head. I drew out elaborate planting schemes for our first few years here, planning what would go in each square foot. Ha! As if I could stick to any plan.....

Eventually, I felt like if I stopped planning ahead on paper so much and just planted stuff wherever my brain told me to plant it, my brain would lead me to the right spot....and it pretty much has. I know that sounds crazy, but it isn't. I walk into the garden some years with a flat of tomato plants in my head and say to myself "okay, where should you go this year" and my mind leads me to a spot. My unplanned gardens produce much better than the ones I drew out on graph paper and erased and redrew and erased and redrew. I think it is part of the zen of gardening.....just go with the flow and your unconscious mind will lead you in the right direction. Other years, though, I make a deliberate decision based on the weather I'm expecting. In a very rainy year, the tomatoes get the highest raised beds with the best drainage. In a very dry year, I plant them more closely together so they can shade the ground for one another and keep it more cool and moist, etc. Of course, those decisions only work if the weather we get is the weather I thought we'd get!

Some of my bests planting layouts weren't planned at all. For example,one year I spaced okra plants really far apart because the varieties I was growing can get really wide. Then, when it was time to plant watermelons, I didn't have space in the watermelon bed for all the seedlings I had raised, so I stuck the extra seedlings in the okra bed to grow like a ground cover. It turned out that the shade from the okra plants helped keep the watermelons from sunburning, and the watermelon foliage was like a living mulch underneath the widely-spaced okra plants. It was perfect! It was genius! I love growing them this way....but was it some brilliant decision I made? Heck no. It was just a desperation move to salvage those excess melon seedlings so I could use them instead of composting them. My best planting decisions usually aren't things I planned--they are things that just happened.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 5:43PM
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Yeah, well that successful "going with the flow" is yer master gardening skills behind that modesty of yers. As for me ... it can be dangerous. Although I can relate some... okay a teensie weensie amount of instinctual gardening brain residue in favor of the best soil for the different vegetable varieties, but only for my focusing on soil the last 2 years. But even Warren nudged the pH matter I wasn't considering. A plant could get perfect sunlight and excellent soil, but the wrong pH would ruin everything.

Really, this post was perfect. I'm not familiar with all the plant growths. And you summarized it in one paragraph, too!

Those brussels never saw fruition because they were neglected. I recall having planted some more broccoli on the south side receiving that early afternoon shade. They grew tall and strong- even after neglect - but never flowered. Those in the sun that grew through the intense heat eventually put on puny flowers (because they didn't get enough water and attention).

Wow. I'm really looking forward to this next season with a stronger spine.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 2:09AM
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