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Broccoli, cauliflower do well in Georgia gardens

By William Terry Kelley
University of Georgia

Get the cheese sauce ready. Broccoli and cauliflower could be coming out of the garden really soon if you get busy.

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Although these aren't what you'd call traditional Southern vegetables, growing great broccoli and cauliflower in your garden is a definite possibility in Georgia. Throughout the Southeast, both crops can be grown during certain times of the season.

In much of the Southeast, temperatures are too cold in midwinter to grow them 0well, since both crops can suffer freeze damage. And it's too hot in midsummer, as the heat reduces quality. In the higher elevations, however, midsummer is peak production time.

When to plant

In the Georgia coastal plain and piedmont, plant broccoli and cauliflower from early February through early April, depending on where you live. This would bring in harvests during mid-April through June.

For fall crops, plant them from August through mid-September for harvest in October through early December. In the higher elevations, plant the crops in April to July for harvest in June through September.

Many varieties of both broccoli and cauliflower have been shown to perform well in Georgia. "Packman" and "Premium Crop" are two tried-and-true broccoli varieties for home garden use.

Many cauliflower varieties are self-blanching and don't have to be banded to produce a white-curded head. "Candid Charm" and "Snowball Y" are widely adapted cauliflowers.

There are varieties, however, that tolerate temperature extremes better than these.

How to plant

Both crops can be direct-seeded or transplanted, but transplanting is best in the Southeast to gain time in the growing window and produce more uniform stands.

Broccoli and cauliflower can be grown on a wide array of soil types. Both crops require irrigation for peak production.

Planting densities vary between the crops. Broccoli can be planted in double rows on 38- to 42-inch centers, with plants spaced 6 inches apart. Cauliflower, though, is usually planted in single rows with an in-row spacing of about 12 inches.

Fertilize broccoli and cauliflower much as you would cabbage, as both require a fairly heavy rate of nitrogen. Use rates of 6.5 to 7.5 ounces per 100 square feet with both crops. For soils testing medium for phosphorus and potassium, 4 ounces of each per 100 square feet should suffice.

Split the totals into thirds and apply the first at planting and the second and third about three weeks apart.

How to harvest

The most rewarding part of any garden crop is the harvest. Handle these crops with care, though. They're quite perishable and must be cooled fairly quickly after harvest. If you don't cool them quickly to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the quality will begin to break down. Cauliflower is even more tedious -- handle it cautiously to keep from bruising the curds.

Grow broccoli to a central main head 3 to 4 inches across before cutting it. The plant will regrow many smaller heads if you keep caring for it. You can cut these smaller heads as they mature. They won't reach the size of the central head, but still make for a good second crop. Cut broccoli with about 5 inches of stem on it.

Cut cauliflower when the curd is 4 to 6 inches across, and trim the leaves.

(Terry Kelley is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Terry Kelley is a former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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