Two vegetables I like to plant in the fall are broccoli and cauliflower, and broccoli in particular has become more popular both with gardeners and cooks.
Vegetable transplants have been available at garden centers and feed and seed stores since Labor Day. If you haven't gotten yours in the ground, it is not too late. As a matter of fact, because of the unusual heat wave that has stayed with us through most of mid-September, you probably are a little better off planting later since both crops prefer cooler weather.
Many varieties of broccoli and cauliflower perform well in our area. 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.
Both crops can be direct seeded or transplanted, but transplanting is best to gain time in the growing window and produce more uniform stands. I planted some broccoli seed a couple of weeks ago and realized I had better start some more seed in a flat so I could add to my garden planting and get a uniform stand.
Broccoli and cauliflower can be grown in a variety of soil types. Like any other vegetable, they will do best in soils containing a good deal of organic matter. Both crops require irrigation for peak production because, as most of you know, the fall is our driest season of the year.
For plant spacing, leave at least 2 to 3 feet between the rows and 1 to 2 feet between plants. Because this is all I plant in my garden and I am not cramped for space, I put mine even farther apart.
Fertilize broccoli and cauliflower much as you would cabbage because 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, four ounces of each per 100 square feet should suffice. Given these levels a 5-10-15 or 10-10-10 complete fertilizer supplemented with ammonium nitrate works well. You also can use an organic fertilizer as a substitute. Split the amounts given into thirds with the first at planting and the second and third about three weeks apart.
The most rewarding part of any garden crop is the harvest. Handle these crops with care because they are perishable and must be cooled quickly after harvest. If you don't cool them quickly to 32 degrees, 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. Make sure the flower buds are tight. If they get loose or begin to open, you have missed the peak harvest time. After cutting the main head, 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 five inches of stem on it.
Cut cauliflower when the curd is 4 to 6 inches across, and trim the leaves.
During the growing season, be on the lookout for aphids that will cluster on the back of the leaves. If your plants get aphids, good insecticides to spray with are esfenvalerate, malathion and permethrin. Organic gardeners can use insecticidal soaps.
Sometime we also have to look out for caterpillars eating the foliage. For control on these you can use esfenvalerate, permethrin, seven dust or spray. Organic control would be with Bt. products, which include Dipel or Thuricide.
Sid Mullis is the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office in Richmond County. Call 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.