Thursday, May 19, 2011

Faulty Garden Math... and where you can find free resources to avoid the same mistakes

So I've got this big patch of my garden that's filled with brassicas right now -- broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  I live in Sacramento, California.  Even though my average May temperatures are in the eighties, it isn't unheard of to get temperatures up in the nineties in April, and I can certainly remember more than one May day when the mercury crept up to (and beyond) 100 degrees.  Brassicas like to grow when the weather stays down below 80 degrees.  So, um, why do I have all of that broccoli (and other stuff... um, it's unlabeled for the same reason I couldn't identify my Chinese cabbage back at planting time) out in my garden right now? 

Well, in February I went through my seed box and decided what to plant.  I picked up the broccoli packet and thought "Broccoli matures in two or three months.  I'll plant these." 

Um, WRONG. 

The "Days to Maturity" on broccoli seed packets is counted from the date of TRANSPLANTING, not the from the date you plant the seeds.  Also, the days to maturity varies from variety to variety, and it is important to consider which variety you are actually planting.  The seed packet I had was a blend of varieties, intended to provide a staggered harvest over a month or so.  The earliest varieties in the blend matured in 67 days.  Some don't mature for 95 days. 

So, the right math, to determine how much of a mistake I made? 

I planted seeds around the middle of February (I'd know exactly when if I kept better notes!)  Maybe even later, closer to the end of February.  I posted this photo on March 3

They were ready to transplant by about the third week of March (brassicas like to be transplanted when fairly small -- about 4 weeks is good), but the rain and wet weather kept me from transplanting them until the very end of March or the beginning of April.  On April 5, some of them got quite a setback when my hens raided the garden.



 4/1 + 67 days = 6/7  My earliest broccoli is due to mature at the end of the first week of June.  About SIX WEEKS later than it should be in this climate.  While AVERAGE temperatures aren't too awful for broccoli at that time (weather.com says my average high temperature for June 7 is 86 degrees farhenheit),  the weather on the above-average days can be WAY WAY too high for broccoli growth.  I will be lucky if the earliest broccoli plants produce decent heads.

4/1+95 days = fireworks and Independence Day parades.  OOOPS.  Silly gardener, July is for tomatoes and peppers. NOT broccoli -- unless you're talking about seeding it for a fall crop, in which case, go right ahead and talk broccoli in July.  The latest plants are probably doomed, even though they look pretty healthy right now in our cool spring weather. 

So... when should I have planted broccoli seeds for an April harvest?  January.  Now I know!  Also, a blend of varieties doesn't makes sense for spring in my climate.  I think I'll try that in the fall.  in the future, if I plant spring broccoli I'll look for a very quick maturing variety that will mature before our heat sets in.  I don't think a 97-day broccoli really stands a chance n my spring garden, even if my timing is perfect.

There are some great online planting calendars available.

Farmer Fred's planting calender for California's Central Valley is available here

The Sacramento County Master Gardeners have a planting calendar available here

And a more general California Master Gardener's planting calendar (which includes Sacramento in the "interior valley's" column,  but also covers other regions of California) is available here

If you live elsewhere, check with your local master gardener websites, university vegetable crops programs in your region, or search for other regional resources from where you live.  I've printed mine and placed them in plastic sheet protectors in a binder for easy reference.

1 comment:

  1. I actually thought days to maturity started at the time you started the seed too!

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