Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our First Experience with Organic Broccoli Production

To prepare for the big five year East Coast Broccoli project we are involved in (see earlier post), we decided to grow late season broccoli in the new Mountain Organic Research and Extension Unit on the research station in Waynesville.  We will have a complete report for you in the future, but because of the interest, right now I just wanted to share some pictures and highlights.

The objective in the "big project" is to supply the east coast with crown broccoli over as much of the year as possible.  I've never grown "crown" broccoli before.  Think of what you buy in the supermarket.  Those 4 inch x 4 inch heads that are banded together are called "crown broccoli".  I usually produce much larger heads for the tailgate market. 

So, we established raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip-irrigation.  We sprayed the plastic white using a diluted white latex paint to reduce the heat load from the plastic.  We grew five varieties:  Ironman, Patron, Captain, Everest, and Gypsy.  We did two plantings, one on July 14th and one on August 4th.  Transplants were produced in 200 cell trays.  The plants were set in a single row, with 6 inches between each plant.  There were four replications.

Flea beetles were an immediate problem.  That was not a surprise since we did not have any habitat established around the test site to harbour beneficials.

We tried a number of organic sprays with no lasting results, so we put up row covers.



The row covers did a great job.  We held an official unveiling at a workshop at the end of August and the results were beautiful.



This is what the field looked like at harvest time in September.  In the future, we will be trying to hit a mid-summer market.
The broccoli was all carefully weighed and measured.  We are analyzing that data now, but you can see from the picture below, that there were big differences between varieties.


The bottom line is that we grew good organic broccoli in the late season in 2010.