We are a 32-acre facility incorporating ranch-style homes for our residents with memory care needs.
Summer (mild as it was this year) is officially over. Little by little the squashes, tomatoes and peppers are coming out and making way for cool season crops. Lettuce and broccoli quickly fill that void for us here at Sunshine Care in Poway .
My favorite variety of broccoli to work with is Packman. The main reason we use this variety is that it is very early, around 55 days under ideal growing conditions. Packman produces a large 8”-9” sage-green, tight central head. Once the central head is cut, the side shoots will form smaller heads. One can acquire the seeds form Territorial Seed Co. on line. For $3.30 you can purchase ½ gram of Packman broccoli seed, which will be about 125-175 seeds. We have a beautiful greenhouse here where we start all of our transplants in trays of 128 cavities. At home you can accomplish this on a sunny wind sill or outside in egg carton containers. Jiffy makes a seed starting mix at Home Depot for about $4.
Depending on how many plants you need, seed accordingly, keeping in mind the germination rate usually printed on the seed packet. Many of our rows are about 50 ft long and we use drip tape. We will plant the transplants on each side of the tape (about 3”-4” from the tape), in a zig-zag fashion 18” apart. Doing the math, 2 plant lines- 50 ft long @ 18” between plants, will require about 67 transplants/ 50 ft bed. So if I need 67 plants for my 50 ft bed, and my germination rate is 85%, I will need to seed around 79 seeds. I would kick that up to about 90, to make sure I definitely have 100% plant population. After transplanting to the field, anticipate some die out due to gophers, cutworm, quirks in irrigation etc. In about 5 weeks you should have beautiful transplants.
With the previous numbers in mind, I will also seed romaine lettuce, green and red. We like Jericho for the green and Red Rosie for the red. I get my lettuce seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and for around $3.50 you can get a packet of either containing around 600 seeds.
We will place lettuce transplants in between the broccoli transplants in the same plant lines. Basically getting two veggies for the price of one.
GROUND PREP- All beds here incorporate EZ Green, worm castings, Dr. Earth’s 4-4-4 All Purpose organic fertilizer and compost that we make on site in our compost bins. We rototill the beds so our plants can be happy wiggling their toes in the beds. These ingredients are readily available at any of the Grangettos in S.D. County
PEST CONTROL- The best way to control most pests organically is to use some type of floating row cover or insect screen. We use Agrofabric Pro 17, a light weight white fabric, .5 oz./square yard which will give up to 4 degrees of frost protection with 85% light transmission. A roll of this material, at 7’x250,’ will run about $30 at American Horticultural Supply in San Marcos or Water-Tech Ag in Escondido . This will help your young plants fight most insects, such as aphids, worms, beetles, and wind threats.
One of the most frustrating pests at the early growing stage is the cutworm. These little nocturnal lumberjacks come out late at night from below the soil surface and will eat right through your beautiful little broccoli transplants from Day 1. Unless you are willing to check your babies with a flashlight at night and squish cutworms, try this to help control the problem. Go to Henry’s Market and get some cornmeal and/or oat bran. Get some Safer Garden Dust from Grangettos and mix about 3oz in about 3 lbs of the cornmeal/oat bran mix. Sprinkle this around your transplants and hopefully when these devils come out at night, they will be attracted to the sweet smell of cornmeal and oat bran. After munching on that tasty treat, the B.T. in the Safer Dust, will slowly stop them in their tracks. For added protection, cut a two inch section of an empty toilet paper roll, and put it over your transplant so the cutworm can’t get to it. They will not be able to climb up the toilet paper roll section which acts as a physical barrier.
That’s enough for now. We will continue in the months to come with other cool season crop tips. Also, Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes offers free garden workshops on a couple Saturdays a month. Our next workshop is this coming Oct. 22 at 10:30, precisely on “Cool Season Veggies”. You are invited to attend to discuss, learn, ask questions, enjoy some refreshments, tour the gardens, make friends and maybe win a raffle prize. Please RSVP 858-752-8197.
Talk to you soon,