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Inspired by the various questions, I was thinking of trying to grow some. Choosing something that I would eat, I'm thinking of either broccoli and/or cauliflower.

From what I have been able to read about growing them in a N.Texas climate, I can grow them as a fall crop (plant a few weeks ago and race against the first frost) or as a spring crop (plant after the last frost and race against the summer heat).

However, this recent question about wind tolerance implies that broccoli has some frost tolerance? Is this true? Could I plant seed in February (say) or even November and over-winter them outside, giving them a head-start when spring comes? Or would I be better off starting seed indoors in seed trays (in February?) and planting them out in mid-March after the last frost?

Is it possible to buy broccoli/cauliflower "starts" that could be planted in March? Pepper plants purchased in March always have a head start over seedlings during the spring / early summer months, so it seems like this might be a good idea for brassicas as well?

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By the way, don't judge what you like to eat based on supermarket vegetable experience. Just as with homegrown tomatoes, homegrown broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts are in a completely different league in terms of flavor and texture compared to what you'll find in the produce aisle at the megamart. I didn't know I liked brussels sprouts until I grew some on a whim; they're great sprinkled with olive oil and salt and roasted in the toaster oven for a little while. –  bstpierre Sep 13 '11 at 15:37
    
@bstpieree re. brussel sprouts - I'm scarred for life from childhood experiences at school :-) –  winwaed Sep 13 '11 at 16:23
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Below summarised information comes via Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Broccoli

Early Spring, or early Autumn (Fall) are the ideal times to plant broccoli in Texas areas that receive freezing temperatures, especially areas that get below 25°F (-4°C). Broccoli will take some "light" freezing, but when temperatures drop below those given previously the risk of damage or death are very likely.

Broccoli grows best when temperatures remain in the 40°F (4°C) to 70°F (21°C) range during its growing period, therefore in Texas it's best to plant in early Autumn (Fall) so it can mature during cool periods.

Broccoli will flower (bolt) if it's matures at temperatures much above 80°F (27°C).

Broccoli

Below are some recommended varieties for Texas:

  • Bonanza

  • Early Dividend

  • Green Comet

  • Green Magic

  • Packman

  • Premium Crop

  • Southern Comet

That page also contains information about: Soil Preferences; Optimum Growing Conditions; Establishment Methods; Fertility/Fertilization; Water/Irrigation; Pest Management; Harvest.

Cauliflower

The temperature ranges and requirements for cauliflower are almost identical to broccoli (see above).

To get the best possible cauliflower you will need to protect the heads from sunlight, referred to as "Blanching". Unblanched heads will be yellowish green, whereas blanched heads are pure white. To blanch pull the outer leaves over the head as it begins to enlarge and tie them with a rubber band or soft twine.

Cauliflower

Below are some recommended varieties for Texas:

  • Averda (green)

  • Brocoverde

  • Cheddar (orange)

  • Graffiti (purple)

  • Imperial

  • Majestic

  • Panther (green)

  • Snow Crown

  • Snowball Y Improved

  • Violet Queen (purple)

That page also contains information about: Soil Preferences; Optimum Growing Conditions; Establishment Methods; Fertility/Fertilization; Water/Irrigation; Pest Management; Harvest.

I don't know about Texas, but here in Missouri you can pick up "starts" for most vegetables at places like:

  • Local farms and Farmers Markets.

  • Local Feed Mills.

  • Or through organisations like Gateway Greening.

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Thanks. So some frost tolerance. I'm thinking of starting them indoors, but if we have a late frost, it won't be the end of the world (such frosts can kill peppers and tomatoes if we've planted them out a little early, even if they're covered up for the night). It also sounds like broccoli is going to be the easiest to grow, so I will try those first. Thanks also for the variety recommendations. –  winwaed Sep 14 '11 at 14:11
    
@winwaed Where you are (Texas) I'm thinking temperature is key (along with ensuring they get enough water), as you don't want either of them vegetables out there in the garden when the heat kicks in... –  Mike Perry Sep 14 '11 at 14:17
    
Yes I'll be racing against the summer heat, so an early start (eg. indoors) should help. Two short growing seasons: spring or fall! –  winwaed Sep 14 '11 at 14:26
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See this TAMU Q&A for info on cold tolerance in broccoli among others.

The packet of broccoli I have here says 55-70 days to maturity. If you planted Sep 13 (today) and harvested 60 days later, that would be Nov 12. A quick lookup shows that Dallas expects frosts around the beginning of November. Broccoli will tolerate some light frost, and if you're willing to keep an eye on the forecast and set out row covers for early freezes, you can probably get a harvest.

Best practice would probably be, as you say, to transplant in late August. This would give you a better chance to harvest before freezes arrive.

In the spring, you don't need to wait until after last frost. It's safe to set out hardened off starts 2-3 weeks prior to last frost. I usually start mine indoors 6 weeks prior to last frost, then harden for a week after 3 weeks, then transplant outside at 2 weeks prior to last frost.

Regarding buying starts: I've never seen broccoli seedlings at the big box stores, and I start all my own under lights, so I haven't shopped for them. But I have heard from a couple of people that if you shop at a good local nursery you can probably find them. (I'd guess that this depends on local demand -- if nobody in north Texas buys broccoli starts, then you'll be hard pressed to find some for sale.) They're easy to start -- if you do your own pepper starts, broccoli isn't any harder. You could also try direct seeding, I've had ok luck with cabbage this way, though I prefer starting inside.

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Thanks - I was going to wait until spring for my first attempt. It sounds like I should strt them in February. Perhaps start the peppers at the same time and invest in some grow lamps (our house tends to get a bit dark when it comes to plant growing) –  winwaed Sep 14 '11 at 14:07
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