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We've had a mild winter here, and I'm going to plant out the broccoli (currently under lamps in the garage) this weekend. First time I've grown it and it seems to be doing well but obviously too big for the seed trays and I have an aphid infestation (some natural predators should help here!)

The previous owners left two raised beds in so-so condition and a couple of bags of composted cow manure. I'm going to be buying more compost at the weekend to help bulk things out, but should the cow manure be okay for the broccoli? I intend to dig it in with the soil that is in the bed already.

The next alternative would be the second bed where I intend to plant the pepper seedlings, but these are currently a bit small for planting out (give them another week or two I think). And the final alternative would be as general bed compost or a top mulch for trees, the bananas, etc.

The long term plan (i.e. next year) is probably to move the beds so I don't want to properly fill them - just put enough compost in for good growing this year.

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If you're buying bagged cow manure, it is thoroughly composted and should pose no harm to your vegetables.

The only possible harm I can think of is if you use it on the peppers: if the bag is labeled with NPK, you may want to check that you aren't adding too much nitrogen. Manure is usually pretty low analysis (1-2% N), so it should be fine. But I wouldn't hesitate to add it to broccoli or the other spots you mentioned.

One thing to check on your broccoli is pH: cole crops want soil that is nearly neutral pH (6.5 - 7.5). If you're planting this weekend it might be too late for lime (for acidic soil) to really have much effect prior to planting.

The main problem I have with broccoli is cabbage loopers. If you have these in your area, I'd recommend planting under row covers and/or spraying with Bt on a regular basis. (I've had too many broccoli harvests that were loaded with little green worms. Kind of a turn-off, and a pain to clean, though if I can get them worm-free without anybody else in the house knowing, they end up just fine. Bt works well to reduce plant damage and worms in the harvest.)

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And nitrogen is meant to promote foliage rather than flowers/fruit with peppers - so I'll check that. It is bagged - I'm not actually buying it. These are bags that were left by the previous owner: I might as well use them! I haven't done any soil pH analysis. As the previous owner had quite a bit planted, I'm assuming there's nothing seriously wrong. As for cabbage loopers: No idea! First time I've tried brocc. They're being ravaged by aphids at the moment though. Lettuce at the old house (less than 2mile away) grew okay though. –  winwaed Mar 2 '12 at 14:00
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