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I was looking at my broccoli plant today because it was at about a 60 degree angle, and noticed that the broccoli stem is twisting back and forth. What would cause this?

I'm doing charged core gardening, and have been moving the watering pipe around some to water more in different areas to promote growth in those areas.

I know this is a carrot, but imagine one of these carrots being a broccoli stalk right above the ground.

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  • i can't take a picture of my broccoli, because I DON'T HAVE A SMART PHONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – black thumb Jun 12 '18 at 21:42
  • Wait a minute, are you saying your broccoli stems are twisting like this sansevieria? This makes sense for plants this firm to twist enough so at least the chance to have some of the leaf directly facing the light is far better. Not sure that this holds true for annuals like broccoli. – stormy Jun 12 '18 at 22:36
  • it's going north south, not east west, and i'm moving my watering pipe every few days – black thumb Jun 13 '18 at 2:13
  • Club root is a disease of brassicas which causes the roots to grow twisted and deformed. I'm not sure to what extent it affects stems. – David Liam Clayton Jun 13 '18 at 21:12
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This is likely to be a disease called club root which affects many plants in the Brassicaea family caused by Plasmodiaphora brassicae.

You will likely get stunted growth above ground and root distortion under ground.

There are no control for this disease. It is not dangerous to human consumption.

However, the more brassicas you grow, the more disease you feed as the fungus can survive dormant in the soil for years. Your choices are:

Grow resistant varieties.

Stop growing plants from the Brassicaea family for at least 4 years to starve the disease.

Practise crop rotation.

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  • do you mean club stem, not club foot? How do you practice crop rotation in a community garden plot? – black thumb Jun 20 '18 at 16:11
  • The disease is club root in the UK. Crop rotation is about changing plants once harvested. Say you have space for 6 traditional veg rows. If you put potatoes on rows 1&2 you should grow potatoes on 5&6. Whilst 1&2 should be maybe a Brassicaea. And so on... this means that if you have diseases, they will not continually being ‘fed’ by the same crop... it’s a bit more complicated than that but it’s the general idea – user33232 Jun 20 '18 at 17:03
  • Is there such a thing as club stalk also? – black thumb Jun 21 '18 at 3:10
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Well, my first thought is that a little twisting it isn't necessarily a problem or harmful. Those carrots grew to nice eating size anyway. Granted it's not ideal, as the roots will have a little harder time spreading out. The carrots could be harder to wash and may be harder to sell. But intertwined roots are very common.

Twisting can happen in a myriad of ways, all of which involve a root getting diverted or damaged, especially when it is tiny. The carrots may well have run into each other underground, for example, and something had to give. A rootlet can hit the edge of a pot in which it is growing, which is why root-bound plants tend to have crazy-twisted and even strangled roots. So one possibility is that if you put out broccoli seedlings, the twisting was set in motion even before the plant reached your garden. A rootlet can hit a tiny rock. An insect can nip off the tip and the root then starts to grow in a slightly different direction. You get the idea - anything in the way can send a rootlet off in a new direction, and from there it reaches what it reaches, and does its best to keep growing regardless. Then it gets bigger and we notice.

Twisting is far more serious in perennials than in annuals. I won't plant out a potted tree whose roots are growing in spirals around each other, as eventually the twisted roots will hurt each other. Annuals will die before the roots get so big as to strangle each other with insufficient other roots to compensate. When I pull up vegetable plants in the fall and see the roots, plants some of which have done beautifully, twisted up roots are pretty common.

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  • why would broccoli crawl across the ground when you put wood chips around the stalk though? – black thumb Jun 19 '18 at 22:30
  • I don't think that would cause it. Instead for some reason the connection from the soil to the roots to the stalk is too weak to support the top. I sometimes have to bury brassica seedlings a little deep when I transplant them in order for them not to fall over. If they are growing fine even crawling across the ground, I wouldn't worry about it much. If not, is some small being munching on the stems near the soil line? Also I am interested if @user33232 may have nailed it. – InColorado Jun 20 '18 at 20:31
  • i had to tie it up today as it was crawling through other plants – black thumb Jun 21 '18 at 3:09

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