Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brassica Babies, Bad Weather and Pop Bottle Cloches

In a good year, frosts are mild by mid to late April, and with minimal protection, my brassicas do just fine. This is not a good year.

Hortiphilia Fact

Buttoning or the formation of a small head in broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas can be caused by excessively cool temperatures when plants are young. (under 45 F / 7 C)

It is cold right now, going well below freezing at night. But my brassica babies are in need of a little leg room and a lot more light:

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Cabbage and broccoli seedlings 6 weeks old

So even though I know that the dreaded 'buttoning' might occur, I have put them out but not without a little protection:

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Broccoli seedling inside of pop bottle cloche inside of cold frame.

Meet the pop bottle cloche. Simple to manufacture. To give you instructions would be insulting but just in case you are really not with it right now, here are the bottoms:

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Chufa nuts, just sprouted planted in pop bottle bottoms

From that, I imagine, you can deduce the rest.

"Hello in there broccoli."

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I spy broccoli with my little eye

These pop bottle cloches are inside of a cold frame. This may not preven the dreaded
premature head but it's worth a try. In the meantime, I have started a new batch of broccoli that will not be put out until the magic number 7 (degrees Celcius) is held most of the time.


A random how to grow broccoli page

More buttoning details

Interesting historical pictures of season / climate extension

You Grow Girl was much more creative with her pop bottle cloches - I love the protective ring idea.
Janet's Garden - some good ideas are like rocks in the road, hard not to trip over (the comment was directed at myself). Another great use of the pop bottle cloche
Soda bottle cloche
Playing in the dirt - another convert

I wonder how many other frugal gardeners out there re-invented this weather moderator?


Genie said...

I love the "I spy" photo -- great stuff. I hope the broccoli makes it!h

Green thumb said...

Hi Ottawa Gardener,Loved your Cloche idea.Hope your Broccoli stays protected and develops nicely.
In stark contrast, I'm protecting my Broccoli from hot summer winds.

Kate said...

I just saw this same cloche idea used to protect lilacs and lilies from rampaging squirrels. This is a great way to keep your tender little sprouts warm and protected.

Still freezing and snowed under here... hope you are well!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I had no idea that the brassicas would be affected by colder temperatures like that. (I love coming to your blog because I always seem to learn things!) Brassicas are in the category of: "I always MEAN to plant them, but somehow I don't remember that until it's way too late" for me.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Hey, we just got hit by that snow storm, btw, though thankfully it melted quickly... no more snow, please.

Blackswamp_girl: I have a variety of fall broccoli for the late of heart!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Really? What variety? (Do share--I'm definitely a late bloomer!) :)

Ottawa Gardener said...

Most broccoli will say on it that it can be planted for either spring or fall harvest (though some will specify one over the other). In fact, depending on your climate, broccoli will be more likely to form a nice head if it is allowed to mature during the cool weather in fall than in the increasing heat of spring. You can plant broccoli mid to late summer (depending on your climate).

If you have a very mild winter then you could even try overwintering the stuff. Purple sprouting broccoli is often used for this.

However, overwintered kale also produces edible flowering heads which are quite tasty so you might just want to do that, as kale can be overwintered just about anywhere with varying amounts of protection.

(you could try some of the quick maturing brassicas too such as tatsoi or broccoli rabe for spring, fall even winter harvest under a coldframe).

All this talk about broccoli is making me hungry...