There are so many variables involved in growing broccoli that no matter how long we farm, we still never know what we are going to get. Over the years, we have adjusted timing, spacing, varieties, and nutrients. One year, we had enough beautiful broccoli to stock the shelves at PCC Redmond steadily for months! Most years, we pour our hearts and souls into our broccoli and our CSA members enjoy it in a few boxes.
We are fortunate to have worked for several years with Dr. Doug Collins, a soil scientist at Washington State University Extension to learn more about how we can consistently grow not just good broccoli, but great broccoli. With his help we have devised a fertility management strategy based on field maps and systematic soil testing so we can monitor and respond to soil needs more consistently.
Even so, we still have trouble. This first succession of broccoli has had some problems with alternaria, a fungus that eats the florets, so the yield was less than stellar.
Currently, we are collaborating with Doug on another broccoli study, this one broadening the scope to examine how broccoli interacts with several nutrients critical to its growth. The plants for this study will be ready to harvest next week and we look forward to sharing what we learn (along with the broccoli, of course!).