August 9, 2006

Welcome to Texas Gardener's Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail as the sending address is not monitored. See the bottom of this newsletter for information on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editor.

Broccoli heads are best harvested when they are 6 to 8 inches across and still tight. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)

  Broccoli an excellent fall crop

By Chris S. Corby

Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables grown in Texas and for good reason; it is tasty, nutritious, purported to prevent cancer and, most importantly, easy to grow. It is also one of the most productive garden crops you can grow if you consider its dollar value per square foot planted — have you priced it lately in the grocery store? And it is a great choice for a fall garden.

Sounds like the perfect crop. Well almost. To have a really bumper crop of broccoli requires a high level of moisture and fertilizer throughout the growing season and optimum growing conditions. And if fall weather stays mild, production can continue into the next year in many parts of the state. If winter comes early and hard it can put an end to an otherwise successful broccoli crop.


It is important to start with varieties that are proven to grow well in Texas. Try Green Comet (our favorite), Packman or Premium Crop. Unlike spring planted broccoli that must be grown from transplants, fall broccoli can be grown from seed (start two weeks before you plan to set out plants). However, we prefer to use transplants if available. Look for healthy, succulent plants that have not been stressed and are free of disease. Woody stems indicate older, stressed plants. Spotted or discolored foliage may be a sign of disease. It is better to start from seed if you cannot find healthy plants or if the variety is unknown.

Soil Preparation

First and foremost be sure to rotate broccoli and other Cole crops (cabbage, collards, etc.) with other vegetables like tomatoes and okra to help avoid disease problems.

Broccoli prefers slightly heavy soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 and good drainage. If your soil pH is below 6 consider adding lime to raise the pH.

If you garden in heavy clay, use raised beds or mound your planting beds to improve drainage. Those of you with sandy soil should add plenty of organic matter. Once again, the key to a successful broccoli crop is to maintain a high level of fertility and moisture throughout the growing period. You want to produce a large, vigorous plant before it starts to form flower buds or heads.

If you used a complete fertilizer in the spring (1-2-2 or 2-2-1) use only a nitrogen fertilizer such as urea, ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate. Apply 1/2 to 1 pound per 40 feet of row.

If you have access to rotted barnyard manure, apply about 100 pounds per 40 feet of row and use the lower rate of synthetic fertilizer. Rototill the fertilizer and any organic matter into the soil several weeks before planting time.

In most parts of the state, broccoli should be planted late summer or early fall to allow it to mature before temperatures drop to the mid 20s.

If you are able to locate good quality transplants, set them out rather deeply — up to the first leaves — about 6 to 8 inches apart and place a protective collar (dip or margarine container with the bottom cut out) over each plant to keep the cutworms from destroying your newly planted broccoli. Make sure your soil is moist at planting time. Water the area prior to planting, if necessary. Now is also a good time to apply a water-soluble starter solution — either synthetic or compost tea. This will give the transplants a boost until the roots spread out and can utilize the nutrients you added to the soil.

Keep your broccoli well watered throughout the growing season and apply a thick layer of mulch. Broccoli is relatively shallow rooted and must be watered more often than many other garden crops.

Common Pests

Cabbage worms or loopers are the most likely pest to attack your broccoli plants. They can be controlled rather easily with one of the Bt products. Bt is a biological worm killer that is not harmful to humans or beneficial insects (with the exception of future butterflies that can be killed in their larval stage). To increase its effectiveness add a tablespoon of dish soap per gallon of spray and be sure to spray the underside of leaves where most of the worms are located.

Aphids and harlequin bugs can also be a problem on broccoli. Use an approved insecticide for control. Harlequin bugs can also be removed by hand and destroyed while soap sprays are somewhat effective against aphids.

Diseases like downy mildew and black rot can attack broccoli. That is why we recommend rotating broccoli with other non-related crops and using clean transplants. Otherwise, it may be necessary to use an approved fungicide for control.

Cold Protection

For the most part, broccoli does best when it matures during cool weather — 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit — and can handle a light freeze. But if it is growing rapidly and succulently, as it should, it is very vulnerable to temperatures in the mid 20s.

If the meteorologist predicts a severe cold snap either harvest your broccoli early or protect it with blankets or floating row cover.


When it comes to harvesting broccoli do not procrastinate. Harvest when the heads are 6 to 8 inches across and still tight. If you wait too long, the small flowers will start to open and you will have a beautiful, yellow bouquet instead of a head of broccoli. Remove the large heads carefully to avoid damaging the side shoots that will form in succeeding weeks. This second crop, if weather allows, is just as tasty as the first.

For success with broccoli remember the secret formula: optimum fertility, moisture and good growing conditions. With the help of Mother Nature, you are on your way to a bountiful crop.

Reprinted from Texas Gardener, September/October 1999.

  Orchids successful in Texas

Orchids symbolize love, beauty and refinement — and it's no surprise the sale of potted orchids has surged in recent years. This exotic bloom has become the second most popular flowering plant, after the poinsettia, sold in the United States. This comes as good news for the agriculture industry, since orchids can often provide 10 times more profits for growers, pot for pot, than the poinsettia.

Texas orchid growers in Austin, Boerne, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Houston, Galveston, Port Lavaca, Pasadena, Richardson and San Antonio produced close to half a million potted orchids in 2005.

More than 80 percent of the potted orchids on the market today are moth orchids, which naturally flower in the spring. Texas-grown moth orchids develop quickly, accept low-light conditions, can bloom for as long as 10 months and produce larger, more abundant flowers than species native to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Dr. Yin-Tung Wang, a world-renowned orchid researcher at the Texas Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, said area growers use air-conditioned greenhouses and a new technology developed in Texas to produce flowers year-round.

"Producers have growing opportunities to cultivate more orchids in Texas, where the climate is perfect for raising many types of the exotic plant," Dr. Wang said. "I'm thankful the Texas Department of Agriculture funded a research project in 2002 to improve the post-production quality of potted orchids because continued research is vital to having a sustainable and profitable orchid industry."

Reprinted from Texas Agriculture Today, a publication of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Third Quarter 2006.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

"Need 2 oz. per 5 gallons of water?" Janie Varley asks. "Use a baby bottle dedicated to whatever you are mixing. The little measurement marks on the side are great for this purpose. Dedicate one bottle per...vinegar, RoundUp, Malathion, fish emulsion." And, she says, baby bottles are quite cost effective because you can "buy them super cheap at garage sales or thrift shops!"

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener cap. Here's a chance to get published and keep your head in the shade! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Barnyard manure like cow or sheep manure can give off ammonia. When applied fresh, it can burn your plants. For best results, either incorporate it into your compost pile or store for at least six months before using.

  Upcoming Garden Events

The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their 2006 Master Gardener Class from August 2 through November 15, at Niemietz Park in Cibolo. Classes will be every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will include at least one Saturday field trip. Registration fee is $170, with $50 refunded after completion of 50 volunteer hours. For more information please contact Ross Risz, Class Coordinator, at Or you can call the Guadalupe County Extension Office at (830) 379-1972.

Dr. Larry Stein, Associate Professor and TAMU Extension Horticulturist, will give a talk on Home Fruit and Nut Production on August 9, from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. at the Carleen Bright Arboretum, 9001 Bosque Boulevard, Woodway. This event is sponsored by the McLennan County Master Gardeners. Admission is $5, and the public is invited. For more information, call (254) 754-6954 or e-mail

The Texas Bamboo Society will host the 14th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin, on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 through 27, from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Darrel DeBoer, will present a program entitled "Bamboo Architecture Around the World." The festival will also feature bamboo plants, crafts, musical instruments, poles, presentations, demonstrations and educational information about bamboo. Admission is free and parking is $3. For more information, visit or call (512) 929-9565.

The Herb Association of Texas and the Antique Rose Emporium will host A Celebration of the Herbal Harvest: A Focus on Culinary Herbs, September 22 through 23, San Antonio. The event will include a road trip, cooking classes, herbal refreshments, lectures and a vendor fair featuring locally grown herbs and related products. To register or for more information, contact Beth Patterson at (830) 257-6732 or e-mail

The Garden Conservancy will host a tour of five private gardens in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., September 23. The tour is self-guided. The conservancy will also sponsor similar tours in Galveston, October 14 and Austin, October 21. Admission to each garden is $5, no reservations required, rain or shine. For more information, visit or call toll-free (888) 842-2442.

ArtScape, September 23 and 24, 9 a.m. to 5. p.m., is the Dallas Arboretum's first ever fine art show and sale. The two-day art fair is a family-oriented event that will kick off the Dallas Blooms Autumn festival. ArtScape will feature artists from around the country, the Tour de Fleurs race, the Ultimate Tree Houses exhibit, entertainment and many exciting classes. ArtScape will complement Ultimate Tree Houses, a juried exhibit of 12 tree houses that will be on display throughout the garden. In addition, this year's event will kick off with Tour de Fleurs a 10k, 5k and 1 mile fun run. What a great way to start the weekend! For additional information, please email

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will sponsor the annual Hidden Garden Tour September 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rockport. Enjoy touring Rockport and the surrounding area and tour some of the area's private gardens plus Green Acres Demonstration gardens. Bus tours will be available for $15 and tickets must be purchased ahead. Self-guided tours are $10. A plant sale will occur at Green Acres on the day of the tour. Green Acres Demonstration gardens, located at the Aransas County Extension Office (611 E. Mimosa — behind Monroe's Furniture on Hwy 35) is the start of the tour on September 30. Maps and additional tour information for the Hidden Garden Tour can be obtained by contacting the Aransas County Extension Office at (361) 790-0103.

Castro Garden Club's "Fall Tour of Homes" in Castroville will take place October 7, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets will be available Sept 1 and can be purchased in advance by writing Castro Garden Club, P.O. Box 10, Castroville, TX 78009. Tickets will be sold the day of the tour at the Landmark Inn State Historic Site. Ticket price will include admission to the Landmark Inn State Historic Site, courtesy of The Friends of the Landmark Inn, to visit the newly renovated Gristmill. Proceeds from the tour will benefit Castro Garden Clubs special projects. Admission: $12.00 per person. For more information contact: Priscilla Garrett, (830) 931-2262; Bonnie Keller, (830) 931-2614; or Joan Menard, (210) 677-8979

The Austin Herb Society celebrates Herb Awareness Month in October with HerbFest, Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, located in the Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd., off I-290 between Brodie Lane and Westgate Blvd. No entrance fee for shoppers, free parking. For additional information, call (512) 468-9126.

The San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host the groups' annual symposium Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas, October 19 through 22, San Antonio. The symposium will feature guided tours to natural areas, seminars on native plants and a special program on cooking with native plants. For more information, contact (210) 733-0034, (830) 997-9272 or visit

The Johnson County Herb Society will hold its Herbal Thymes Show and Symposium, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cleburne Senior Center, Cleburne. The event will feature speakers, demonstrations herb plants and related products. For more information, contact Esther Chambliss at (817) 263-9322 or visit

The 2006 Annual Garden Tour in Victoria County will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 28-29, showcasing five gardens at historic homes in Old Victoria. Imagination will be fulfilled beyond garden gates with the theme “Nature’s Beauty Beyond the Gate” in fall and pre-Halloween garden settings. Highlighted garden plants will be catalogued in educational materials and for plant sale identification on the weekend of the tour. Guided tours at $18 per person are scheduled from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Sunday. Individual garden tours are $5 per garden. Workshops will be conducted on culinary cooking and holiday decorating from the garden for additional fees. For further information, contact Victoria County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581.

The Texas Gourd Society will hold its 11th annual "Show and Tell" at the Waco Convention Center, Waco, November 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The two-day show will include gourd artists, seminars, demonstrations and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 free. For more information, visit

The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 676-4326 or visit

  Fall planting featured in September/October Texas Gardener

Contributing Editor Skip Richter claims "fall is the best gardening season," and he explains why in "Planting Time: Falling for Fall."

Also in the September/October issue of Texas Gardener: An overview of plants from India that are successfully grown in Texas, why the pecan is a "great" landscape tree for Texas, and Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum Jimmy Turner's claim that "If we can't kill it in Texas, no one can."

Subscribe on-line.

  Two hats are better than one!

Let your friends and neighbors know that you are proud to be a Texas Gardener with this top-quality cap. Heavy construction, six-panel, pro-style brushed cotton twill, low-profile khaki with dark green bill and logo. Buy one cap and received a second at no additional charge.

 $17.07 (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

Missed an issue? Back issues of Texas Gardener's Seeds are available at

Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ●