Bolting Broccoli: Growing Broccoli In Hot Weather
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By: Heather Rhoades
Broccoli is a cold weather crop, meaning that it grows best in soil with temperatures between 65 F. and 75 F. (18-24 C.). Warmer than that, and the broccoli will bolt, or go to flower. But many gardeners only have a short window available to them where the temperatures are within that range. An average gardener must contend with temperatures that rise quickly and stay well above the ideal 65 – 75 F. (18-24 C.) range, but there are things you can do to prevent bolting broccoli. Let’s take a look at the best way to grow broccoli in hot weather.
Hot Weather Effect on Broccoli
When broccoli gets too hot, it will bolt or start to flower. Contrary to popular belief, hot weather will not cause bolting broccoli. What actually causes bolting broccoli is hot soil.
Tips for Growing Broccoli in Hot Weather
The best way to prevent broccoli flowers from appearing too early is to keep the soil the broccoli is planted in cool.
The best way to grow broccoli if you expect hot weather is to make sure that the broccoli plant is well mulched. The hot weather effect on broccoli will only happen if the heat gets to the roots. A thick layer of mulch will help keep the roots cool and prevent the broccoli from bolting.
Another tip for growing broccoli in hot weather is to water frequently. The cool water will help keep the soil cool as well and will stop bolting broccoli.
Keeping the direct sun from the plants and soil is another way to prevent broccoli flowers and keep the ground cool. Row covers are frequently used to keep cold weather crops producing longer.
An excellent way how to prevent broccoli flowers is to harvest early and frequently. Broccoli is a cut and come again vegetable. When you cut the main head, other smaller heads will grow. The side heads will take a little longer to bolt.
The hot weather effect on broccoli cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed. Growing broccoli in hot weather requires a little extra effort to get a good harvest, but it can be done. The best way to grow broccoli in hot weather is to keep the hot weather from getting to the broccoli roots.
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How to Grow Broccoli
Learn how to grow broccoli that will make even the pickiest eaters want more. Growing broccoli can be tricky depending on your climate, but we show you how to plant broccoli to help ensure success.
Broccoli grows best in cool spring and fall temperatures. It is one of the cole crops, the family of Brassica oleracea that includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.
Warm climates may get three harvests of broccoli by planting fast-maturing types in spring, fall, and winter.
In regions with spring and fall frosts, time the plantings so you put broccoli plants in the ground in early spring and early fall. Some varieties have been bred for heat tolerance and grow through the summer, but most grow best when temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F.
If you plant too early in the spring and broccoli plants are exposed to 30-degree nights and 50-degree days, the broccoli may think it's about to die and start prematurely producing tiny florets. This condition is called buttoning, which sounds cute, but the plants never produce larger heads.
Don't be surprised if your broccoli heads don't reach the same large size as the ones you buy in the supermarket. Because you're picking the heads fresh and small, the broccoli should be very tender.
How do you keep kale from bolting?
QUESTION: It gets warm where I live in the summer. How do you keep kale from bolting? – Tina K.
ANSWER: If your kale plant is bolting early, there is not a lot that you can do to stop the process. However, if you nip the flower head off, the plant will most likely develop more flowering side shoots that you can harvest and eat them like you would sprouting broccoli. Both the flowerheads and the unopened buds are quite tasty. Harvest and eat up all the young leaves while you can and make the most out of your kale plant even though it has started bolting. You might even decide that you like eating the flowerheads more than regular kale leaves. However, even if you do develop a fondness for kale flowers, you will still want to avoid letting future plants flower, as flowering kale has a much less impressive nutrient structure than traditional kale.
To prevent kale plants from early bolting in future growing seasons, get your kale plants in the ground a few weeks early by starting your plants in early spring for a late spring harvest or in late summer for a fall harvest. Kale likes to switch into flower mode when soil temperatures get too high, so adding mulch and groundcover to the area will help keep the soil cool and help with moisture retention. In addition to mulch, watering regularly and keeping the soil consistently moist will also prevent the soil from getting too hot.
Kale plants will bolt naturally in their second year shortly after the winter ends and warm weather returns. When you start to see signs of bolting, act quickly and harvest the leaves one last time before it’s too late. As the weather warms up, keep an eye on the central stalk for signs of bolting. Signs include the stalk quickly shooting up taller, leaves beginning to branch out from the stalk a good distance above the cluster, and the central stalk shooting up well above the cluster of leaves at its base. All of these signs mean that your kale is about to go to seed.
When kale begins to bolt, the leaves become more tough and bitter, and suffer a diminished nutrient count. If you think your kale is bolting, pick the leaves immediately, before they have before they begin to change texture and flavor. Lightly massaging the leaves can help restore some of the sweetness that might have been lost. Even after the leaves have turned bitter, the flowers the plant produces are pretty tasty, and can be eaten like you would broccoli florets.
If you end up with more leaves than you can use in one meal, toss them into a plastic bag and store them in the dehumidifier drawer of your refrigerator. They will keep them for about a week stored in this way. You can easily make kale chips for snacking by taking the chip-sized leaves, seasoning them, and quickly broiling them in your oven for only a few minutes until they are nice and crispy.
If you have a large amount of kale, you can dry it in a dehydrator or your oven to preserve it for longer and keep it as chunks to add to your dishes, crumble a bit as a garnish or to flavor your dishes, or crush it into a powder to season your dishes or to add to smoothies.
Harvest & Storage
Broccoli is ready to harvest 50 to 90 days after transplanting, depending on the variety. Harvest broccoli when the main head is 3 to 6 inches in diameter, and the flower buds are still tightly closed. Cut the main stem about 6 inches below the top of the head. Some varieties produce many secondary florets in the axils of the stems after the main head has been harvested. Store in perforated plastic bags for up to a week in the refrigerator and freeze any surplus.
I hope your broccoli growing journey won’t be the same after reading this article.
My last advice would be to bookmark this resource or save it on Pinterest so that you can always refer to it.
There’s so much information included ranging from how to choose the best broccoli variety, deciding the potting mix, propagation, fertilizer application, physiological disorders, and their management.
It is, therefore, impractical to grasp everything in one read.
All the same, I hope you’ve found these 13 tips for broccoli growing helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments and happy gardening!