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Gardening: Gardeners' Questions On Fall Crops
by Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture
Area gardeners are already harvesting broccoli which does well in the Upper Gulf Coast area. The heads of broccoli should be harvested when individual buds of broccoli are match-head size and distinct in appearance.
Q. What is the difference between onion sets and onion transplants?
A. Although many Texas gardeners use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference. An onion "set" is actually a small bulb, generally one-half to one inch in diameter. An onion set is produced under conditions which caused young onion plants to rapidly make a small bulb which, when planted in the garden, will produce a larger bulb.
An onion transplant is an onion plant typically ranging from 8-to-10 weeks old which has not gone through the bulbing process and, if planted at the right time, will produce a large bulb. November is an excellent time to plant transplants of the 1015Y onion variety. and many area garden supply outlets have these onions in stock.
Q. This is the first year I have grown broccoli and I cannot determine when it is ready to harvest. How will I know?
A. Generally, when individual buds of broccoli are match-head size and distinct (loose) in appearance, the head is as large as it is going to get. After growing a certain variety for several seasons you will soon know the potential size for heads of that variety. The size of the head produced depends on variety, season and fertilization.
Q. Are broccoli leaves good to eat?
A. Yes. As a matter of fact, most people would have a hard time distinguishing between the young leaves of broccoli and those of collard greens. Harvest and prepare only young and tender leaves as older leaves of broccoli become tough and often develop a somewhat bitter or off-taste. However, excessive harvesting of leaves can reduce yields.
Q. Are ornamental cabbages or kales edible?
A. There are certain varieties of cabbage and kale that produce decorative, non-heading plants with green or purple leaves and colorful white, cream, pink, red or purple interleaves. These are sold as "flowering cabbage" and can be attractively used as edging or for low, colorful accent plants in flower beds.
Ornamental cabbage, like other members of the kale crop family, does best when it matures under cool weather conditions. While the leaves are edible, they are rather tough and strong in flavor.
Q. What causes my turnips greens to often have a bitter and pungent taste?
A. Conditions which result in slow growth or stress of a turnip plant will often cause the leaves to have a bitter or off-flavor. This condition is most prevalent when turnip greens mature under relatively high temperatures in combination with unfavorable growing conditions such as low soil fertility or low soil moisture.
Q. What causes the bulbs of radishes to crack?
A. This is usually a matter of waiting too long before harvesting the radishes. Cracking can also be caused by excessive fluctuations in soil moisture (especially when turnips are near maturity) which causes the mature bulb to swell and crack. Since the seeding to harvest period is rather short for radishes, it is important to maintain adequate and even soil moisture conditions throughout the growing period.
Q. Last fall, some heads of my cabbages split after reaching maturity. What can I do to prevent this from happening to my cabbages this fall?
A. Once cabbage heads are fully solid and mature, they may split after a heavy rain because of the force exerted by higher internal water pressure brought on after plant roots absorb an excessive amount of water. To delay this splitting for several days or weeks, simply pull the plant upward until a few of the roots break. This procedure, called "lifting," cuts down on the amount of water entering the plant and reduces splitting. Be sure the cabbage is fully mature before practicing this operation. As with radishes, maintaining even soil moisture conditions will also help reduce splitting.
Q. I grew gourds this fall which I want to prepare for decorating. How should I go about this?
A. Wash mature fruits in warm, mildly soapy water and then thoroughly rinse and dry. A small amount of a household bleach added to the rinse water can reduce problems with decay organisms. Lay the gourds on several layers of newspaper in a dry area to remove surface moisture. Do not dry in direct sunlight as gourds can lose some of their color.
It is best to use fully mature gourds as immature specimens of some species may take several months to dry completely. Keeping gourds cooler than 65 degrees F. during the drying and curing process will help retard shriveling. Sanding and scraping the surface of some gourds improves drying and enhances their appearance.
Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
League City Area News Online.
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