I've been working toward earning my Vegetable Specialist Certification by conducting a bio intensity study of broccoli and cabbage. Silly me! When the chips were down and it really mattered, I decided to try a new-to-me variety called Southern Acclimation instead of a tried and true variety like Packman or Marathon. Oh why, oh why did I do this? I should really know better, but the seed packet enticed me by promising excellent growth in a southern winter. I live in the south! What could go wrong?
Things started out normally. My seedlings had a good rate of germination and were strong.
When I planted the seedlings in the garden, I was proud of my accomplishment and excited by the possibilities for the future harvest.
I noticed early that only a small number of plants had the grayish, green foliage that is common to broccoli, but the majority of the plants had a lighter green foliage with very striking white veining. Since I've never grown Southern Acclimation, I assumed this coloration was unique to the variety.
I didn't panic right away. We had a very early hard freeze back in November 2014, so I figured this strange foliage was somehow related to the cold or to the variety. But then, the broccoli started to appear and it was small and unappetizing.
After the initial harvest of a strange broccoli head, the side shoots seemed even stranger.
If that wasn't enough to make me wonder what the heck was going on, I noticed some broccoli that was developing like cabbage. At first I thought I had intermixed the plants, but then the plant opened up showing broccoli-like shoots inside. Singular indeed.
Fortunately, there is a bright side to this story. The cabbage has done very well. I'm growing a variety that I have prior experience with called Early Jersey Wakefield. The plants have been producing heads ranging from 2 to 4 pounds. The only catch is that the heads have all been pointy. I think this is related to the early freeze, but since the heads are tight and tasty, I'm not going to complain. (Update: Conical heads are normal for the variety Early Jersey Wakefield.)
The first bed containing 12 cabbages has been completely harvested, leaving the beds with 24 plants and 48 plants (shown below). What I've noticed is that though the plants are crowded, they seem to take advantage of space in the rows and the extra space that results from the removal of plants at harvest time. Since I don't want to harvest all my cabbages at the same time, I think this acceptable.
Will all this craziness affect my project and ruin my chances to be certified? Probably not. I definitely learned some valuable lessons and I'll be able to document my findings using the cabbage. What can I say? That's life in the garden. Sometimes cabbage saves the day!