August is a great time to start preparing your garden for fall vegetables, says LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot. And you can start with broccoli and carrots.
Begin by removing any weeds and old spring plants, then loosen the soil and mound it into rows for planting.
Broccoli is a relatively easy and fun crop to grow in the fall. If you purchase broccoli seed, you’ll need to start it in container about five weeks before you want to plant it in the garden. The seedlings can be grown outdoors as long as you remember to water them daily.
There is no need for a greenhouse or any other specialized building to start any of the cole crops — broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower.
Broccoli plants — started from your seeds or purchased at a garden center — can be planted late August through early October in south Louisiana.
Be sure to space plants at least 12 inches apart, but 18 inches apart is ideal, Fontenot says. And fertilize your soil according to soil test results.
Fontenot offers this tip to help increase the size of side shoots: The day you cut off your main broccoli head, fertilize the plant with calcium nitrate or a similar nitrogen source at a rate of about 1 tablespoon per plant and water it in immediately.
By doing this and not cutting the main stem too long, you’ll produce nice-sized 3-inch-or-so side shoots.
Broccoli varieties that have done remarkably well in LSU AgCenter trials include Green Magic, Castle Dome, Everest and Packman.
“Carrots are a really fun crop to grow with kids,” Fontenot says. “They’ll enjoy pretending to be Bugs Bunny if you let them eat the roots with the tops on.”
Carrot seed should be directly planted into the garden. Most varieties actually require a little bit of sunlight to germinate, so it’s best to prepare your row or garden bed, then sprinkle seeds on top of the soil and simply tamp them into the ground.
“Do not bury the seeds,” Fontenot says.
Water with a fine-mist nozzle to prevent the seeds from running to the sides. Thin carrots to 2 inches apart as they begin to emerge.
You can harvest carrots when you see just a little bit of color pushing up from the soil. Most varieties need between 45 and 60 days from seed to harvest.
“Try several different varieties,” Fontenot says.
Purple haze is red on the outside and orange on the inside and does well in Louisiana. Maverick and Danvers are great orange carrots.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.