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What's California's favorite winter veggie to grow?

Broccoli is top pick, according to internet searches

In the past five years, California gardeners searched “how to grow broccoli" more than any other cool-season crop. This broccoli grew at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, which will be open Saturday so gardeners can ask "how to grow" questions in person.

In the past five years, California gardeners searched “how to grow broccoli" more than any other cool-season crop. This broccoli grew at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, which will be open Saturday so gardeners can ask "how to grow" questions in person.

Kathy Morrison

What’s the most popular winter vegetable to grow in California? If you judge by internet searches, it’s broccoli in a green wave.

That’s the conclusion of researchers at, who scoured five years of Google Trends data to come up with a list of state-by-state winter favorites. (Their key phrase: “How to grow.”)

California gardeners searched “how to grow” broccoli more than any other cool-season crop. That was also the top search for seven other states including Michigan, Georgia and West Virginia.

No. 1 overall was garlic, say the researchers. That crop was the top search in 12 states from Hawaii to New York. (Considering garlic needs some chill to set solid heads, Hawaiian gardeners may have searched, “Can I grow garlic?” not just “how.”)

In third place were onions, the favorite search of seven states led by Texas and Oklahoma. With six states ranging from Florida to Colorado, lettuce edged out carrots, which was the top search in five states (including Nevada).

Four vegetables – radishes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and collard greens – were picked by two states apiece. Interestingly, the states doing the searching may be because those winter crops were more challenging for those gardeners. Radishes, for example, were the top search in Idaho and Kansas, two states that tend to get too cold for frost-tender radishes to thrive. Collard greens were tops in Minnesota and Massachusetts, two states not necessarily linked to this staple of Southern cooking.

Four vegetables were tops in just one state: Spinach (Wisconsin), beets (Utah), peas (Arkansas) and cabbage (South Carolina).

As for would-be broccoli growers in California, had this advice: Start indoors and transplant as summer’s heat starts to fade (we hope soon). From seed, broccoli needs 85 to 100 days to mature to a full-size head. Prolong broccoli season by cutting off the main head when ready, then harvest side shoots as they mature.

According to UC master gardeners, the best broccoli varieties to grow depends on what you want.

“Opt for varieties such as 'Calabrese', 'Green Comet' and 'De Cicco' for up to three months of extended harvest of side shoots; or choose 'Green Comet' and 'Green Magic' for large heads,” say the master gardeners. “Plant 'Cruiser' and 'Packman' for fast growth to maturity.”

California farmers produce a lot of broccoli each winter with about 40% of the crop grown in Monterey County, where they enjoy the most days of perfect broccoli weather – 60 to 65 degrees.

Central Valley farmers grow varieties that are more heat and cold hardy. In the San Joaquin Valley (another major broccoli-growing area), top cultivars include Avenger, Expo, Green Magic, Legacy, Marathon, Monte Carlo and Tradition.

For more tips on growing broccoli:



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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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