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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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For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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