Late last summer I decided to take on an ambitious balcony garden goal: broccoli. Broccoli is a vegetable in the brassica family and requires heavy nutrition from the soil. I told myself, no problem. I'll remember to fertilize it. Through the winter.
I didn't. I checked on it through the 2-3 light snowstorms that are expected in the Nashville area. It was still alive. It wasn't growing but it wasn't dead. Good.
Earlier this spring I had a glimmer of hope that its survival through the winter would pay off. It looked like itty bitty florets were forming that could become the head of broccoli. I pruned it back, but after a week or two of neglect, it was already flowering.
Yes. Broccoli is a plant, and most plants follow a familiar life cycle. The edible part of broccoli we buy in the store is a head of flower pods before they blossom. Amazing.
My broccoli heads were scattered and thin, nowhere close to what a tightly packed cluster of broccoli looks like fully matured. Unfortunately, probably due to poor soil health on my end my plant survived the winter, but I didn't get it where it needed to be to produce anything substantial.
Once a plant flowers (or bolts, or goes to seed) it's often at the end of its productive life (fruiting plants are different). This applies especially to window-sill herbs and plants like basil or lettuce. For plants that get eaten before flowering, pinch off flower buds before they go too far to keep the plant growing.
It wasn't all lost. I enjoyed broccoli flowers on my countertop that lasted a couple of weeks. I was surprised by their sunny disposition and paper-like crinkle texture.
I let the broccoli plant die. Its lifespan was almost a year, and in the end, all it had to give were a handful of pretty flowers. I might try again later this summer, but it served as a reminder to me that even though I thought the goal was to produce homegrown broccoli, maybe it was enough to let it live out its lifecycle. It's okay if some plants exist just bring flowers.