How to Grow Broccoli

Gardeners Guide to Growing Broccoli

Shop for Broccoli Seeds

Brassica oleracea

Partial Shade       Soil pH 6.0-7.5



Broccoli is an excellent plant for home gardens. Fresh broccoli heads have a high mineral and vitamin content. You can harvest multiple cuttings from each plant in a single season. Broccoli ,Chinese broccoli and raab are all rapidly growing, and produce small, tender flowering shoots that are also edible flower buds, stems, leaves, the whole nine yards.

Planting

Broccoli does okay in full sun, but partial shade will help prevent plants from going to seed in the event of a warm spell. Rich, well-drained soil, with plenty of compost is also advisable.

Spring Planting

Broccoli can be started indoors 5 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date. Seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once they are about 5 weeks old, they should be "hardened off" or acclimated to the outdoor environment first for slightly less than a week.

In warm regions, planting broccoli in the spring is not a good idea. Cool days and nights are vital once the flower heads begin to form, spring planting in the incorrect zone has this stage of the plants development coinciding with the dog days of summer.

Fall Planting

In warm regions with mild winters, start seeds indoors in late summer and transplant them outdoors in the autumn for a winter harvest. Most broccoli will be harvestable in 60 to 75 days from transplants, up to 100 days if grown from seed.

Multiple Plantings

In some areas you can harvest spring and fall crops, so long as you time your plantings properly. A quickly maturing variety is suitable for a spring crop and in warmer and temperate areas without deep freezes, a third crop is feasible by planting a slow-maturing variety towards mid to late Autumn.

Maturity dates have a wide range from variety to variety, so try to pick a cultivar that will mature before the weather in your area gets too hot.

 






Starting your own seedlings ? Sow your spring crop indoors about 5 -6 weeks before the last expected frost date -See Frost Dates. Seeds should begin to germinate in less than a week.

After the seeds germinate, place the seedlings in their original containers in a sunny area or under Grow Lights and try to keep the temperature around 60 to 65F.

Keep the soil moist but not soaked. To avoid premature heading, make sure seedlings are the proper size before transplanting them into the outside garden, 5 -6 inches tall, with 2 to 4 true leaves. Before transplanting, harden them off for at least a week. Set the young plants 1 to 2 inches deeper in the garden than they were in their pots or flats. Space them up  to 2 feet apart in rows 2 to 3 feet apart, some varieties differ so consult the seed packet. Tighter spacing produces smaller heads.


Protecting seedlings and young plants from high and low temperatures is vital for a successful crop. A prolonged period of cold nights or very warm days - 50 to 60F range will produce tiny, immature heads known as buttons. Protecting broccoli plants with Cloches or row covers during cool weather is a good idea. Unexpected warm spells can also cause the heads to open prematurely.

For Autumn plantings, you can also start seedlings indoors or sow seeds directly in the ground in mid to late summer. In mild-winter climates, plant in the late fall for a spring harvest.

Producing the best broccoli requires steady growth. Two to three weeks after transplanting, side-dress with blood meal or fish emulsionfish emulsion fertilizer, and water deeply. Repeat this monthly until about week prior to harvest. This practice will also promote the growth of large and tender side shoots, which you can harvest until hot weather or a heavy ground freeze. Broccoli is a heavy feeder, and plants take up nutrients best when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5. Getting large and more tender heads on broccoli also calls for a nitrogen rich fertilizer

Weed vigorously, a light mulch wouldn't hurt either, keep the soil loose. When daytime temperatures exceed 70F, lay down a heavy layer of organic mulch to keep the soil cool and retain moisture. Broccoli needs an inch to 1 inches of water weekly. A lack of water results in tough unpalatable stems, be sure to the soak plants well during dry weather. A fall crop of broccoli needs slightly less water.

Companion Planting

Potatoes, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, thyme, mint, pennyroyal, rosemary, lavender, beets, onions are all good companions of Broccoli.

Try to avoid Rue and Strawberry, either in proximity or succession with Broccoli. Also See Companion Planting


Problems

Broccoli is not affected by pests as much as some of its brassica relatives. Pests include aphids, Cabbage Worms and Related Worms , cabbage maggots, cutworms, and flea beetles.

Occasional pests include Slugs, Mites, and Harlequin bugs.

Worms such as cabbage loopers and cabbage worms often go undetected on harvested heads and can end up in cooked broccoli, good protein - yum {yuck}.

To prevent this, force worms out by soaking the heads in warm water with a small amount of vinegar for about 15 minutes before cooking, wash them before putting in the pot to remove the slight vinegar taste.


Diseases are also not a major problem.


Black leg which produces dark spots on the leaves and stems. Black rot can be diagnosed by yellowing leaves and dark, foul-smelling veins. Good cultivation and proper crop rotation is the best defnse.

Club root, appears as weak, yellowing plants with deformed roots, destroy any infected plants, DO NOT put them in the compost. Plant your next crop far away from the same part of the garden, before planting, boost soil pH to about 7.0. also See Soil pH

Leaf spot appear as enlarging, water-soaked spots that turn brown or reddish gray. Destroy plants afflicted with leaf spot to prevent it from spreading.

Fusarium wilt, aka yellows, causes the bottom leaves to turn yellow and drop off and stunts broccoli heads as well as making them bitter. Destroy plants afflicted with Fusarium wilt to prevent it from spreading.

Harvesting: Harvest before the plant begins to flower and turns yellow. Cut directly below the point where the stems start to separate. Once youve harvested the main head, tender side shoots will begin to appear. Keep cutting, and broccoli will keep producing until the season turns too hot or cold as the case may be. Broccoli is best fresh and steamed in my opinion, but it can also be canned, frozen, or even pickled. It can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.



Broccoli Varieties

Large-headed varieties produce the common dome shaped heads that are composed of clustered florets. Most large-headed varieties also produce small side shoots after the primary head has been harvested.

Sprouting varieties grow into bushier plants that produce multiple small heads. These varieties are at their best if grown from fall to spring in milder climates.

Broccoli raab, grown for its immature flower buds, has a much stronger flavor than regular broccoli. Broccoli raab which is related to turnips is popular in Chinese and Italian dishes.

Romanesco varieties produce artistically swirled heads composed of pointed spirals. These large plants need much more space than standard varieties, as well as well maintained soil and excellent growing conditions to fair well, not recommended for novice gardeners.


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