Broccoli is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and produces a bountiful crop ... perfect for the novice gardener! On top of that, broccoli is one of the good guys ... he's rich in vitamins A & D and he contains lots of antioxidants which are good for fighting cancer and heart disease. Basically, you want him IN your life, not OUT OF ...
Let me show you in a quick and easy way how to grow broccoli. Now, before we start it's really important to know that raising any vegetables requires an investment of time and care. But, if you put those two things in ... then you'll end raising a strong and healthy vegetable to be proud of. Without further ado ...
Generally speaking, it can be grown in the spring to be harvested in the summer, or planted in midsummer to be harvested in autumn. Most experts will advise you to plant the seed indoors or in a nursery bed before placing it in the garden. This is because they are very vulnerable in the early stages to the weather and to nasty little slugs and snails out for a meal!
Now, in the spring they should be planted 4-6 weeks before the last frost; and for autumn it's 12-14 weeks. When they've grown to about 3 to 4 inches, you can then transplant the seedlings to the garden.
Place the seedlings 18-20 inches apart in rows, which should be 3 feet apart. It will then take, depending on the variety, anything from 45 days (the early dividend broccoli) up to 70 days (the arcadia broccoli) for your lovely broccoli to mature.
Now, let's talk about the soil ...
Broccoli likes a home that is loosened up, well-watered, and mixed with about an inch of mature compost. If the soil is not very fertile then add some high-nitrogen organic fertilizer. Make sure the pH of the soil is between 6 and 7 to encourage growth and discourage clubroot.
He absolutely loves water (who doesn't?), and prefers at least six inches of most soil. Don't water him on top of his head though, please, as this will just encourage flowers to grow, which is not what we want! Also, best to do it in the morning so he's dried off before the sun goes down.
As for food, give him regular servings of biodegradable mulch or grass cuttings to keep the soil rich and cool. He'll love ya for this!
He's got a sunny temperament ...
Simply put, he likes to top up his tan every day, so try to give him at least 5 hours of sunshine a day. He's not completely unreasonable though, and will tolerate it if you plant him in a part of the garden that receives a little shade.
He definitely likes cooler climates, and no scorching weather, please. But, he's not a big fusspot or anything ... just keep the temperature between 10 and 20 degrees C (50-70F) most of the time.
Argh!! Avoiding the big bully pests and yucky diseases
This is the most important part of growing vegetables ... protecting them. Broccoli's biggest enemies are cabbageworm and loopers - these can be picked off the leaves. Or you can spray on some BTK or Rotenone if you are short on time.
Other pests include root maggots and aphids - row covers can block out these insects. Diseases including headrot and downy mildew can be prevented by ensuring good air circulation and harvesting before the air becomes too humid.
The main thing though is to provide a nutritious, well-watered home for him ... this will enable him to grow fit and strong and fight off the pests and diseases easier. Just like us.
The result ...
After all your hard work and TLC, in a few weeks you will be rewarded with a lovely healthy broccoli. Now, the best time to pick it is when the buds are still hard and tight. Once it starts to loosen up and turn bright yellow in spots then it's starting to lose its flavor.
Cut the broccoli at an angle 5 to 6 inches down the stem. Keep watering and feeding the crop, because secondary, smaller broccoli heads will emerge over the following few weeks from the side stems.
Take the broccoli, refrigerate and eat within 5 days for best flavor. Otherwise, blanch it and freeze it - it will keep for up to 6 months.
Tip! Broccoli grows well alongside beet, carrot, celery, cucumber, lettuce, onions, potato, spinach, tomato, but not its relatives, the cabbage and the sprout (as this might lead to cross-breeding!)
Tip 2! You don't want all your broccoli to harvest at the same time. To avoid that simply grow a couple of different varieties which mature at different times.