How to grow Broccoli

How to grow Broccoli - Description

  • Broccoli is a rewarding vegetable to grow and is best planted in soil rich with organic matter. 
  • Broccoli seed should be sown early in spring so the heads mature before hot weather. 
  • Broccoli is high in Vitamins A and C and is also considered to be a cancer-fighting food. 
  • For best flavour, cook broccoli only until tender/crips or use raw with dips or in salads. 
  • Broccoli freezes very well, maintaining its color, texture and taste. 
  • Broccoli develops best during cool seasons of the year.
  • When broccoli plants of most varieties are properly grown and harvested, they can yield over an extended period. 
  • Side heads develop after the large, central head is removed. 
  • Two crops per year (spring and autumn) may be grown in most parts of the country. 
  • New heat tolerant varieties allow broccoli to be produced in all but the hottest parts of the season.

How to grow Broccoli - Crop Rotation

  • Broccoli is a member of the Cabbage Family, and it is recommended that it should not be grown in the same soil as other family members, the brassica genus, for at least three years.
  • Ideally, as it is a heavy eater, broccoli should follow a crop of  the Bean Family, to take advantage of the nitrogen they fix into the soil.

How to grow Broccoli - Site and Soil

  • Choose a site that has good drainage and air circulation, gets full sun or light shade.
  • Because broccoli grows about three feet tall, choose a site where the plants won't shade other crops.

How to grow Broccoli - Soil Preparation

  • Plant broccoli in soil to which you've added plenty of compost or well-rotted manure. 
  • The plants perform best in soil with a neutral pH of 7.0, but they'll do fine with anything between 6.2 and 7.2.

How to grow Broccoli - Sowing Seed

Spring sowing

Sowing seeds indoors

  • Transplants are recommended to give the best start for spring planting, because transplanting gets the plants established more quickly. Thus they can bear their crop with minimal interference from the extreme heat of early summer. 
  • Start the growing season by sowing seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. 
  • Transplant after 4-6 weeks. Use a starter fertilizer, soaking the root ball thoroughly prior to transplanting. 

Sowing seeds outdoors

  • If you prefer you can direct seed broccoli in late spring, as seedlings can tolerate a light frost. 

Autumn sowing

  • Autumn crops may be direct-seeded in the growing bed if space allows or may be started in seed trays (flats) to replace early crops when their harvest ends.

How to grow Broccoli - Planting Out

  • Broccoli needs lots of nutrients. A general rule for fertilization of the plants when growing broccoli would be to apply a general fertilizer to the soil before planting out broccoli seedlings.
  • Put hardened-off seedlings into the ground about two weeks before the last frost, setting them into the soil up to their first true leaves and about 50 cm (18 inches apart), making sure that rows are 1 metre (3 feet) apart.

How to grow Broccoli - Companion Planting

  • Bush bean, beet, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, dill, lettuce, onion family, potato, spinach, tomato. 

How to grow Broccoli - Cultivation

  • Add a topdressing of compost or well-rotted manure when the central head is about an inch across to give the new plants a nutritional boost.
  • Keep the soil moist. If rainfall is scant, give the plants one to two inches of water each week.
  • Mulch to retain moisture and deter weeds, and cover the plants with floating row covers to protect them from the cold and discourage insect marauders. 
  • A paper collar around each plant, at soil level, will help foil cutworms.
  • Broccoli is a heavy feeder and will also benefit from applications of Boron, calcium and magnesium, particularly during the early stages of growth. Hollow stem in broccoli is related to boron deficiency. 

How to grow Broccoli - Harvesting

  • Start picking broccoli as soon as the heads are big enough to use. 
  • Be sure to harvest all the flower stalks before you see any sign of yellow: it means the tiny buds are beginning to open.
  • The edible part of broccoli are compact clusters of unopened flower buds and the attached portion of stem. 
  • The green buds develop first in one large central head and later in several smaller side shoots. 
  • Cut the central head with 5 to 6 inches of stem, after the head is fully developed, but before it begins to loosen and separate and the individual flowers start to open (show bright yellow). 
  • Removing the central head stimulates the side shoots to develop for later pickings. 
  • These side shoots grow from the axils of the lower leaves. 
  • You usually can continue to harvest broccoli for several weeks.

How to grow Broccoli - Storing and Preserving

  • Store the broccoli, unwashed, in loose or perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. 
  • Broccoli, if left unrefrigerated, quickly becomes fibrous and woody. 
  • Wet broccoli quickly becomes limp and mouldy in the refrigerator—so wash it just before using. 
  • Store fresh broccoli in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. 
  • Old broccoli may look fine, but it develops strong undesirable flavors. 
  • It tastes best and is highest in nutritional value when storage time is brief.

How to grow Broccoli - Pests and Diseases

  • Use close mesh netting to block out Cabbage White butterflys from laying their eggs on the foliage. 
  • Maintaining a soil pH of 6.8 and higher will discourage club root. 
  • Fungal and bacteria diseases such as head rot and downy mildew can be prevented by allowing good air circulation and avoiding a mid August maturity when the air humidity is higher. 
  • Strong healthy broccoli plants growing in an organically rich soil will be better able to fight disease.