Broccoli is a nutritious veg, and growing it in the garden is easy to do.
There are broccoli varieties that produce a green head with lots of florets, and there is sprouting broccoli that produces individual florets. The green, large headed broccoli is actually calabrese, although ‘broccoli’ is the name often used for both calabrese and sprouting broccoli.
Sprouting broccoli is very hardy and can be grown over the winter months, ready for harvesting in spring, and the green large headed broccoli plants are ready for harvesting in summer or autumn.
With a bit of planning, you can have a good supply of broccoli throughout the year.
Sowing Broccoli Seeds
Broccoli seeds can be sown indoors in modules, or sown thinly outside in the garden soil, any time from March to June.
Broccoli prefers a sunny position and a free-draining but moist, fertile soil. Before planting, add some nutrient-rich matter such as garden compost or well-rotted manure to the soil.
If sown indoors, broccoli seedlings have grown to approximately six inches can be planted outside. They should be spaced at 18 inches apart to allow room for them to mature.
Tread the soil well before planting. Broccoli, like all brassicas, grow better in a firm soil.
Caring for Broccoli Plants
Keep broccoli plants well watered in dry weather.
Shelter from wind where possible. If the broccoli plants move too much in the wind, it can damage the stems and roots.
Birds like to eat broccoli leaves and stems. If you have a problem with birds eating crops in your garden, cover plants with framework of mesh netting or use horticultural fleece to protect crops.
Cabbage White butterflies are a problem for all brassicas. A fine mesh net will help prevent them from laying lots of eggs on the broccoli plants. Remove all caterpillars you see.
Cabbage Root Fly is also a problem for broccoli plants. The larvae eat into the roots, causing the plant to wilt and have poor growth. Protect seedlings with a horticultural fleece until they are established.
Harvest broccoli when the heads are firm. The central head is the first one ready to be picked. On some varieties, the heads on the surrounding stems will continue to grow and you should continue to get a crop for two or three weeks.
For sprouting broccoli varieties, avoid harvesting all of the spears. Leaving some on the plant will encourage new spears to grow, giving you a more productive plant.