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How to Grow Broccoli at Home

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli is a very popular and versatile vegetable.
It is the most nutritious of the commonly eaten veggies – loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, iron and fibre.

Fresh from the garden, broccoli has an unbeatable crisp, sweet flavour.
The green and purple florets are delicious tossed raw in salads, added to your favourite dish or just eaten as is.

Broccoli is productive and easy to grow at home, especially in cool climates.

Fast Facts for Growing Broccoli Successsfully

  • Broccoli is a good cool season crop, it does best in the chill of winter but can be grown all year round in cooler climates.
  • Broccoli is a heavy nitrogen feeder, so it needs lots of well-rotted manure or blood and bone while it is growing, to encourage it to continue producing florets.
  • Caterpillars aggressively attack broccoli plants and the white cabbage butterfly can also be a problem. Dipel or Pyrethrum are good organic pest controls.  You could also try planting Pyrethrum amongst your broccoli.

Broccoli Types to Try:

Large-headed varieties produce the familiar domed heads that are composed of numerous clustered florets. Many large-headed varieties produce smaller side shoots after the primary head is harvested.

Broccoli

Sprouting Varieties

Calabrese Green-Sprouting Broccoli

Calabrese Green-Sprouting Broccoli by annethelibrarian, Flickr

Grows into bushier plants that produce numerous small heads. These varieties are at their best when grown from autumn to spring in mild winter climates.

Romanesco Varieties

Romanesco Broccoli

Produce elegantly swirled heads composed of symmetrically pointed spirals. These large plants need plenty of space, excellent soil and good growing conditions to do well.

Broccoli Raab

Broccoli Raab by Lauren Marie, Photobucket

Is grown for its immature flower buds, which have a stronger flavor than regular broccoli. Broccoli raab (closely related to turnip) is popular in Asian and Italian cooking.

Always cut the heads and florets off the stem with a sharp knife and on an angle so rainwater cannot collect and rot the remaining stem.

Growing Broccoli from Seed

You can seed broccoli directly into a garden bed, or into punnets (or biodegradable pots) to be transplanted into your garden when the seedlings are bigger.

If you start your seeds indoors, you can set hardened-off seedlings outside when they’re about 4 weeks old and transplant seedlings into the garden when they are 6-7 weeks old.

When Transplanting Broccoli Seedlings 

Transplanting Seedlings

Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil.
Prepare and dig soil deeply in the autumn adding well rotted, high-nitrogen organic matter.

Space the thin seedlings 10 to 24 inches apart (depending on variety) in rows that are 30-inchs apart.
Widely spaced plants tend to produce more side shoots for an extended harvest. Plant the seedlings just slightly deeper than the soil they were originally growing in to encourage upright growth and a sturdy stem.

Broccoli is a heavy feeder, and plants take up nutrients best when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0.

It may take up to 10 weeks till you can start harvesting your broccoli crop, but you should be able to munch continually on broccoli from your garden for the following 3 months!

It is recommended that you grow broccoli in a different garden bed each year over at least a three year cycle.

With Rangiora Community Gardens being located in the cold-temperate region of NZ we can propagate and plant out broccoli seedlings all year around except Jan & Aug.

Harvesting Broccoli

Broccoli love having their heads cut off… they will grow more heads for you — tiny tasty ones. Harvest when the central main heads are still compact and darkish.

Always cut the heads and florets off the stem with a sharp knife and on an angle so rainwater cannot collect and rot the remaining stem.

Tip for Keeping Pests Away 

Broken Egg Shells by Joseph Robertson, flickr

White butterflies are territorial pests.
Once they choose their patch, they stalk it!
The butterflies recognise plants by silhouette and if they see another white butterfly they will go off to find easier pastures.

Try scattering broken eggshells under broccoli stems to act as a decoy.
Some butterflies may still land but the overall damage to your plants should be less.

 

To Grow Broccoli Successfully Remember:

  • Broccoli is a cool season crop
  • Broccoli is a heavy nitrogen feeder
  • Caterpillars aggressively attack broccoli plants, so plan accordingly!

 

Enjoy Your Gardening,

KATHY REID

Broccoli

 

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Also, tell us how you go if you are growing your first crop of broccoli at home!
What variety did you choose? Were you able to successfully keep the pests away from your broccoli?

If you are keen for more gardening tips from Kathy and the team at the Rangiora Community Gardens head over to the RCG Facebook Page.

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