To get those fully-grown lushes heads of broccoli you see in the store right from your back yard, follow these expert tips to find out when and how to grow Broccoli.
Tips when growing Broccoli:
Always plant Broccoli after the worst heat and before severe cold.
Broccoli is known as a long crop and needs the cold to develop good firm heads.
A sunny spot and fertile well drained soil are a must for healthy Broccoli.
Enough water is vital foe strong firm Broccoli heads.
Feed regularly throughout the growing season.
Harvest at the right time for flavorful pickings.
When to plant and grow Broccoli?
Planting broccoli at the right time is critically important if you want healthy strong productive plants.
Broccoli hates the heat and like most of the brassicas like Brussel sprouts and cabbage, Broccoli loves to grow in cooler temperatures and thus must be planted at cooler times of the year.
Plant broccoli too soon and your seedlings suffer from the heat, Plant too late and the frost kills off your babies before they are strong enough to face the cold.
As with most vegetable gardening knowing your climate and environment well will always get you leaps ahead.
In South Africa the best time to sow and plant broccoli is in late February and early March, depending on your micro environment this should allow your plants enough time to harden off before winter and avoid the worst of the February heat.
Broccoli seedlings or already grown plantlets can be planted out up to mid-April in South Africa.
How to grow Broccoli in pots or containers
Broccoli does perform in containers, but this tends to take up allot of space for a small harvest. To Grow Broccoli n containers, you need large deep containers with ample space for root development and moisture retention. A 30 -40 cm pot in diameter is suitable for a single Broccoli plant.
Never let your container dry out and make sure to feed the plant regularly, in containers nutrients leach quicker and water evaporates faster. Feed your containerised Broccoli as indicated above and make sure there is ample air movement around the plant to avoid diseases.
How to grow Broccoli
Soil is key when growing Broccoli
Broccoli is known to suffer from various nutrient and other deficiencies which could distort the leaves and encourage pest infestations. To grow healthy broccoli, it is vital that your soil is tremendously fertile. Add well-rotted manure or compost to your soil mixture before planting a good organic vegetable fertiliser like Vita-Veg (6:3:4) from Talborne organics is always a good idea.
Remember that broccoli doesn’t like Acidic soil so keep your soil pH between 5 and 7 for the best results.
Broccoli really needs good drainage so make you make space for this.
Sowing and planting Broccoli
Sow Broccoli seeds in trays and keep them well watered after sowing. Plant plantlets out as soon as they are large enough to comfortably handle. Typically, after 6 weeks. Space plants an average of 50 cm apart. Always water plants well after planting. Always plant Broccoli in a sunny spot where they get at least 6 hours of sun a day.
Mulch around your Broccoli plants will ensure favorable soil temperatures and keep them nice and moist. When water Broccoli make sure to water the plants deeply and around the base of the plant. Avoid getting water on the heads of your plants, this will attract pests. Half way trough their growing season fertilise your Broccoli with a Nitrogen rich fertiliser to encourage healthy growth. A final top dressing with compost when your Broccoli heads are about 3 cm in diameter goes a long way in the final development of the heads.
When is broccoli ready to be picked or harvested?
Broccoli produces one large head for every plant. This will typically be ready around 75 days after sowing. Remove the head before the plant goes into flowering, the head will be nice and firm and should form tight clusters. Cut the head of at a 45 degree angle with 15 cm of the main stem attached. Smaller heads will form beneath the cut, remove these weekly to encourage more of them.
These tried and tested tips are bound to set you in the right direction for growing some lush healthy heads of Broccoli right in your back yard.