Broccoli stands out with its distinct green flower head, and is a delicious vegetable that is easy to grow.
Basic broccoli facts
Name – Brassica oleracea var. italica
Family – Brassicaceae
Type – biennial vegetable
Exposure – full sun
Soil – cool, deep, moist and rich
Harvest – all year round depending on the variety
Growing, sowing, planting and harvesting, here is how to produce magnificent broccoli cabbage.
Sowing and planting broccoli
The best way to grow broccoli is simply to sow it in soil that contains compost, manure, or some type of manure and seaweed-like conditioner. Such soil fertilizing must take place several weeks before sowing.
Before sowing, till the ground deeply to break it up well.
- The first broccoli cabbage of the season, called early broccoli, can be sown in a sheltered place as early as March, for a harvest from August to September.
- For direct sowing, though, wait for the last frost spells to have subsided, which means planting in May or June.
- Broadcast seeds over the growing bed and bury the seeds into the surface.
- Press down lightly and water using a gentle spray.
- Thin down to one plant every 4 inches (10 cm) once the broccoli have formed a couple leaves.
Planting broccoli purchased in nursery pots
If you haven’t had the time to sow your own broccoli, purchase young plants that are ready for planting.
If you have sown in a sheltered place, you must transplant the broccoli to their growing bed.
The first broccoli plants for sale usually appear at the end of spring, but mid-May is when planting outdoors is truly possible.
- The ideal planting season is the beginning of summer.
- Leave vacant space more or less 2 feet (60 cm) around each plant.
After sowing, how to care for broccoli
As soon as seedlings have sprouted at least 3 to 4 leaves, transplant them to their target location. Protect the seedlings if you need to plant them before the month of May.
- Transplant your broccoli seedlings spacing them 16 inches (40 cm) apart.
This space is needed to give the plants room to grow.
- The soil must have been well tilled beforehand.
- Water your broccoli regularly but not abundantly, with a fine drizzle, just so that the soil remains constantly moist.
To develop well, broccoli require regular watering to keep the soil moist.
- Water without getting leaves wet to avoid fungus.
- Mulch the base of your broccoli for the soil to retain its moisture.
- Run the hoe often around your plants, this removes weeds and breaks up the soil to let water seep in.
Broccoli in winter
If winters are mild in your climate, you can leave them outdoors with a light cover such as a small plastic tunnel greenhouse.
However, if it freezes deeply in winter, you should pull out your broccoli with its clump and plant it indoors.
At the end of winter, you can transplant them back outdoors.
Parasites and diseases that attack broccoli
The main enemy of broccoli is downy mildew. Moisture is the primary factor that enables the spread of downy mildew.
- Avoid watering the leaves of your broccoli plants.
- Don’t overcrowd plants so that air circulates well among the leaves.
- Here is our advice on how to treat downy mildew.
Note that broccoli is also the target of aphids and, of course, caterpillars. A species that is very common (even appearing in the Americas and Australia) is a white butterfly called Pieris brassicae.
For these two parasites, avoid chemical treatments at any cost, because your vegetables and soil might retain some of the toxins.
How to harvest broccoli
- Harvest your broccoli before the flowers bloom (the surface starts turning yellow).
- Cut just about 2 inches (5 cm) below the head, to let your broccoli grow on.
- Leave the broccoli stems in place, since they will continue to produce smaller flower heads during the entire winter.
- Pull out stems in the following spring.
Smart tip about broccoli
Broccoli brings many health benefits, for example it is laden with Vitamin C. To best take advantage of these, though, eat them raw or not too cooked.
- Find all our advice and tips on growing savoy, white cabbage and kale
- Read our advice and tips on growing cauliflower
- Find all our advice and tips on growing Brussels sprouts
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Broccoli stem head by Nataly Sirenko under Pixabay license
Head of broccoli by Nataly Sirenko under Pixabay license
Broccoli harvest by マサコ アーント under Pixabay license