Broccoli Green King Punnet - Brassica oleracea var. italica
Name: broccoli, Brassica oleracea.
Climate: all climates, depending on variety.
Soil: prefers a deep, well-drained soil enriched with compost, decomposed manure and blood and bone.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: heads develop 15–20 weeks from sowing.
Feeding: fortnightly applications of liquid fertiliser and a seaweed solution when heads start to form.
Watering: deep watering 2–3 times a week; more often during warm or dry weather.
Broccoli is a surprisingly productive and gratifying crop to grow. There are many varieties and types available, from large-headed broccolis, similar to cauliflower, through to small broccolini types, which can be harvested continuously throughout the season, producing smaller bunching shoots over several weeks. Available in colours ranging from lime green through to blue and purple, broccoli is an old-world favourite with a modern culinary twist.
Broccoli, along with most other members of the Brassica or cabbage family, is best grown throughout the cooler months to avoid pests.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder and benefits from fortnightly applications of liquid seaweed and fish solutions. Watch for pests and water regularly.
Harvest the large heads when mature using a sharp knife, but do not remove the plant; your broccoli will continue to produce smaller heads off the stem, like mini broccoli, for several weeks, helping to increase your harvest and season.
Water broccoli regularly, especially while young. Regular deep watering is better than a quick splash around with the hose, as it encourages a deeper, more developed root system. Apply liquid fertiliser like a seaweed solution or fish concentrate fortnightly over the growing season, especially when heads start to develop.
When planted from seed, broccoli takes around 100–150 days to be mature for harvest. From seedlings, it takes 55 to 80 days to grow. Harvest when the heads are still green and compact, before they turn yellow or start flowering.
A member of the cabbage family, broccoli is prone to attack from several pests and diseases common to these plants. Apply snail and slug pellets at planting and net with insect exclusion netting to minimise caterpillar damage. If caterpillars are present, spray with Dipel. Aphids can be problematic, too. Some nets will also prevent these pests impacting your crop, otherwise spray with eco-oil.
Fungal problems can occur in humid areas or when weather is warm. Space plants accordingly, and avoid overhead watering.
Crop rotation (growing certain groups of plants in different parts of the garden each season) will help to reduce the incidence of club root, as well as other soil-borne pests and diseases.
Healthy plants are always more resistant to pests and diseases than stressed plants. A fortnightly application of liquid fertiliser and seaweed solution will help to keep your plants strong and resilient.
An annual vegetable, broccoli is propagated by seed. It is best to buy fresh seed each year instead of collecting your own, because broccoli regularly cross-pollinates with other members of the cabbage family, producing some unusual results. Of course, if you do want to try gathering your own seed or you have grown only one type of Brassica, you will need to let one head go to seed, instead of harvesting it for the table. Let it mature until it produces pods—these contain the seed. Leave the pods to dry on the plant before harvesting.
Crush the pods to release the seed. Winnow the seed by gently blowing air into a bowl to separate the pod fragments (also known as chaff) from the seed. Place seed in an envelope and clearly label with the variety and date, then store in a cool, dry place, ready for sowing next year.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Cabbage: another cool-season crop to sow and grow with broccoli.
Brussels sprouts: a cool-climate and cool-garden favourite with a short season.
Kale: produces an abundant harvest of cabbage-type leaves in all climates.
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