Growing Your Own Broccoli at Home
People who loathe eating cabbage sometimes find it difficult to believe that both broccoli and cauliflower are closely related to the common cabbage! All are members of the brassica family that also includes Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale, and perhaps surprisingly, turnips as well.
The best known type of broccoli is the sprouting type that produces a central head that is usually dark green, but may be a blue-grey colour, depending on the cultivar being grown.
Generally broccoli is happy with cool, moist conditions, and it is a lot easier to grow successfully than cauliflower. It does depend though on a fertile soil that has pH level of between 6.0 and 7.0, which at best would be slightly acidic (the lower pH). Make sure you have loads of compost and/or manure in the ground, and also increase the quantity of fertile dressing required to about 120 g per square metre. Broccoli prefers a good solid footing, so once this has all been dug in, tread it down before planting.
Be warned that if the soil isn’t suitable, not only will you end up with stunted plants, but the broccoli heads will probably be more yellow than green in colour. Once planted out, these veggies should be fed with a liquid fertiliser ever two or three weeks.
Generally broccoli should be propagated from seeds sown in shallow drills, either in seed boxes or seed beds. A vital factor is that if started in seed boxes, the plants should be hardened-off before they are set out. This is a process that involves preparing plants gradually for planting out. This is especially important if young seedlings have been grown in a protected environment.
When it comes to planting out, only the strongest seedlings should be chosen. If insects have chewed the growing point, the broccoli head will not be able to develop.
Usually broccoli can be harvested about eight or ten weeks after it has been transplanted out. Cut when the budsare swollen fully but not open. Chop off about 150 mm of the stem with the head. Quite often broccoli plants will continue to send out side shoots that will produce smaller heads. Harvest these in the same way, before the buds open.
Once broccoli plants have stopped producing edible heads, remove the plant and discard it, preferably to a compost heap. If you leave them to grow in the veggie garden, they will tend to attract bugs including caterpillars and aphids just like most other veggies, including tomato plants.