Broccoli is a cool-season crop that can be grown in the spring or fall. It is possible to extract a continuous harvest throughout the year, if the right conditions are maintained. It is best grown in sandy soil, with pH slightly acidic to neutral. Broccoli loves the sun and it needs and prefers full sun exposure.
How to Grow Broccoli
Broccoli can germinate in soil with temperatures as low as 4 deg. C. Work in 2 to 4 inches of rich compost or a thin layer of manure before planting. For fall plantings, seed 85 to 100 days before your average first fall frost. If you live in a warm climate, a fall planting is best, as broccoli thrives in cool weather. Plant seeds in mid- to late-summer in most places. Space plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the side heads you want to harvest.
Broccoli needs cool weather, full sun, water, and rich soil. Plant your broccoli where it will get at least 6 hours of sun every day and has fertile, well-drained, moist soil with plenty of organic matter. Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for best growth and to discourage disease. Get your soil tested for best results. Adjust the pH with lime. For good growth, mix plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizers and composted manure into the soil. Broccoli likes steady moisture to grow fast and produce good heads. An organic mulch of compost, finely ground leaves, or finely ground bark will help keep the soil cool and moist and keep weeds down.
In cold climates, it’s the opposite, you may need to plant through black plastic in early spring to help warm the soil or leave the ground without mulch, so that the sun can warm it. Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Diseases and pests
Aphids: Curling leaves may mean that the plant’s sap is being sucked by insects. Apply organic soapy water on all sides of leaves whenever you see aphids.
Downy mildew: Yellow patches on the leaves are usually caused by moist weather. Keep the leaves as dry as possible with good air circulation.
Nitrogen deficiency: If the bottom leaves turn yellow and the problem continues toward the top of the plant, the plants need a high nitrogen and low in phosphorus fertilizer
Clubroot: Quickly wilting plants may be due to this fungus in the soil. The entire plant, including all roots and root tendrils, must be gently dug up and removed. Act quickly to remove the plants so that the fungus doesn’t continue to live in the soil. Do not compost the plants. Raise the pH of your soil to above 7.2.
Varieties to Try
‘Green Goliath’ is heat-tolerant and sprouts side shoots that will mature for harvesting.
‘Green Duke’ is heat tolerant and an early variety.
‘Calabrese’ is a prolific Italian heirloom.
‘Flash’ is a fast-growing heat-resistant hybrid with good side-shoot production
‘Paragon’ is another popular variety.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest broccoli when the buds of the head are firm and tight, before the heads flower. If you do see yellow petals, harvest immediately. For best taste, harvest in the morning before the soil heats up.Cut heads from the plant taking at least 6 inches of stem. Most varieties have side-shoots that will continue to develop after the main head is harvested. You can harvest from one plant for many weeks, in some cases, from spring to fall, if you’re summer isn’t too hot.
You can store broccoli in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you wash before storing, make sure to dry it thoroughly. Broccoli can be blanched and frozen for up to one year.
Grow your own greens and get your little ones involved and maybe they’ll start eating green vegetables out of excitement.