Broccoli is one of the best plants for beginner gardeners to learn to grow in their vegetable garden. It is easy to grow, and fairly hardy.
Brassica oleracea italica is the botanical name for broccoli, which is a native plant to the Mediterranean.
The plant was first engineered from one of the cabbage relatives by an ancient Italian civilization known as Etruscans.
These people lived in an area that is now known as Tuscany and were regarded as horticultural geniuses. Broccoli which is the English name for this plant was derived from “broccolo” an Italian word, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage”.
Different Types Of Broccoli
The varieties of broccoli mainly differ in the size and shape of their heads, disease resistance, side-shoot production, and the time they take to mature. Here is a list of the more common types:
Grown for its tender and long shoots, which is prepared in a similar way to asparagus.
This broccoli is a branching rather than a heading type. The plant produces a number of small heads, rather than a single, central large head.
This is a form of an Asian green which is darker green, small in size and grows much faster. It also features a flavor that is stronger when compared to the western varieties.
How Easy Is Broccoli To Grow?
Broccoli is similar to growing other types of vegetables associated with the cabbage families.
In mid-winter, you can sow winter and autumn variety broccoli in seed trays somewhere out the frost and snow. A tunnel house or cold frame is perfect.
The plant first needs at least 3 to 4 leaves before you transplant them to your garden, which takes about 6-8 weeks.
Where To Plant Broccoli
Broccoli will grow best when exposed to full sun, yet it will still grow in shade that is light.
These plants prefer well-drained and rich soil along with a pH of between 6.5 and 7.5. It is recommended to work compost into your soil before you plant them.
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How To Grow Broccoli From Seed
If you reside in a climate that is cold, with shorter growing seasons, it is better to start your seeds in a seedling tray indoors, or you can use a reliable seed-starting kit.
If on the other hand the climate you live in is warm, you sow your seeds into your garden directly.
You should also read over the seed packet and follow the suggested seed-starting method, well before you decide to plant your broccoli seeds.
When To Plant Out Your Broccoli Seedlings
If you have grown your seedlings indoors, you first need to wait until the seedlings have produced 3 to 4 sets of its true leaves before you decide to plant them out into your garden.
Broccoli is frost hardy which means you can plant them into a vegetable garden 2 to 4 weeks before the expected last frost date during the spring.
Harden the plants off by moving them out doors for increasing periods of time before moving them to their permanent position.
The seedlings need a spacing of about 12 to 24 inches between them.
Growing Broccoli In Containers
If you want to grow broccoli in containers, make sure the container is at least 8-inches deep.
Make sure the plants have a spacing of 18-inches or more between them.
Containers can warm up quickly and these plants are sensitive when it comes to heat, so make sure you move them into the shade on days that are very warm.
Common Broccoli Pests And Diseases
Insects like to eat broccoli plants just as humans do. Here are a few of the common diseases and pests that these plants are prone to:
This pest is the larvae of butterflies or moths. These worms can result in serious damage when they are left to feed off the broccoli leaves.
These soft-bodied, tiny insects feed from the underside of the leaves which cause them to wrinkle and discolor.
These black, ting insects leave multiple tiny holes all over the foliage. If left untreated these beetles have the potential to kill the seedlings and lower the yield associated with the mature plants.
This leaves the plant looking like it has been dusted with a powder. The leaves are usually the first part affected which then move onto the head and the stems when not controlled.
Organically Protecting Broccoli From Bugs
To protect your young plants, cover your broccoli with floating row covers which will assist in protecting against root maggots, flea beetles and cabbage worms.
Barriers and paper collars positioned around each stem, on the soils surface, deters cutworms.
How Long Does It Take From Sowing To Harvest?
Most varieties of broccoli mature anything from 55 to 75 days after transplanting.
How Do I Know Broccoli Is Ready To Eat?
It is better to harvest your broccoli when buds are green and tight. If they have started to turn a shade of yellow, harvest immediately as the plant is getting ready to bolt.
You can store broccoli in your refrigerator up to 10 days. Broccoli freezes well and retains most of the nutritional value when frozen directly from harvest.