BroccoliBroccoli

 Broccoli encompasses two slightly different vegetables from the same family; Calabrese, these form large green almost cauliflower-like heads, and sprouting broccoli, which as the name suggest throw out a mass of smaller, seperate heads or florets on long stems. One portion of boiled broccoli (100g) provides over half of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C reason enough to grow it!.

Broccoli

Purple-sprouting broccoli has great flavour, a long harvesting season and is extremely good for you. A single portion provides half your daily requirement of carotenoids, plus high levels of folic acid and vitamins A and C.

If you choose the right varieties, and time your seed sowing well, you can keep harvesting your crops from autumn through to early summer the following year. Purple-sprouting broccoli is extremely hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as -12°C, so it’s a good winter crop.

Like other brassicas, purple-sprouting broccoli thrives in a fairly heavy, alkaline soil. Avoid growing it on an exposed site, where the wind will buffet the stems and loosening the soil around the roots.  If the growing site is quite exposed use scoffold netting to act as a windbreak and stake securely to reduce wind rock.

Benefits of the Broccoli

Drawback
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  Sowing & Planting
  Growing
  Harvesting
  Varieties
  Problems
Sowing & Planting Sprouting Broccoli

Parsnips Grown in Toilet RollsParnips Growing in Toilet Rolls

When to sow

Calabrese

  • Outdoors February to July

Sprouting Broccoli

  • Indoors: February to May
    • Transplant Under Cover: March to April
    • Plant Out: May to August
  • Outdoors: March to July

How to sow Sprouting Broccoli

  • Seeds are generally sown between February and May. Sow two seeds per cell of cell trays in a greenhouse or similar environment until April and outdoors from April. Thin to one plant as soon as the seedlings can be handled.
  • Give liquid fertiliser every week. When rootball is well bound together plant out into any fertile garden soil in full sun or very light shade.
  • Better heads are produced in cooler summers as hot weather can encourage plants to run to seed prematurely – some cultivars resist this tendency better than others (see Recommended varieties).
  • Allow 30cm (12in) between plants and 45cm (18in) between rows. Closer spacing will reduce the number of side shoots formed.
  • Before planting add 150g per square metre of general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore, or, if manure or other rotted organic matter has been dug in use half amount of fertiliser.
  • From April, seeds can be sown in the open where the plants are to grow; sow three seeds, 2cm (¾in) deep, every 30cms (12in) along the row. When seedlings are large enough to be handled, thin out each ‘station’ leaving one healthy seedling behind.
  • Cover seedlings and seed beds with fleece to exclude cabbage root fly, removing fleece in May when risk of damage less.
  • Control slugs and snails as they will quickly devour seedlings.

 

Growing Sprouting Broccoli

Growing BroccoliPlanting out and growing Sprouting Broccoli

How to Grow Sprouting Broccoli

  • Broccoli prefers fertile, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil.

  • When the young broccoli plants are 10-15cm (4-6in) high transplant indoor grown plants to their growing positions, leaving 45cm (18in) between them. Before lifting the plants, water them well and water well again after transplanting.

  • Thin directly-sown broccoli to 30cm (1ft) apart.

  • Water every 10-14 days in dry periods.

  • Add high nitrogen fertiliser, such as sulphate of ammonia, at 35g per square metre when plants about 20cm tall, Nettle tea is excellent for this!

  • Birds and Caterpillars can be a problem, so net the plants when the heads are being produced, and butterflies are breeding.

 

Harvesting Sprouting Broccoli

Harvesting Sprouting BroccoliHarvesting Sprouting Broccoli

Tips for Harvesting

  • Cut when the flower shoots (spears) are well formed but before the individual flowers begin to open.

  • Cut the central spear first. This is followed by a series of sideshoots, which can be picked regularly over four to six weeks.

 

Sprouting Varieties

Great Purple Sprouting Broccoli to try

Cardinal Broccoli
  • Deep purple spears with excellent flavour and early cropping.
Purple Sprouting Early Broccoli
  • The most popular of the sprouting varieties, very hardy and produces an abundance of dark purple spears, in March, which turn green on cooking.
Red Arrow Broccoli
  • Excellent uniformity and quality for cutting March and April.
Rudolph Broccoli
  • An extra early purple sprouting type producing large spears from late January.
Summer Purple Broccoli
  • Annual Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Plants will crop four to five months after sowing, harvesting spears over many weeks. Heavy yielding with a sweet flavour. Should be planted out within 4 weeks of sowing. Good in stir fry.
White Sprouting Early Broccoli
  • Apart from the different spear colour the leaves are less frilly and blue-green. Creamy white spears which are slightly milder in flavour than the purple and lighter green when cooked. Late February/ March harvest onwards.
White Star Broccoli
  • A re-selected late white type with high quality spears for cropping in March/April period.
Problems Growing Sprouting Broccoli

Club Root & Cabbage Root Fly MaggotsClub Root & Cabbage Root Fly Maggots

Club Root

This is a fungal disease causing stunted growth, purplish foliage and wilting in hot weather. The root system also becomes swollen and distorted. It is worse on acidic soils and in warm, wet weather.

Remedy:

  • If you have acidic soil you should apply lime before you plant.
  • Test soil acidity using a pH meter which you can buy from DIY stores, or garden centres.
  • If the pH of your soil is less than pH6, it is acidic.
  • Once you see the symptoms of club root, there is very little you can do.

Birds:

Some birds, especially pigeons, will strip the leaves from broccoli, affecting the plants vigour and yield. They will also pull up seedlings.

Remedy:

  • Scarecrows and other devices for frightening birds may work for a while, but the best way of protecting crops is to cover with fine netting, such as Enviromesh. This will also help to protect plants from caterpillars.

Caterpillars:

  • A number of caterpillars will feed on cabbages, but the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies.
  • You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves. They will also bore into the heart of cabbages.

Remedy:

  • In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off.
  • You can spray with pyrethrum, deltamethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin.
  • Insect-proof mesh or fine netting (5-7mm mesh) can prevent egg-laying.

Cabbage root fly:

  • Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies.
  • Their larvae are white maggots that feed on the roots and can kill seedling and recently transplanted brassicas

Remedy:

  • Protect seed beds and young plants with fleece or insect proof mesh.
  • Remove these when plants 15-25cm (6in-10in) tall, and place a felt collar at the base of each plant to prevent eggs being laid.