An easy and rewarding member of the cabbage family, that comes in three main types, purple, white or green (Calabrese). By planting several different varieties it is possible to harvest broccoli form the garden most months.
Soil preparation for Broccoli.
A well manured, but firm alkaline soil is required to get the most out of the plants, this is best done in autumn or late winter to give the ground time to settle. If necessary add lime to the soil in spring, so this has time to be washed in by the rains.
Sowing Broccoli seed.
I like to sow the seeds in pots or small trays and germinate in the greenhouse or cold frame. Once large enough transplant to individual pots or seed tray modules to grow on. They can be sown outside in a seed bed and transplanted, but some gardeners find that the plants dislike the root disturbance this causes.
Planted in to their final growing position in firm soil when the plants have 4 to 5 true leaves and watered in. Spacing is dependent on type and variety, but generally calabrese needs 18 inch (45 cm) between plants and the white or purple types need 20 to 30 inch (50 to 75 cm).
Broccoli is an undemanding crop, mulching with garden compost or straw will help conserve moisture in the soil and also keep the weeds down. As with all brassicas it’s prudent to cover the plants with some form of netting, to stop pests such as pigeons enjoying the crop before you do.
All varieties should be harvested before the curds flower. The curds develop very quickly, and if left to flower the eating quality is reduced and may delay production of any further smaller heads.
Purple sprouting broccoli.
Sow: April -June
Plant: mid May – July
Harvest: autumn – end spring
A hardy biennial broccoli, planted in early summer and harvested the following spring.
There are both early and late varieties of this form of broccoli, with the right selection of seeds the small purple heads can be harvested over a long period of time. Being quite large they will need spacing around 2 foot (60 cm) between each other and the same distance between rows.
White sprouting broccoli.
Sow: April – May
Plant: June- August
Harvest: late February – May
A perennial form, that can be grown and harvested for several years, providing all the heads are harvested and it is not allowed to set seed.
Produces a central head that resembles a loose cauliflower,surrounded by many smaller heads. A vigorous plant that can grow to 3ft (90cm) tall, in exposed areas it may need support.
Green sprouting Broccoli – Calabrese.
Sow: February – June
Plant: May -mid July
Harvest: July – September
An annual form of broccoli, sow and harvested the same season.
Most varieties produce a large central head with further smaller side spears once the main head has been harvested.