Broccoli is a vegetable gardening favorite around the world. Its delicious flavor and ease of growing make it one of the most popular choices for many gardeners. Broccoli has become an organic gardening selection of many urban and suburban gardeners.
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and its familiar green heads with tiny florets are used in many recipes including, soups, stews and many Asian recipes. The plant can be boiled, steamed or used in stir fry.
There are several varieties of broccoli including Large Head, the most popular type with its curved dome; Sprouting, which produces many small heads; Romanesco, which has swirled heads; and Broccoli Raab, which has a stronger flavor.
It is best to grow broccoli using organic gardening methods. With organic gardening, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not used. Instead natural fertilizers such as compost or manure are used. Organic fertilizers and organic pesticides are available at your local gardening store.
Select an area of your garden that gets full sunlight. Broccoli does best in full sun but it will thrive in a partially shaded area. Broccoli should be planted in rows 18″ wide and three feet apart. Prepare the soil by adding a three inch layer of compost or dried manure. Till to a depth of 12″, mixing the soil well. The compost or manure will provide nutrients for your plants and, at the same time, improve drainage.
Broccoli is a cool weather crop that does best during the spring and fall. It is best to start plants indoors from seeds. Plant seeds 1/2″ deep and three inches apart in pots or growing trays. Be sure to use a nutrient rich potting soil. You can plant the seeds about two months before the last killing frost of spring, then transplant to the outside garden when they are about five inches tall. Time from planting to harvest is about 50 days.
Transplant the young seedlings to the garden when they are about five inches tall. Space plants 12″-18″ apart. Mulch the broccoli plants with a three inch layer of dried straw to preserve moisture and inhibit weed growth. Mulching also prevents a common problem encountered when growing broccoli–bolting. When the weather is hot broccoli tends to bolt, or begin flowering. A good layer of mulch helps prevent this. Mulch protects the roots from intense heat caused by extended periods of bright sunlight. Keeping plants well watered also helps prevent bolting.
Water the plants regularly, keeping the soil moist but not wet. It’s best to water your broccoli in the morning before the sun gets high in the sky. Water plants thoroughly, but do not over water. The soil around plants should be kept moist but not wet.
Another way to prevent bolting is to use row covers. Row covers are thin flexible sheets of screening material made of plastic or gauze cloth. Row covers can be placed over or removed from over your plants as needed. Row covers also help prevent attacks by insect pests.
Broccoli can also be grown indoors in containers. Use pots with a minimum diameter of six inches. Use a good potting soil with plenty of nutrients. Plant the seeds and allow to sprout. Place pots on a sunny window sill and water regularly.
Harvest the heads of broccoli when the compact clusters of buds are still green. Cut off the heads along with about five inches of stem below the heads. Soon smaller shoots will develop from the stem. Broccoli can be frozen or canned for later use.
Broccoli is high in dietary fiber and low in calories. Broccoli also contains large amounts of Vitamins A, B, C and E. It also contains iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and phosphorus.
Broccoli is vegetable gardening favorite. It requires little care and can provide lots of vitamins and minerals for your diet. Enjoy this delicious vegetable fresh, straight from the garden when you grow your own.