Vegetables
How to Plant Broccoli: a Guide for New Gardeners

How to Plant Broccoli: a Guide for New Gardeners

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In this simple guide for novice gardeners, learn the best way to grow broccoli, from sowing the seeds to harvesting the final crop. Once you know How to Plant Broccoli, you won’t want store bought!

Broccoli is now regarded as one of the so-called “superfoods” packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential as part of a healthy diet. Although it is sometimes considered to be a bland and rather tasteless vegetable and is unpopular with a lot of children, for this reason, it remains a popular crop for vegetable gardeners. It can be spiced up at the table by adding white or cheese sauce or cooking in a tasty stir-fry. The most important rule where it comes to cooking broccoli is never to overcook it, or the nutritional value will be lost.

How to Plant Broccoli: a Guide for New Gardeners

Growing broccoli, whether in the ground or large containers in a kitchen garden, is a simple and rewarding process, even for novices to vegetable gardening.

Propagating Broccoli Seeds

Broccoli seeds can either be sown directly into the soil or sown in cell trays and should be sown between the beginning of March and the end of May.

To produce plug-plants for planting out from May onwards, seeds should be sown 6mm deep in a good quality multi-purpose or seeding compost, with one seed per cell of the cell tray. The seeds should be covered with compost and given a good watering before covering the cell tray with a propagator lid. Heat isn’t necessary for the seeds to grow, but humidity is important. The seeds should have germinated within one to two weeks.

When sowing seeds straight into the soil, it is essential to prepare the soil beforehand. The ideal spot for growing broccoli is in a sunny area of the garden that has been previously manured. Short rows of seeds should be sown across the chosen area; these rows are known as nursery rows because as soon as the seedlings are large enough, about 10-15cm (4-6 inches) tall, they will need to be transplanted.

A week before sowing the seeds, it’s a good idea to rake in a good amount of fertilizer such as pelleted chicken manure, which will help the seedlings to grow in the early stages. The seeds should be sown 1cm (½ inch deep, and rows should be approximately 15cm (6 inches) apart. Once sown, the seeds should be covered with some fine soil and watered well. Slug pellets should be sprinkled along the rows, although it is important to make sure a safe variety of pellet is used, mainly where children and animals are present. Wire mesh will help to deter birds from pecking at the young seedlings.

Planting Broccoli Plug-Plants

When seeds sown in cell trays have grown into what are known as plug-plants, they can be planted out into prepared soil from the beginning of May onwards. The soil must be allowed to settle after preparation because if young broccoli plants are planted into loose soil, they tend to produce poor quality crops. One quick way of firming up loose soil is to place a board of wood across the soil and walk across it several times to compress the soil.

Plant the young plants 65-75cm (26-30 inches) apart, and bury any stretched stems as part of the planting process. Make sure to firm the soil around the roots well with the fingers to ensure the best crop. As with seeds sown directly into the ground, precautions should be taken against slugs and birds.

Growing on and Harvesting Broccoli Plants

Broccoli must be watered well in dry spells to maintain growth, and it is also a good idea to apply a mulch of rotted organic matter to aid in growth and crop quality. However, organic matter containing nitrogen, such as grass cuttings, should be avoided as this will cause the plants to produce too much leaf.

Because broccoli is likely to become top-heavy, it is advisable to stake each plant with a sturdy cane to prevent stems from breaking. It is also a good idea to build the earth up around the base of the plant to avoid damage to the root caused by the rocking motion of the wind.

One of the biggest problems with growing broccoli is the tendency of the plant to attract cabbage white butterflies, which will lay eggs on the leaves, creating an influx of caterpillars that will gorge on the greens. Nylon netting is the best deterrent for these pests.

Broccoli can be harvested when the heads are between 10 and 17cm (4-7 inches) wide. The head should be firm and tight. A sharp knife should be used to cut the head from the plant. The joy of broccoli is that the side shoots can be continued to be harvested later.

Growing Broccoli: a Guide for New Gardeners

Some yummy broccoli recipes:

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