Growing broccoli can be easy even for novice gardeners. It is a cool weather vegetable and grows best in the spring and fall of the year, with the fall harvest especially sweet and delicious as the broccoli has fully matured.
A member of the cabbage family, broccoli needs full sun and loose, well-drained soil. Broccoli plants do not like heat, so if you live in a tropical climate, growing this vegetable can be tricky, but not impossible.
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Many people prefer to buy flats of broccoli seedlings to transplant after the last expected date of frost.
Broccoli seeds are small and round, so they tend to get lost when planted directly in the ground. Instead, plant broccoli seeds in seed trays about an inch deep. Space the seeds about 3 inches apart, and be sure to water them daily. Leaving the trays on a table will keep away the slugs and snails that love to munch on them.
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It will take the seedlings 4 to 6 weeks to be large enough to transplant into the garden, and they need to go into the ground in either late summer or early fall to mid-winter. No matter what time of the year they are planted, broccoli plants need 4 hours of sun per day.
Transplant the broccoli seedling into your garden when they have reached a height of about 4 inches, or when you just start to see leaves developing. Plan for rows about two and a half feet apart.
Spacing is important if you want to produce broccoli with larger heads... the plants should be anywhere from 18 inches to two feet apart.
Assuming your soil is nutrient-rich, you most likely will not need to fertilize broccoli further.
Broccoli are very amicable when it comes to harvest, as they continue to produce more tiny heads when the main head is cut right above where the plant’s main leaves connect with the stem.
Don’t wait too long to harvest broccoli. You’ll know it’s time when the heads are compact and dark green. If you wait too long, your broccoli will have developed yellow flowers and a much stronger taste.
Use a sharp knife to cut the broccoli head off the stem. Cut at an angle to allow water to roll off, which prevents the stem from rotting. Continue to water the stems, as they will produce tiny florets for up to 2 months.
Fresh broccoli heads will stay fresh for about a week when refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag.
To prepare broccoli for the freezer, cut off the leaves and any woody stems. Separate the heads into florets and chop any remaining stem into small pieces.
Prepare a salt bath with a gallon of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to remove any insects that may be lurking in the broccoli, and soak for 30 minutes.
Drain the broccoli, then split the florets so that they are about 1 to 1 ½ inches across. Blanch in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. Cool, drain, place into bags or containers, and freeze.
Broccoli seeds are viable for up to 5 years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Broccoli. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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