One of the most familiar green vegetables, broccoli (also known as Italian or sprouting broccoli) is an excellent choice for the garden. Typically grown as an annual, this cool season vegetable traces its ancestry to Brassica oleracea, a fleshy-leaved, short-lived perennial from coastal areas of western and southern Europe. It is grown for its fleshy heads of flower buds, which are harvested and eaten before the flowers open.
Some broccoli varieties produce a large central head with relatively few side shoots; others produce an abundance of smaller heads. The heads are borne on thick erect stalks above whorls of long leathery blue-green leaves. Broccoli varieties usually have green heads, although purple-headed cultivars are available. Hybrids between cauliflower and broccoli are also available; they typically have yellow-green or purple heads. Plants do poorly in hot weather, becoming lanky and flowering (“”bolting””) rather than remaining in bud. Depending on the variety, broccoli takes 55 to 100 days from sowing to harvest.
This cool weather crop prefers full sun and fertile, organic-rich garden soil with ample drainage. Broccoli should be planted as seed or transplants in early spring before temperatures heat up, or in summer for fall harvest. It makes an excellent winter or early spring crop for areas with mild winters. Harvest heads promptly to prevent bolting and to initiate development of side shoots.
Broccoli is rewarding to grow and well worth the effort. As with all members of Brassica oleracea, it is susceptible to cabbage loopers and several other types of caterpillars.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Annual – Edible
Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
Start spring transplants indoors five to seven weeks before the last spring frost date, or buy nursery transplants three weeks before the last spring frost date. Where the weather is warm, select a variety that is bolt resistant. Set out transplants three to four weeks before the last spring frost. Space plants 18 inches apart. Protect transplants from hard frosts with newspapers, plastic cones, paper bags, or baskets. Provide a windbreak to reduce transplant shock and moisture loss. For fall crops, direct seed the broccoli in the garden 85 to 100 days before the average first fall frost date.
Mulch plants to help keep soil moist, and water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Contact your local County Extension office for controls of common broccoli pests such as flea beetles, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.
Harvest for peak quality when the buds of the head are firm and tight. If buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately.
Beet, celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, onion, potato, spinach. Chamomile and garlic improve growth and flavor.