Broccoli is one of those vegetables we take for granted in the supermarket. But growing Broccoli is easy to do for yourself. It is a cool-season crop, so it is grown in the spring and fall. Summer Broccoli in your supermarket probably comes from the southern hemisphere growing areas. Follow these seven tips to grow Broccoli like a pro!
Zone 9 varieties to grow are Packman (in the spring), Green Comet, Premium Crop or Southern Comet.
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Tip #1 Bed Preparation:
To grow Broccoli, you need cool weather, at least 6 hours of full sun, regular water, and soil rich in organic materials. Soil must be slightly acidic, with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. You can test your soil yourself with a multipurpose soil meter.
Tip #2 Planting in the Spring:
For spring planting, start your seeds indoors under a grow light in January, 7-9 weeks before the average last frost date. The actual planting or starting dates vary by quite a bit, due to local conditions. You will have to judge your best planting dates based on your own experience.
You can direct sow outdoors about 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. Be sure to be ready with a row cover or tunnel in case of low temperatures. Broccoli will tolerate temperatures to 28 degrees.
Tip #3 Planting in the Fall:
To grow Broccoli in the fall, start seeds indoors in mid August to September, then set them out 7 to 9 weeks later. Transplant out when the plants are 4-6″ tall and have between 2-4 leaves.
Plant outdoors in late September/early October, or 10-12 weeks before first frost. In fall, you are watching for the first frost date, and the average temperature in your area. Remember, a growing length of 55-100 days, and a temperature of 65-80 degrees. Planting in mid-October will avoid cabbageworm infestations.
Tip #4 Planting:
The ideal planting temperature to grow Broccoli is 65-80 degrees. If it is too cold, the Broccoli will bloom prematurely, resulting in small heads. If it is planted too late, and it is too hot, the Broccoli may not form heads at all. Because spring temperatures can be so variable, fall planting of Broccoli produces bigger and tastier heads.
Plant your seeds/transplants about 18 inches apart. That may seem to be a really large spacing, but the mature plant will take up all this space. Mulch heavily around the plants to keep the soil cool and moist. Keep the weeds at bay also, either by weeding or heavy mulching.
Water 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week. Consistent watering is one key to a great Broccoli harvest.
Fertilize with liquid fertilizer every 7-10 days. You can use compost tea or side dress with blood meal, until heads begin to form. This regimen will encourage side shoots to form after the main head is harvested.
Tip #5 Pest Control in the growing Broccoli:
The main insect pests include cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworms, cabbage root maggots, aphids, and flea beetles. Be sure to check your Broccoli often for signs of insect damage, stress from over-or under-watering and bacterial or fungus diseases.
You can control pests by handpicking when the caterpillars are visible, beneficial nematodes to attack the underground pests, companion plants to attract good bugs or repel pests and insect predators that eat the worms and larvae.
Tip #6 Compatible and Incompatible plants:
Grow Broccoli near Bush Beans, Beets, Celery, Cucumber, Onions and Rhubarb. Flowers that attract good insects or repel bad insects are Nasturtium or Marigolds. Aromatic herbs planted nearby are Sage, Dill, Chamomile or Oregano.
Do not grow Broccoli next to Pole Beans, Tomato, Peppers, Eggplant, Strawberry or Mustard plants.
Tip #7 Harvesting:
Harvest when the head is about 4-7″ in size, and the florets are pin-head size, dark green and tight together. Harvest in the cool of the morning for the best shelf life. If the head begins to turn yellow and flower, it is too ripe, and should be harvested immediately. A Broccoli head is actually a bunch of flower bulbs, and the yellow color is the miniature flowers opening.
If cold weather comes before your Broccoli is ready to harvest, be sure to have a row cover or cold tunnel available. These items will keep the temperatures warmer, and possibly prevent your crop from freezing. Don’t let the head freeze; if necessary, harvest before the frost. After you cut the Broccoli head, leave the plant in the ground. It will produce more, but smaller heads on the side of the stem.
Following these tips to grow Broccoli will give you a harvest in the spring as well as the fall, and one that tastes better than a supermarket head! If you want reminders of what to plant when, sgin up for my monthly garden planner sheets.
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