Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a vegetable plant belonging to the cabbage family. It looks much like a cauliflower with large green flower heads that emerge from thick stalks clubbed together in a tree like structure. It was introduced in the United States in the early 1920’s, and has since been commercially cultivated in several parts of the country, with California accounting for almost 90% of the total production.
|USDA Hardiness Zones||3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Planting Season||Spring and Fall|
|Soil pH||Neutral to Slightly Acidic|
‘De Cicco’ and ‘Calabrese’ are popular heirloom varieties that mature early and produce several shoots.
‘Flash’ is a fast growing and heat resistant hybrid variety.
‘Romanesco broccoli‘also known as ‘Romanesque cauliflower‘ has spiral patterned lime green heads. It is grown primarily for its sweet flavor and crunchy texture.
‘Packman broccoli’ is a hybrid varietythat grows vigorouslyand is characterized by its enormous 8 inch heads.
‘Early purple sprouting broccoli’ is sweeter compared to the green broccoli and grows well in most climates.
‘Broccoli rabe’ (or raab) and ‘Chinese broccoli’ are quick growing broccoli relatives that are much leafier and produce small tender shoots.
|De Cicco||60 days|
|Romanesco broccoli||75 days|
|Packman broccoli||49 days|
|Early purple sprouting broccoli||80 – 115 days|
In case of a spring crop, the seeds should be sown at least 7 – 9 weeks before the last expected frost. For a fall crop, sow your seeds 85 – 100 days before the average first expected frost. Growing broccoli in the fall is more preferable as the plant develops better in cooler temperatures.
Broccoli germination is a relatively easy process and can be done both indoors and outdoors.
Plants that require little calcium, such as beets and marigold, are good for companion planting as broccoli plants drain the soil of calcium. Also herbs such as rosemary, sage and mint can be planted alongside it as they help repel insects and pests.
Birds, especially pigeons and sparrows, tend to strip the leaves and pull up young seedlings. Scarecrows can be used to drive them away, while covering the garden patch in a net or a fine mesh is another, more effective remedy.
Caterpillars adversely damage the plants, often making holes in the leaves. They can be handpicked in case of a mild attack, while an infestation can be fought off by spraying pyrethrum.
Clubroot is a disease caused by a soil fungus that leads to wilting of the plant. Maintaining the soil pH above 7.0 is the best way to prevent it.
Downy Mildew is caused by extremely moist weathers and is characterized by yellow patches on the leaves. Preventive measures include Buying resistant varieties, avoiding misting the leaves and keeping the plants as dry as possible.
Broccoli should be harvested (anytime between 9-16 weeks) before the flowers start to emerge and the head turns yellow. The best time to harvest is early morning when the soil is considerably cooler. The head should be cut at a slant along with 6 inches of shoot. Several varieties have side shoots that grow even when the main head is harvested. It is therefore advised to harvest the main head first so the plant can spend all its energy on developing the side shoots resulting in higher yields.
Harvesting tip: In case of a delayed harvest, the broccoli plant progresses into its natural flowering stage. The yellow broccoli flowers can be plucked and the remaining head can be consumed; but, it has a rather mealy taste. It is therefore advised in case of a missed harvest to let the plants bloom completely. The edible broccoli flowers are nutritious and can be eaten raw or cooked.