How To Grow Broccoli
Broccoli is a popular vegetable used in a variety of cooking styles. As a tough plant, broccoli can grow in many locales, but has its best growth during cooler months. Under ideal conditions, a broccoli garden can produce two full crops per year throughout the majority of the U.S. growing zones. The hottest climates will pose a threat to broccoli plants blooming during the summer. The broccoli plant is considered part of the brassica family. Also known as a cole crop, the family includes all manner of vegetables including kohlrabi, kale, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Although there are successful broccoli plants throughout the country, the northern growing zones represent the best conditions for a good broccoli harvest.
For the best crop of broccoli, plants need a full day of direct sunlight in cooler weather. Plenty of water with adequate drainage and a well-fertilized soil are also important. Make sure to have broccoli positioned in soil with sufficient organic material to continue growth. As with many types of vegetable crops, broccoli plants are better off when the edible portion is not directly touching the ground.
Using an organic mulch material to separate the plant from the earth is a simple solution. Be careful to use only organic materials in your mulch so that your family does not consume any of the chemicals consistent with cheaper mulches. Mulch also provides the benefit of keeping the soil sheltered from direct sunlight ensuring a moist and cool environment in which broccoli can thrive.
Broccoli plants are a bit picky regarding the acidity of the soil in which they are planted. The ideal pH is somewhere in the 6 to 7 range for the healthiest broccoli crop. As with other vegetables that need pH adjustments, using organic acids or bases is a safe way to correct any imbalance.
You will have the largest broccoli crop with ample amounts of rich fertilizer. Organic, high-nitrogen material like manure in a compost are the easiest option. Ready-to-use vegetable plant food is also a good choice. As you garden matures and your skill improves you will develop a preference for a specific method of fertilizer and feeding your plants.
With sufficient rain, your crop will not need extra water. However, a minimum of at least two inches of water per week is required for a healthy broccoli plant. Any cheap rain gauge can provide an adequate measure of the amount of rainfall within a garden each week. You will also be able to detect changes in the broccoli crop as it grows. Withering plants or discolored leaves provide a clear signal that the plant is not receiving enough water to grow to its full potential.
When planting individual broccoli seeds, make sure to leave enough space between crops. Rows of at least two feet are necessary to leave room for the harvester to work. Within each row, leave at least a few inches around individual plants to provide adequate space for growth.
In the presence of lots of rain and high-quality nutrients from the soil, broccoli will grow large with huge heads of vibrant green crop. The goal of growing broccoli is to keep the earth damp and keep the roots of the plant cooled. Excessive heat and drought are more dangerous to plants than any pest.
Temperature is critical for broccoli plants. Any plants exposed to freezing temperature will cause heads to form immediately, long before they are supposed to be ready to bloom. This quickly results in the death of the entire crop. In temperature is too hot, generally above the ideal temperature for adults sleeping indoors, then the crop will also bloom too soon in an attempt to spread before it dies from the heat. Most references cite an ideal range of between 65 and 75 degrees for the best broccoli plants.
Pests are always a threat to any vegetable plant and broccoli is no different. A wide variety of insects including beetles, maggots, aphids, and worms attack exposed broccoli. Most pests can be blocked by a layer of mulch, but flying insects can quickly attack any crop. Pesticides are generally discouraged since their chemicals leach into the broccoli plants itself.
Watch your broccoli plants carefully as it gets closer to the harvest season. If you wait too long before harvesting broccoli then each individual bud will grow yellow flowers. These flowers ruin the taste and texture of the head and largely prevent you from enjoying your plant. The ideal time to harvest broccoli is just before these flowers show up near the middle of the plant. Checking the color and size of the crop also provides a good indication of when it is time for harvest.