Growing broccoli is another vegetable for beginner gardeners to consider when planning this year's spring crop.
Because it is a member of the Cole family of vegetables, this cool-weather crop is best grown in spring or fall.
And, in my opinion offers the best flavor when it matures in autumn when nights turn chilly.
If you love vegetables (silly me), of course you do, else you wouldn't be growing vegetables. Okay, so let's rewrite that sentence. Because you love vegetables, growing broccoli offers the added benefit of double planting and double harvest. You get to plant after last spring's frost and again in the fall.
Maturity - Between 50 and 85 days depending on variety.
Because broccoli is such an early starter for your vegetable garden, most nurseries don't offer much if any broccoli transplants for purchase at the earliest sign of spring. Evidence for this reason is the remaining tell tale sign of last winter's snow on the ground. Not to worry though for all you intrepid gardeners, growing broccoli seeds ahead of spring season solves that problem.
If you can't wait for nursery transplants, do what so many vegetable gardeners do and get a head start on planting your broccoli by growing your own vegetables from seeds. As Mentioned in other articles, I recommend you purchase your seeds from Burpee Seeds. They are of the highest quality and proven time and time again to produce some of the best vegetables your taste buds ever experienced.
On the other hand if you already have a seed manufacture you've had success with in the past, then you're already set for coming spring planting. Whatever your choice of seed manufacture, be sure to follow the seeding instructions on the packet.
If you are a beginner gardener, keep in mind that you should start your seeds indoors six weeks before your last spring frost. For a fall harvest, start your seeds indoors around 12 to 14 weeks before the first fall frost.
When to Plant
Because broccoli is a cold weather crop and can tolerate a slight frost it does not do well once day time temperatures start climbing into the low 80sF or 26C or higher. I recommend you get your seedlings into the ground late March or early April depending on where in the country you live. Pay attention to temperature and try to time you're planting at or about last winter frost. It's not an exact science however, if you're not sure regarding another frost hit, whether it might be severe or slight; it's okay to wait another week or so before you plant. The ideal growing temperature is between 60-65F or 15-18C, this is when the soil is moist and retains most of its moisture.
All garden vegetables need full sun to grow, and most if not all vegetables require at least 6 to 8 hours off sunlight each day. Take a look around your vegetable garden and observe the arc of the sun as it passes
over your garden patch. Where your vegetable garden gets the most sun is where you plant your broccoli and other vegetables.
advantages of container gardening or vertical gardening that come to
mind is the ability to move your container to just the right spot to
take advantage of the suns arc in your garden. And, for vegetable
gardeners who don't have room for a garden patch, container gardening or
vertical gardening solves this problem.
When growing broccoli, choose a container between 12 to 18 inches in diameter and one that is deep enough to plant your broccoli. A 12 inch deep container should do the trick. Using this container size would allow you to plant two broccoli plants per container. Broccoli likes a wet moist soil that is well drained, so make sure there are holes in the bottom of the container to let the access water drain out.
The one drawback that comes to mind when growing broccoli or any other vegetable in containers, is how quick the soil dries. Keep this in mind when tending to your vegetables and be sure to water frequently.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder and if your soil isn't very fertile, mix in a high nitrogen organic fertilizer such as composted steer or poultry manure, or alfalfa meal. Many vegetable gardening outlets sell an odorless form of manure. After all, we do have to keep our neighbors happy don't we?
Most beginner gardeners are not aware vegetable plants require a well balanced soil pH ratio for different vegetable varieties. When growing broccoli, your soil pH level should be between 6.0 and 7.0. If you're not sure as to your soils pH ratio, you can pick up an inexpensive pH soil test kit at most nurseries or vegetable garden outlets.
To see what your soil pH ratio should be for growing broccoli or any other vegetable, click on this link pH soil ratio for vegetables.
As I mentioned earlier, all garden vegetables need ample sun to grow healthy and strong. The same also holds true about water. Keep in mind that broccoli is a cool weather plant and thrives best when the soil temperature remains around 55F-65F or 13C-18C. At this temperature, the soil retains moisture due to the lack of water evaporation from the sun. However, as the temperature begins to slowly creep up, the retention of soil moisture is greatly reduced and that's where you come in. Increase your watering frequency on a regular basis applying a gentle spray of water at the base of the broccoli stem. All too often I notice beginner gardeners watering their vegtable plants with close to full blast of water from their garden hose. The end result of this method of watering is soil erosion from the blast of water leaving your broccoli or any other vegetable plant without sufficient nutrients from the soil.
To solve this problem; if you're using a garden hose keep the water pressure just past a trickle. Personally, I prefer to use a watering can which applies a gentle spray of water to your plants.
Another technique I use when growing broccoli and one I suggest you use is to place mulch around the stem and surrounding area of your broccoli to help cool the soil from the sun and to retain as much moisture as possible in the soil.
Like any other vegetable garden plant, broccoli is no exception when it comes to having its fair share of garden pests. Keep a close eye out for colonies of aphids on the underside of broccoli leaves.
Broccoli attracts not one, but three species of cabbageworms.The imported cabbage worm, cabbage looper, and diamond back moth. All three of these pesky garden pests attack the leaves and heads of your broccoli.
Other common garden pests that enjoy a broccoli meal are cutworms, thrips, flea beetle, and the cabbage maggot. The list goes on, but a good eye and frequent attention to your vegetable plants will keep you on top of most invading garden pests that find your vegetable garden.
For more information on garden insects, click on our link garden pests to help you identify these pesky critters and learn what you can do to get rid of them from your vegetable garden.
As an added resource on broccoli, I've include this link University of Illinois growing broccoli.
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