In this week, the first day for the spring falls. So, it is time to check out that we have what we need for the garden. In the past I have plant my seeds too early, which resulted in stringy seedlings. I have learnt now to hold off until April before planting my seeds.
But I am thinking about which brassicas to grow. Why? Well because yesterday was National Brassica Day and why not! So here is what I am doing – I am choosing a patch of ground where other brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, turnips and mustard) have not been growing for at least two years. And looking at the seed catalogue to see what I fancy growing. This year I am going to Give Broccoli a try, (only I don't have a broccoli pictures so you have a picture of a cabbage instead).
(With thanks to my NVQ learners who work in the local garden centres and helped put this guild together.)
You can also grow Broccoli on an area where a previous crop has been cleared and the ground has not been dug over so that it is already firm. Alkaline soil is better than acidic soil, because this reduces the risk of club root (you can add lime in the previous autumn if club root is a problem).
When and Where to Grow Broccoli
· When to plant: April – August
· When to harvest: June – October
· Ready in: 4 months
· Challenge level: KS3 and above
Dig the ground well in advance of planting and firm it well before the plants are put out.
How to Plant Broccoli
Sow the seeds thinly in modules – sprouting varieties and ‘Romanesco’ in April and ‘Monaco’ and ‘Belstar’ from April to June. Thin the seedlings to one strong plant and grow on until large enough to plant out. Alternatively sow in a nursery bed and transplant to the cropping positions once the plants are large enough. Follow on sowings can be made of the summer and autumn cropping varieties until the beginning of June.
How to Grow Broccoli
Broccoli prefers soil which is fertile, well drained and moisture retentive.
Caring for Broccoli
In dry periods, broccoli will need watering every 10-14 days. When plants are around 20cm tall you should add high nitrogen fertiliser, such as sulphate of ammonia at 35g per square metre.
Cut the heads of the summer varieties once they are large enough. By leaving the plant in position, you may get smaller side shoots that can also be used. Sprouting Broccoli crops over a long season – remove the shoots with a sharp knife and more will be encouraged to grow.
The main pests are the caterpillars of the large and small white butterflies, which lay their eggs under the leaves through the summer and early autumn. Physical removal is best or use a systemic insecticide, adhering to the harvest interval on the bottle. Check the undersides of the leaves regularly and wipe off any egg clusters before they hatch.
Birds, especially pigeons, can be a real problem when growing Broccoli, so be sure to cover your plants with nets to stop them from eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables. Scarecrows can also work for a while, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Club root, an infection that leads to stunted growth, is another problem when growing broccoli. This can be avoided by using alkaline soil, rather than acidic soil.