Friday, May 22, 2015

Growing Broccoli from Seed to Harvest

Calabrese Broccoli can be an easier and quicker variety  to grow than other types of broccoli. 
48 days. (Brassica oleracea) An Italian heirloom that was brought to America in the 1880s, 5-8" heads and many side shoots.
For the best results, broccoli should be planted after a crop of peas or beans, as these vegetables leave deposits of nitrogen in the soil, which is much needed by the broccoli for healthy growth and development. 

Broccoli is a cool weather crop that generally thrives in cooler temperatures that do not exceed 30°C (86°F). The ideal temperature for cultivating broccoli is between 65 - 75°F.
Broccoli should be planted in an open, sunny or partially shaded area.  I like to soak seeds for up to 24 hours before planting.
Sow broccoli seeds thinly, approximately 1/4 inch deep in rows that are 2 feet apart. Cover the seeds loosely with soil and water well. The seeds will germinate within about 10 days and then the seedlings can be thinned out to 1 foot apart (for Calabrese).
 Calabrese is an extremely fast-growing crop and some varieties will be ready to harvest from anything between 40 - 65 days. If sown in April or May, the broccoli should be ready to harvest from July onwards until November. In warmer climates, plant early in the year and again in Fall.

Romanesco Italia Broccoli
Romanesco Italia Broccoli 
75-100 days.    The true and popular Italian heirloom with spiraling, apple-green heads that are so superbly flavored.   Romanesco broccoli heads are really densely packed clusters of lime green flower buds that develop in the center of a leafy rosette. This variety is widely grown in northern Italy.  
Harvest the broccoli when the side florets start to loosen slightly but the main head is still very compact. Cut at the base of the stalk, so that the main head is removed.
Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Fertilizer Requirements for Broccoli
Broccoli plants are heavy feeders and will do well with a dose of fertilizer every couple of weeks. Use a well balanced fertilizer for best results. This will give the plants enough energy to get large enough to support full heads of broccoli. 
If you are interested in growing broccoli organically, you can work some compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting. You can also use organic products like Mary's Organic 3-4-4, Blood Meal or fish emulsions to fertilize your broccoli plants.

Companion plants for Broccoli include: Basil, Bush Beans, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Hyssop, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Tomato. 
Celery, onions and potatoes improve broccolis' flavor when planted near it. Broccoli loves plenty of calcium. Pairing it with plants that need little calcium is a good combination such as nasturtiums and beets. Put the nasturtiums right under the broccoli plants. Herbs such as rosemary, dill and sage help repel pests with their distinct aromas.

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