If you’re new to gardening, broccoli may be one of the best plants for you to grow. This vegetable can grow in summer or fall and continues producing after the first harvest. It is also one of the vegetables with the most health benefits. The key to growing broccoli on your own is learning the best time to plant seedlings and the best way to keep them safe.
Preparing the soil for planting
First, you need to prepare the soil so that your broccoli seedlings can thrive. Since broccoli requires a lot of nutrients, the soil needs to be fertile and loose to allow good drainage. Take a hoe and loosen the soil thoroughly. Add two inches of compost to the soil and mix well. If you’ll be transplanting seedlings you started indoors, add fertilizer to the soil about three weeks after you move the plants outdoors.
How to plant broccoli
There are two ways to plant this cabbage variety. You can begin the seedlings inside and then transplant them. The second method is to plant seeds directly into the soil. Since broccoli thrives in mild climates, the planting method you use depends on the soil and air temperature where you live. For example, if you reside in a warm weather climate, then your broccoli plants will do best in the fall. In cooler climates, you can plant the seeds in the late spring for a summer harvest.
However, the plants need to be planted in a sunny, moist spot, so if your weather is dry or cloudy, it may be best to start the plants indoors and transplant them. In this case, start the plants inside at least a month or so before the last frost of spring, then move them outdoors when they’re about four weeks along.
Whether you’re transplanting seedlings or sowing directly into the ground, make sure to prepare the soil as described above and then plant at least 14 inches apart. The space in between the plants often decides how large the broccoli heads grow, so you can space them a bit further apart if you want to produce large broccoli crowns.
Caring for your plants
Broccoli plants need soil that is consistently moist, so make sure that you give the soil plenty of water. However, don’t get the new plants themselves wet, especially when the heads are just beginning to develop. Broccoli is very tempting to common garden pests such as aphids, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers. The best way to protect the garden from these creatures is to use natural pest control methods such as releasing ladybugs into the garden or placing pieces of window screen around the root. You may be able to handpick some of these pests off the plants.
How to harvest the heads
Look for yellow petals on your plants. If you see these, it’s time to harvest! To do so, simply cut off the heads, leaving the stalk in the ground. Cut the stalk at an angle so that the water drains from the head completely. Freshly harvested broccoli will stay fresh in the fridge for five days.