How To Grow Broccoli

Broccoli
Broccoli

Broccoli is a very nutritious vegetable, containing a broad range of vitamins and minerals but being particularly high in vitamin C, E, and K compared to other vegetables.

Perhaps just as importantly, it is a relatively popular to eat vegetable amongst adults and children alike, with a milder and slightly sweeter flavour than alternatives such as cabbage and brussels sprouts.

See ideas for where to buy seeds and plants.



Planting

  • March to May
  • Planting depth: 1 cm
  • Planting spacing: 45cm between plants, 60cm between rows

Harvesting:

  • Broccoli, March to May (1 yr later); Calabrese, August to October
  • Blanch and freeze


Growing
Growing Broccoli

Broccoli photo gallery.

The growing method for calabrese and sprouting broccoli is slightly different.

Calabrese

  • Sow seeds in situ as the roots do not like being disturbed. Place two or three seeds per station, and then thin to leave the strongest seedling.
  • Plant the seeds to a depth of 1cm depth
  • Cover with a net after sowing to protect from birds
  • Water to avoid the plants drying out
  • Harvest July to October

Sprouting Broccoli

  • Sow in seed trays (greenhouse / plastic growhouse etc.) and transplant to a distance of 45 cm apart
  • Cover with a net after sowing to protect from birds
  • Water to avoid the roots drying out
  • In autumn, support by creating a frame of wire strung between stakes. This will help prevent the approximately 1m high plants being blown over in strong winds.
  • Harvest March to May

Broccoli is ready to harvest when green heads have formed. Pick the central stem first as this can encourage the formation of more side shoots. The green heads are actually clusters of flower buds. If you leave harvesting too long, the heads will break out into pretty yellow flowers.

When harvesting calabrese in late summer or autumn, keep an eye out for any caterpillars that may be hiding in the heads. Soaking the heads in a sink of cold water soon after harvesting can help remove any pests hiding between the green flower buds.


Varieties
Varieties of Broccoli

The large green headed broccoli commonly purchased in supermarkets is a variety referred to as calabrese. The other main type of broccoli often grown by allotmenters is sprouting broccoli. The main differences are as follows:

  • Calabrese
    Calabrese is relatively fast growing. It is sown in the spring and eaten in late summer and autumn. It is slightly more tender and sweeter than sprouting broccoli, and forms larger heads for eating.
  • Sprouting Broccoli
    Sprouting broccoli is relatively slow growing. It is sown in the spring and is ready to harvest the following spring after overwintering. The heads are relatively small, purple or white in colour, and they turn green during cooking.

Calabrese has the advantage of maturing faster and having larger (tastier) heads. The main reason for growing sprouting broccoli is the timing of the harvest, as there are not many other vegetables ready for harvest in the spring.