Plant broccoli is easy and beneficial in many ways as long as one follows the proper methods. Broccoli is a vegetable that comes from the cabbage family. Broccoli is a great source of nutrition like fibre, protein and vitamins, etc. A study by Greg Alder states that planting broccoli proved to be economically beneficial by $4.42 per plant to him.
Broccoli is a cool-season crop that loves the sun. It is most ideal to plant broccoli in spring or fall. High temperatures affect the growth of broccoli negatively hence the goal is for the plants to mature before or after high temperatures are expected.
Broccoli seeds can germinate in a soil with a temperature of at least 45°F but a warmer soil is more preferable. For spring planting it is best to start seeds indoors almost 8 weeks before the last frost date and then sow them outdoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost date. If you want to plant broccoli in fall, then sow the seeds around 80 to 100 days before the first frost of fall.
Broccoli should be planted in a bed of moist and fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. The soil must be able to be drained well. To increase the fertility of soil adds 2 to 3 inches of rich compost or a thin layer of manure to the ground before planting.
If you start seeds indoors, transplant them outside after 4 to 6 weeks 12 to 20 inches apart in holes slightly deeper than their containers. Whereas if starting outside sow the seeds 1⁄2 inch deep and 3 inches apart. Once they grow up to 2 to 3 inches thin them so that they are 12 to 20 inches apart. Broccoli rows must be spaced at least 3 feet apart to provide space for heads to grow big.
Broccoli Plant Care
- Regular watering is important but avoids wetting the growing heads as it can cause rotting.
- Reduce watering after plant matures.
- Use mulch to suffocate weeds. Look out for weeds and keep the broccoli beds weed-free.
- Fertilize broccoli after 3 weeks of transplanting them.
- Broccoli roots are very shallow so try not to disturb the plants.
- To promote the growth of the second head after harvesting the first one make sure to feed and water the soil well.
Broccoli grown from seeds is ready to be harvested after 100 to 150 days whereas when grown from transplants it is ready after 55 to 80 days. Broccoli plants must be cut before they grow yellow i.e. when they are still green and tight. Cut off the head with five to six inches of stem and leave the base of the plant along with some leaves for new heads to grow.
Broccoli plants can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. If you wash then be sure to dry it before keeping it in the refrigerator.
Broccoli, like any other plant, can suffer from rot, pests and many other diseases that can cause harm to the plant.
Most common broccoli pests include:
- Cabbage worms
- Flea beetles
- Cabbage worms are the larvae form of butterflies and moths. They must be removed as they cause serious damage to the crop. You can use insecticides or handpick them.
- Aphids are tiny, soft insects that feed on the underside of the leaves. They cause the leaves to wrinkle and turn yellow. A strong spray of water from the hose would knock them off the leaves however one can use insecticidal soap or neem oil if the infestation is serious.
- Flea beetles are tiny black insects that leave many holes on the leaves and can eventually kill seedlings or reduce the yield of mature plants. Use insecticides such as Sevin.
- Cutworms usually affect young seedlings and work overnight. To avoid this wrap the lower part of the steam and near the soil in cardboard or cloth. To avoid them from growing in the mature heads thuringiensis or spinosad sprays.
Here is a list of most common broccoli diseases with their symptoms, causes and treatments.
- Black leg
- Downy mildew
- Black leg is caused by a fungus. It forms round or irregular grey lesions on the leaves and dark margins and favours warm environments. To avoid this problem use disease-free seeds or wash with warm water before planting.
- Downy mildew is caused by a fungus as well, it forms small angular lesions on the leaves which eventually grow into huge yellow or orange patches. Remove any crop debris after harvesting and it can be treated by the use of an appropriate fungicide.
- Wirestem is caused by a fungus which eventually causes the death of all the young germinated seedlings, causes the stem to rot or leaves the stem constricted and twisted. To avoid this problem use pathogen free-seeds or use sterilized soil for transplants. You can also apply fungicide on seeds to disrupt the growth of fungus.
- Keep the plants nourished
- Shelter from cold
- Protect against pests and diseases
- Harvest on right time
Types of Broccoli plants
Amongst the many types of broccoli there are three most common types grown namely:
- Calabrese broccoli
- Sprouting broccoli
- Purple cauliflower
Importance of Broccoli
Broccoli is very well known for its nutritious and healthy nature. Broccoli plants are packed with vitamins, minerals like potassium, phosphorus, etc, and bioactive compounds like carbs. Broccoli market value has seen to be growing in the majority of countries over the years. China happens to be the largest producer of broccoli at the moment with over 101.8 Million in production while Pakistan is at number 11 with 219.85K in production.
Broccoli is beneficial economically due to its nature of regrowing from previous heads without having to sow seeds all over again. It allows farmers to harvest much more crop in a lesser amount of time with less money spent. The freshly grown broccoli is also very good for health as it is known to help in fighting cancer and boosting the immune system.
All in all, in today’s world of fast food and unhygienic lifestyle crops like broccoli, should be introduced more to the people in forms of different recipes. Growing broccoli is easy and does not require much hard work but it does bring many economic and nutritional benefits to the farmers. One time’s effort does not end in one harvest; growers can get benefits from it even after months as new heads sprout from the old ones.