Broccoli is a super nutritious vegetable that many really. It’s nutrition benefits are plentiful, it is packed full of essential vitamins like K & C, while providing a great level of both vitamin A and folate. It is high in fiber which among its health benefits also gives you a sense of fullness. Broccoli has more protein than most vegetables. Oh and here is something many do not know, you can eat leaves from a broccoli plant much like a kale or collard.
It is a very popular vegetable worldwide and especially in the US. In a recent poll conducted by Green Giant, broccoli was chosen as Americans favorite vegetable for a second year in a row. Thirty nine of 50 states named it number one. If we look at it based on actual sales, it is typically forth or fifth. Its simplicity to prepare is in some ways overshadowed by its lack of versatility. It cannot be used in as many ways and dishes as garlic or onion. Which probably keeps it off Amercfians list on shopping trips. However if you grew your own and used the leaves, you would find more uses for this nutritious vegetable.
Broccoli is in the cabbage family, who would have guessed? They are the most popular vegetable grown in the Brassica family. If you have never grown or seen a broccoli plant they are very beautiful with dark rich green leaves that look like wax has been poured on them. If all that doesn’t get you excited about growing your own, keep reading I have other great news.
Is Broccoli hard to grow?
The simple answer is yes, it doesn’t require lots of cross pollination like corn or super susceptible to a variety of bugs like squash. Growing broccoli is easier compared to its relatives Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
If you simply take a few steps you can easily grow your own broccoli.
- Good nutrient rich soil
- 1-2 inches of water per week
- PH level between 6-6.8
- Complete Organic Fertilizer
A few of these you would do for any vegetable you grow, such as making sure you have good soil. This always seems like a given but all too often taken for granted. The problem for most is we really do not have the proper tools to actually measure or analyse our own soil. Most if not all states have an extension office, you can take in your soil samples to be tested. Sometimes they test only for ph levels and they can carry a cost. This makes it not practical in my opinion, and the alternatives are far better.
If you plan on digging up a spot in your yard and planting a garden I would strongly suggest you buy a kit. It is super hard to determine if your soil has the proper nutrient mix and ph by simply looking at it, and just because grass and weeds grow well in your soil isn’t a good indicator. You can get one on Amazon for $30-$35, the Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit is a good choice as it tests for ph, N, K, & P. I know someone will say there are at least 13 different nutrients vegetables need, that is true but I haven’t found one that tests for all of them. Having one that tests for the main ones at least gives you a head start. It is worth the investment as it will save you from sowing seeds and now having them grow. Going through the whole process and not having your vegetables is frustrating and can dim your enthusiasm for gardening so why not spend a little to give yourself a shot at success?
If you go the route of using a raised bed, you will have greater control of the soil. While it doesn’t guarantee success you certainly have a better shot. You might not need a soil tester but if you plan on gardening for years to come, you should eventually buy one. Even in a situation where you use a raised bed after each season you will need to amend your soil. Each crop you grow will extract different nutrients in different qualities. Between nutrient draw from various vegetables and fertilizing you will throw off the nutrient and ph.
What’s the best time of year to plant broccoli?
Here we have another secret to success with growth broccoli. Broccoli enjoys cooler weather depending on where you live you could plant it once or twice in a year. Here in Florida the best time is in the fall as even the spring can be too warm. I personally have grown broccoli in the spring successfully here in Florida. I have also been unsuccessful growing in the spring, it never produced any heads. Now I just stick to the fall. In northern climates that means a shorter window of time as in order for the seeds to sprout, you need soil temperatures to remain between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In Florida that can be the case well into November, and even then you could start them inside and transplant them outside. Once broccoli is well established cold isn’t that big of an issue, to a point. I’ve successfully grown broccoli through spots of below freezing temperatures and even frost on them in the morning. They didn’t seem to mind. They are known to be able to tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees.
How long does broccoli take to grow?
This will depend on the variety chosen but you should be picking broccoli betwee day 75 and 90. Some varieties are as early as 60 days or as late as 100 days. Based on a fall planting I would suggest starting in September if you are in zones 4 or 5, in October for zones 6 or 7, and as late as November for zones 8,9, or 10. I like to plant in October so they are done in January and I have enough time to prepare for my Spring crop. Summer is tough to grow anything here between the over abundance of rain and harsh temperatures, so I like my Spring crop to be done before July.
How much broccoli do you get from one plant?
This too will depend on the variety chosen. Some will pop out heads at once some recommend the central head to be cut first to get others to form. If you have planted your broccoli in good soil, watered it regularly, planted in the right season, and fertilized with a complete organic fertilizer, and had a little luck, you will have healthy broccoli plants. They will yield 2-4 heads per plant. Though I have had as many as 6 on one plant.
How do you know when broccoli is ready to harvest?
Broccoli like most vegetables won’t be ready to harvest at the same time. Heads may continue to form for weeks beyond the first one appearing. Don’t think of it like a field of corn or wheat; those are vastly different crops and they are grown in a very industrialized process. You won’t experience that with almost anything you grow. The plant itself will grow for a long time allowing you to pick leaves to cook and eat while waiting for all the heads to finish. The heads themselves have a very short window, you want to wait until the heads have full green unopened flowers but if you wait too long the green bulbs open, the flowers come out. I won’t say they become useless but you certainly lose everything you know and understand about a broccoli head. Once you see a hint of yellow it’s time to cut the head out.
Growing your own vegetable garden is very rewarding. It is a great way to peer into simpler time, it is a great draw outside, and gets you in-tune to the food you put in your body. Trying different varieties are a huge part of the fun, they will challenge what you know about the vegetables you know and love. Roll up your sleeves and get planning for your crop of broccoli.