Grow it Yourself – Broccoli

Ssh and I will make an admission. I am not keen at all on broccoli despite understanding that it is terribly good for me. There is just something about the taste and texture that does not appeal, though I concede it is acceptable in a creamy soup with blue cheese. But, it is a staple vegetable and so easy to grow that it is a mainstay for most vegetable gardeners. We avoid growing it over summer here because it is a magnet for white butterflies and we don’t want to have to spray it but as the cooler weather of autumn approaches, it is planting time again. The white butterflies peter out when cooler weather comes and in the interim, it is easier to keep small plants insect free.

If you start from seed, it is usual to sow it into small pots or a seed tray to get the plants growing strongly before planting them in the garden. Unless you have a huge family of voracious broccoli eaters, buying an occasional punnet of seedlings is the easy way to go. They need the usual well cultivated soil rich in humus and with plenty of sun. Being a leafy green, they also appreciate fertiliser. We prefer to give this through extensive use of compost (nature’s very own slow release fertiliser) and blood and bone or you can feed with any number of cheap and cheerful proprietary mixes if you prefer. Aim for one rich in nitrogen. Keep the water up to the plants if we get a dry spell – leafy plants need plenty of moisture. Allow about half a metre of space around each plant. It seems a lot when the plants are small but they need room to spread and they don’t appreciate competition from neighbours. Plant them a little deeper than they are in the seed pots to encourage them to develop more roots higher up the stem.

Broccoli is generally cold hardy and will hold in the ground in winter to enable you to harvest as little or as much as you want at a time. Plants may need protecting from birds while they get established.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.