Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Planting Broccoli
Broccoli is one of the healthiest of all vegetables, so planting broccoli seems like a natural for anyone interested in growing their own vegetable garden so they can eat a healthier diet. Broccoli is native to Asia and the Mediterranean, so it likes warm weather. It grows well all over the southern United States and is great for summertime veggie gardens in the northern US.
Facts About Broccoli Plants
Broccoli is quite an easy veggie to grow, and its multitude of health benefits make it a smart addition to any vegetable garden. Broccoli is an annual, which means that it will either reseed itself or have to be replanted every year. These plants like the sun and grow during the summer in the north and in the fall and winter down south.
One of the most valuable health features of broccoli is that it contains important cancer-fighting nutrients called antioxidants. These antioxidants fight damaging carcinogens in our bodies that are known to cause cancer. Broccoli is also high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, which are known to help boost the immune system and help fight off all kinds of sickness and disease. While broccoli tastes great cooked and raw, this veggie is best eaten raw for optimum nutrition.
Broccoli is basically a warm season vegetable. In the northern part of the country, plant your broccoli with other summer-time veggies in the late spring (late April, early May). These plants are not ultra sensitive to cold, so they can tolerate a light frost if the seedlings are planted outside early. Gardeners in the southern states will want to start planting broccoli in the early fall, and it will grow throughout fall and winter.
Broccoli grows in heads with a rather thick stalk, so it will need a good bit of garden space. It also likes a nice sunny location, so keep this in mind when choosing where to plant broccoli. Broccoli seeds should be placed about ½-inch deep, with a light dusting of soil over the top. They will germinate within 4 to 7 days, at which time they can be transplanted to the garden. Place the transplants around 15 to 18-inches apart to allow them enough space to grow fully. Although broccoli plants like full sun, they can handle some shade without suffering.
Since broccoli is an easy-growing veggie, most potting soil will be sufficient for healthy growth. It is important when planting broccoli, however, to stay away from areas that do not drain well. Waterlogged soil is not good for broccoli plants, but a moist rich soil will work perfectly. Organic composting materials also help with plant health and growth, as does fertilizing. Broccoli plants should be fed early and often, with a fertilizer that features boron, calcium and magnesium.
Broccoli is usually ready for picking within 65 to 70 days after the plants sprout. Full-grown heads of broccoli will be deep green in color and firm to the touch, with stalks that are tightly packed together. When harvesting, cut the stalk approximately 8 to 10-inches down from the top branches to encourage continued growth. As long as the broccoli stem is not cut too far down that stalk, smaller shoots will continue to sprout from the same plant. Leaving room for new shoots to grow allows the broccoli plant to last through the summer season.