Broccoli is the perfect vegetable to grow in mass numbers. This includes cauliflower, or “white” broccoli according to my kids. Florets are easy to pluck off the plant and eat, they’re easy to cut and freeze which makes for an all-around wonderful addition to the vegetable garden.
It prefers cooler temperatures and in fact, will “bolt,” or “go to flower” if the temperature is too warm. While you can eat the lovely yellow blossoms, they aren’t the goal. Big, hearty green broccoli florets are the goal.
In Florida, I start my first batch on the patio in August. Not too hot, easy to control the moisture, sprouting broccoli seeds on my screen patio is my way to get a kick-start on the season.
My perfect potting concoction contains:
1/3 organic black top soil
1/3 worm poop
The rich dense top soil helps retain the moisture while the compost and worm poop provide the nutrients. Broccoli is green and green means nitrogen. Worm poop = nitrogen. Wunderbar! The seeds are tiny, so only plant them 1/4″ deep.
Allow at least 2-3 weeks’ time on your patio before transplanting to the garden. You want nice, strong sproutlings for the outdoor beds. Anything less, and they might not survive. Once out in the garden, these babies are heavy feeders so make sure you pump in the nutrients and keep the water flowing.
To harvest, watch for that glorious broccoli head to appear and simply cut at the base. You can leave your broccoli plant in ground at this point and it will grow more sprouts that are edible. Otherwise, it’s done and you can remove plant from ground and toss into the compost pile.
Problems: Warm temps will send them to flower quickly. Too cold for too long and you’ll wind up with “buttons” or small broccoli heads. Cabbage worms are a problem for this family. The larvae of moths and butterflies, you’ll want to keep an eye out for white or gray moths hovering around the plant. A strong indication that you’ll have problems with their offspring.
Good Companions: Bush beans, beets, carrots, cucumber, onions, pea, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes. Onions and potatoes are said to improve flavor of broccoli when planted close.
Bad Companions: Pole beans and strawberries.
Health Benefits: These two are cancer-fighting powerhouses due to the compounds indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and sulforaphane. From breast to prostate and most everywhere in between, these are your secret weapons against cancer. And if that wasn’t enough, they also fend off heart disease and help boost immunity. Note to self: eat more brassicas!