How to grow broccoli

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Broccoli was considered an exotic Italian vegetable a couple of generations ago but, like many twentieth century migrants, it’s rapidly become mainstream. It also used to be regarded as a winter-only vegetable, but newer varieties can be grown all year round. Despite this, most home gardeners will find it easier to cultivate broccoli during the cooler months.

Broccoli seed can be sown from summer to autumn in all but the coldest districts. In those areas it’s better to start broccoli seeds in late spring or early summer so that the plants are well on their way before winter arrives.

Yates ‘Shogun’ is a quality hybrid variety of broccoli with good disease resistance. Seed are best sown into starter pots or trays, and seedlings transplanted when they’re about 7cm tall. While the seedlings are germinating, prepare the planting area well by adding Thrive Complete Plant Food, plus some good home- made compost or Dynamic Lifter pellets to activate the soil microbes. If soil has been pre- prepared, broccoli seeds can also be sown direct into the garden bed but make sure they don’t dry out during the germination period.

After the seedlings have emerged, begin feeding immediately with Thrive Soluble Plant Food – half strength at first, then gradually increasing to full strength. After transplanting, water them in with Dynamic Lifter Seaweed. This will encourage the roots to settle in rapidly.

The gardening practice called crop rotation, which means successively growing different types of crop, should be religiously followed with broccoli. Broccoli’s susceptible to a soil- borne problem called club root, which causes the plants to wilt rapidly on hot days, so make sure you plant into a different bed each year. Don’t go back to the same bed for at least three years.

Broccoli is related to cabbages and, as a result, is troubled by many of the same pests and diseases. Watch out for the grubs of cabbage moths and butterflies. Yates Success, an organically-derived caterpillar control, is the best solution for these pests. Use Blitzem or Baysol pellets to deter snails and slugs and prevent them from eating the young leaves. Use Yates Nature’s Way Vegie & Herb Spray Concentrate 200mL to control aphids, and Yates copper-based Fungus Fighter will help with mildew on the leaves.

Broccoli grows relatively slowly in the cooler months and is usually ready for harvest in 16 – 20 weeks. Cut the large central head when the buds are well formed but before the flowers start to open. Removing this central head will encourage smaller side shoots to form. They’ll then be ready for a second picking in a few weeks time.

The interesting Chinese broccoli called ‘Kailaan’ is also available in Yates seed range. It forms a looser, lighter head that is usually harvested when a few of the flowers have opened. Understandably, this Asian variety is ideally suited to stir fries or noodle dishes. Its tender shoots require minimal cooking.


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