Starting, Growing and Dealing with Pests of Broccoli
Grow your own broccoli. Seriously - this is an extremely valuable vegetable when it comes to
providing a full range of vitamins and minerals (not to mention fibre)
to our diets.
This is a healthy plant and it is no wonder that mothers have been
saying for years, "Eat your broccoli!"
Early Broccoli Crops
Early crops should be sown indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before you
want to plant them outdoors.
The seeds are easily germinated so do not
crowd them in the seedling tray. Give them at least a half inch from
any other seed.
When the growing broccoli seedling has four true leaves (leaves that
develop after the first two seedling leaves) transplant it into a
larger container for growing-on.
Full sunlight, a regular feeding at half strength and a temperature of
62F will produce a nice short, thick fast growing broccoli plant for
putting into your garden.
The transplants should be put into the garden 18 inches apart and the
rows 30-36 inches apart.
If you are concerned with cutworms (small
worms that eat the stems below the soil line) you can wrap the stem
with a band of waxed paper or heavy paper to stop the worm from getting
to the stem.
A bit of lime or wood ash (very tiny bit) scattered around the plant
will deter slugs. Alternately, you can use an organic slug bait containing iron around
Late growing broccoli crops can be sown directly into the garden from
early May until the first week of June in zone 3-5 gardens and as late
as July in warmer areas.
Sow the seed as thinly as possible at four to
five seeds per foot (remember that this seed germinates quite easily)
and then thin out or transplant the resulting seedlings so they are 18
Generally healthy growing broccoli will mature
approximately 100 days from the day you sow it.
The major pest of this plant is the green caterpillar of the cabbage
Dust with rotenone or spray regularly with Bt to control this
pest. Dropping the harvested heads in salty water will also help to
identify the "surprises" you miss.
Chewed up leaves are the primary
sign that you have an infestation.
When and How To Harvest
Harvest your growing broccoli when the large central heads are still
tight budded. While you can eat them when the buds begin to swell and
open, they are much nicer harvested tight.
Do NOT pull up the plant but simply cut off the top head.
When the top head has been cut, side
shoots will develop and you'll get a ton of these from each plant.
Harvest side shoots regularly before they start to stretch or the buds
open on them. These smaller heads are easy to pick and use fresh in
salads and stir fries.
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Drop Into Salt Water For A Minute
This might seem strange but if you drop the heads (either the main head or the secondary florets) into a pot of salty water, you may avoid some of the small green worms (they'll float to the surface) before you freeze or cook the broccoli. Don't be grossed out, it's a fact of life. ;-)
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