Broccoli belongs to the same family as cabbage. The demand for this vegetable has grown manifolds in recent years because, it has been found that its nutritional value is really very high. It is a rich source of calcium, iron, vitamins A and C. It consists of sulforaphane, an antioxidant which can fight cancer. Moreover, it has a very low calorie count and can be included even in low calorie diet. Many people are curious to know how to grow this crop, as the taste of home grown, fresh broccoli is much tastier as compared to those that are available in the grocery stores. Growing it is an easy and simple task, as it can be grown anywhere provided the weather is cool. It prefers a temperature range of 65°F to 75°F. Presented below are the steps involved for growing broccoli.
Selection of Location
A proper site selection for planting the broccoli plant in your garden is very important. The selected location should receive full sun and have proper air circulation. On an average, the height of this plant is around three feet. So, the site should not have any other crops nearby area as they may get shaded by these plants.
Broccoli does not have any soil preference and it can grow in any type of soil if it is loose and has a good drainage. The pH level of the soil should range between 6.0 and 7.0. Before planting the seeds, you have to enrich the soil, by loosening it and adding an inch of compost. Mix some organic fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen, and water the soil well.
Sowing the Seeds
Before planting broccoli, you have to learn how to grow the sprouts at home. The advantage of using home grown sprouts, is that the seedlings planted will be free from various diseases and infections. Usually, its seeds are sowed indoors four to six weeks before the last frost. To grow sprouts, soak the seeds overnight at room temperature. Take a container, put a layer of prepared soil into it, and water it. Now, dig a one inch deep hole into the soil, place the soaked seed into it and cover it up with some loose soil. You will notice sprouts coming out within two to three days.
Transplant the Seedlings
When the seedlings grow to a height of 12 inches, then it's time to transfer them to the garden. This should be done around two weeks before the last frost. Lift the seedling from the container holding the base of the stem and place it into a 2 inch deep hole so that the entire root remains inside the hole. Now, fill up one inch of the hole with water and then cover it up with soil. Press the soil tightly so that it is properly secured to the ground. Keep a gap of 15 inches in between two seedlings.
Broccoli plants should be watered in such a way that the soil remains moist but does not get saturated with water. It has a very shallow root so if you do not water it properly then it would not get sufficient nutrition, and you will not be able to yield good crop. So that the foliage dries up well before sunset, one should water this plant in the morning.
Mulching prevents growth of weeds, and helps the soil retain maximum moisture. As mentioned earlier, this plant thrives best in well nourished soil, therefore regular fertilization is a must. It should be fertilized with 4-8-4 fertilizer after a gap of every 3 to 4 weeks, and you can also add well rotted manure into the soil from time to time. Broccoli is susceptible to some insects like aphids and cabbage loopers. Use garlic spray to control aphids, whereas, to protect the crop from cabbage loopers, cover up the plant with insect netting.
In general, broccoli reaches maturity after 55 to 100 days of planting. It should be harvested when the diameter of its head is around 3 inches and its buds are firm. You have to cut the central head along with four to five inches stem.
For growing this plant in containers, you have to follow the same procedure. The fresh broccoli that you have harvested in your garden should be used up within 3 to 5 days. If you refrigerate it too long, then it will turn fibrous and you will not be able to enjoy its crunchy taste, and it won't be as nutritious.