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Planting & Growing Organic Broccoli

Posted January 08, 2015

Broccoli! Broccoli Head Either you love it or you don't.  But lately broccoli is gaining in popularity because it's so good for you.  It contains antioxidants, large amount of sulforaphane which help protects the body from diseases and cancer.

Broccoli is a cool season vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family.  Broccoli can tolerate light freezes making it ideal for spring and fall crops.  Enrich the garden soil where broccoli will be planted with plenty of compost.  Sow broccoli seeds 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost.  Seeds will generally germinate in 5-7 days when temperatures are around 70 degrees F.  Broccoli is a heavy feeder of nitrogen.  Once the plants show their true leaves, fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as liquid fish or a dry form fertilizer, working it lightly around the base like Bio-Fish.  If you don't start your own plants from seeds, buy broccoli transplants and plant hardened off plants 2 weeks before last frost (earlier when using cover).  Look for plants that are not root bound and about 3-5 inches tall for the best start.  Set plant in the soil 1" deeper than they grow in pots with  1-2 Tablespoons of dry Bio-Fish fertilizer.  Space about 18-24" apart or in a staggered pattern 15" apart for more intensive planting.  Fertilize your plants every 3-4 weeks until heads begin to form.  Broccoli will form small heads called buttoning if plants have received too little water (broccoli plants are not drought tolerant) or there has been extended periods of cold temperatures.  Using a Frost Blanket when temperatures drop into the lower twenties will be very beneficial for your plants production. 

Cabbage looper, diamondback moth and imported cabbage worm are broccoli's biggest pest problems.  They love to munch on the leaves of Brassica Crops!  Control early to ensure good health for head formation.  A chewed up plant will struggle and stress and may not produce at all.  These pest can all be control by hand picking for spraying or dusting with natural bacterias such as Bacillus thuringienis or Spinosad.

It's time to harvest broccoli while the heads are still tight.  Watch closely every 2-3 days.  Once heads begin to loosen, their quality is quickly compromised.  After the main head is harvested, some varieties will produce smaller side shoots.  Keep these harvested to encourage further production. 

Broccoli heads will last about one week in the refrigerator, stored loosely in a plastic bag.

Good Companions to plant broccoli with are bush beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, cucumber, dill, lettuce, nasturtium, onion family, oregano, rosemary, sage and spinach. 



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