Broccoli is a tuber

Broccoli cultivation - planting, care and harvest

Even though growing broccoli is a little more laborious than most other vegetables, it is successful in most cases. In addition, home-grown broccoli is usually always fresher and tastier than vegetables from the supermarket. Of course, the health aspect should also play a role. The Brassica oleracea var. Italica is closely related to cauliflower. In contrast to cauliflower, broccoli has a much milder flavor. In terms of care, broccoli is almost as demanding as cauliflower. They are also very similar in terms of growth and appearance. The heads of both types of vegetables consist of individual florets. These florets are the actual inflorescences, but they are not fully developed. The typical color of broccoli is deep green to bluish green.

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plants

Corresponding young plants are offered in garden centers in spring. Broccoli can be planted from late April to early August. The plants tolerate light ground frosts relatively well. The individual plants are placed in the soil in rows with a planting distance of about 50-60 cm between the rows and the individual plants. In particularly rough locations, it is advisable to initially plant the young plants under fleece or perforated film. For a longer harvest, the broccoli can be planted at different times.

sowing

As a rule, the time of sowing depends on the desired harvest date. If you want to harvest as early as June, you can grow early varieties of broccoli as early as February, in appropriate growing containers in a warm cold frame or in a greenhouse. A small nursery from the hardware store or garden specialist is also suitable.

The seeds are placed in appropriate potting soil. Then you keep them slightly moist and above all warm. The first seedlings appear within a few days. If these are large enough, at least 2-3 cm, you can prick them out into small pots. In May you can then plant them outside at appropriate intervals, whereby only the first leaves of the plants should protrude from the soil.
You can sow other varieties directly outdoors, but only from the end of April to June. Before sowing in the open ground, the soil should be thoroughly loosened and, if possible, supplied with compost and plenty of lime. Then the seeds are placed in rows no deeper than 2 mm in the soil, covered with a little soil and lightly pressed.

The seeds should be kept slightly moist until the first leaflets can be seen. If around 4-6 leaves can be seen, carefully lift the plants out of the ground and separate them to around 50-60 cm so that the lowest leaves of the plants touch the ground.

Location and soil

Broccoli prefers a warm, sheltered and sunny location. When growing broccoli, care should be taken not to plant it in the same location every year, but only about every 4-5 years. Exceptions are only possible where the soil has a pH value greater than 7.8.
Broccoli thrives particularly well on neutral soil. If the pH value is below 7-6.5, it is advisable to work lime into the soil and, if necessary, add it directly to the planting hole. Since broccoli is one of the strong eaters, the soil for cultivation should be very nutritious but also permeable and fresh. Broccoli is deep-rooted and therefore compacted soils are unsuitable for cultivation.

Watering and fertilizing

  • Water broccoli regularly
  • be careful not to pour over the leaves
  • Maintain moisture in the soil, create a layer of mulch
  • can be made from nettle leaves or lawn clippings
  • place around the plants
  • such a mulch layer has the advantage that it releases nitrogen into the soil
  • Always keep the soil evenly moist
  • Broccoli does not tolerate waterlogging

After basic fertilization with a fresh organic fertilizer such as compost, you can still apply a little nitrogen about three times during the growing season. As already mentioned, lawn clippings and nettle leaves in the form of a mulch layer are also very suitable for this. A few weeks before the harvest you shouldn't give any more fertilizer, otherwise too much nitrate could build up in the vegetables.

harvest

Broccoli can be harvested from summer to autumn, depending on the variety and the start of cultivation, with the exception of the 'Purple Sprouting' variety, which can be harvested in March / April. There are usually around 90 days between sowing and harvesting. Only the flower buds are harvested and only as long as they are still tight and completely closed.

With the right cut, these vegetables can be harvested multiple times. First, only the main shoot with flower buds is cut as soon as it is between 10 and 15 cm long. Later you can also harvest the underlying, renewable side shoots from which further flower heads develop. This extends the harvest by around 3-4 weeks. Especially in summer it can happen that the broccoli turns yellow or blooms very quickly and as soon as the flower buds open, the broccoli is no longer suitable for consumption.

Diseases

Carbonic hernia - The so-called cabbage hernia is a plant disease that can occur in all types of cabbage, including broccoli. This fungus lives in the soil and enters the plant via the roots. There it leads to uncontrolled division of the root cells and the formation of bulbous thickenings on the roots. The result is withered leaves because they can no longer be adequately supplied with water. Ultimately, the entire plant dies.

Regular crop rotation can prevent this disease. Limescale and regular loosening of the soil can also have a preventive effect. Loosened and permeable soils are also important because this fungus thrives particularly well in compacted and acidic soils.
It is not possible to directly combat the coal hernia. With calcium cyanamide fertilization you can significantly minimize the number of spores, but usually you have to remove and dispose of the affected plants.

Wrong mildew - An infestation with downy mildew can be recognized by a light fungal lawn on the underside of the leaves and yellowish spots on the upper side of the leaves. If the infestation is stronger, the fungal network also runs through the flower tissue and shows itself in gray streaked florets.
You can avoid it, for example, by never watering the leaves when watering the plants, they should remain dry and by maintaining sufficient planting distances. In order to prevent pest infestation in general, it is advisable to mix cultures with other plants or to strengthen the plants, for example by using primary rock flour or compost.

Pests

Cabbage flies - Like many other types of cabbage, broccoli is often caught by the cabbage fly. This pest lays its eggs on the roots of young broccoli plants. Its larvae or maggots then tamper with the roots, which can damage the plant so much that it dies.

There are hardly any ways of combating it and you should definitely avoid pesticides. However, there are a few things that can be done preventively. You can protect the plants, for example, with protective vegetable nets. Scattering wood ash, mulching with fern or attaching a so-called cabbage collar around the root neck can also be helpful. This is commercially available and can be made of cardboard or plastic. The cabbage fly cannot get to the root neck and lays its eggs on this collar, where they then dry up.

Cabbage white butterfly - The cabbage white butterfly, both small and large, is a butterfly that lays its eggs on the undersides of the leaves of plants. An infestation can usually be recognized by fluttering white butterflies and large holes in the leaves that are caused by the cabbage white butterfly's caterpillars. The caterpillars of the large cabbage white butterfly are yellowish-green with black spots, and those of the small ones are light green and velvety.

Here, too, appropriate nets can be used preventively to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs. If the larvae have already hatched, the naturally occurring bacterium bacillus thurigiensis can be used to combat it. The only approved biological preparation based on this bacterium for the home garden is XenTari.

Coal flea - Earth fleas occur mainly in dry and warm weather. These perforate mainly young plants like a sieve. Small beetles with yellow or black stripes can often be seen on the leaves of affected plants.

If the soil is kept evenly moist, fleas can be kept away very well as well as with appropriate pest protection nets. Regular or early loosening of the soil as well as mulching and weed control can protect against fleas. There is no approved control agent for the home garden.

Mealy cabbage aphid - Already in April / May an infestation on young plants can be recognized by a floury, gray wax coating. The aphid then spreads very quickly. The consequences are deformities and heartlessness as well as lightening of the leaves, curled leaves and honeydew contamination.

Ladybird, lacewing, hover fly or parasitic wasp larvae as well as spiders, hornets and wasps are the natural enemies of this aphid. For additional control, you can use environmentally friendly potash soap-based agents to treat the underside and top of the leaves. Depending on the degree of infestation, the whole thing may have to be repeated. A mixed culture with beans can partially reduce an infestation.

Special varieties

  • Broccoli Calabrese - Calabrese is the most famous green broccoli variety. It has an excellent taste, is productive, medium early and produces numerous side shoots. You can sow from March to June and harvest between June and September.
  • Broccoli Marathon - This medium-late and particularly high-yielding variety produces very firm, large and fine-budded, blue-green heads. It is suitable for the summer and autumn harvest and is mildew tolerant. You can sow from April to June and harvest from July to October.
  • Broccoli Purple Sprouting - In addition to the many conventional broccoli varieties, there is also a perennial variety, Broccoli Purple Sprouting, also known as 'winter broccoli'. It is sown in July, then hibernates outdoors and can be harvested in March or April of the following year. This extra early variety has a particularly delicate taste.

Conclusion
Broccoli is certainly not the most popular vegetable, but it is still very tasty and healthy. It can be pre-cultivated in the house or sown or planted directly in the field. The cultivation of broccoli is a bit more complex but still feasible. Above all, it is important to maintain the crop rotation and sufficient moisture. If you pay attention to optimal site conditions and care, this can also prevent diseases and pests. So nothing stands in the way of harvesting your own broccoli.