Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow in the home garden, and despite what many gardeners may think, is a rather low-maintenance plant. Most gardeners who have trouble with broccoli are experiencing the vegetable in the spring.
Spring temperatures make this heat-sensitive plant more difficult to grow because broccoli does better when planted in the fall. Warm temperatures when first planted encourage seed sprouting or quick root development, while the cooler temperatures a couple weeks later sweeten the flavor, and prevent the broccoli from blooming too quickly.
The part of broccoli that we eat is actually the unopened flower buds. If you harvest broccoli after the yellow flowers begin to show it’s too late for the best flavor and the plant may stop producing altogether.
Grow broccoli in rich, fertile soil with plenty of compost or mulch to help provide nourishment for these heavy feeders. Broccoli plants will often tolerate temperatures below freezing, making them a perfect choice for fall gardens. If your temperatures drop below 20 degrees consider getting a fall garden cold frame to extend the growing season.
Heading Broccoli Plants
What we traditionally see in the grocery store are large heads of broccoli and some varieties are bred specifically for these single, large heads. These include such varieties as Thompson, Romanesca Italia, De Cicco, and Nutra-Bud.
Sprouting Broccoli Plants
Other broccoli varieties grow a head of florets in the middle of the plant, but also develop many side shoots that are also edible. In fact, once the main head has been harvested, these broccoli plants will continue to produce more and more side shoots as they are harvested. Sprout broccoli varieties include Green Goliath, Sprouting Calabrese, Bonanza hybrid, and Waltham 29. The Purple Sprouting broccoli is highly unusual in color, but tastes delicious!
Harvest broccoli by cutting the stem under the florets while the buds are still tight and closed. If you can see the yellow of the flowers, the plant is already becoming bitter and will not taste as good.
Broccoli is so high in calcium and vitamin C that it deserves a place in every home garden plot. Why not plan to add a couple varieties of broccoli to your fall vegetable garden this year?