Broccoli would have to be one of my favourite vegetables to grow, not only because it is tasty and nutritious, with many uses in the kitchen, but also because it is so productive. If it’s looked after properly you can keep harvesting from the same plant for months.
For those of you in temperate regions, such as the majority of Sydney, autumn is the perfect time to get your broccoli plants in.
I am fortunate here in the highlands as I am able to grow and get good harvest from broccoli all year round, due to our cool nights.
Because of this I successively plant all year. But for those of you who can only get good production in the cooler months, succession planting throughout autumn will give you good production till the end of spring.
Whilst purchasing ready to transplant plants in punnets is quick and easy you are faced with having six to twelve (depending on the number of plants in the punnet) ready for harvest all at once. Which is fine is you have time to process and freeze. But by successively planting seeds and producing your own seedlings you can spread your harvest evenly over a number of weeks and months.
I sow seeds into large celled punnets, two seeds per cell and cull the weakest. Usually this will result in two to four plants a month. I fertilise the seedlings with ½ strength Powerfeed until they have six to eight leaves then transplant into a bed, pre-prepared with the addition of well-rotted animal manure, usually poultry, and handful of blood and bone per square meter.
If you are not sure about producing your own seedlings check out the module on this topic here.
I then apply two or three applications of Seasol to get them established, then six weeks of one application per week of Powerfeed to develop large healthy plants. After about 10 weeks I apply several applications of Seasol to encourage the plant to go from leaf production to flower production. The broccoli head is of corse a big bunch of flower buds.The more leaf area you have in the plant before applying the seasol, the larger the first main head of broccoli you will get.
Once you pick the first main head reapply Powerfeed for two or three weeks to encourage the development of large strong side shoots which produce your next lot of heads. You can continue feeding and harvesting heads from your plant this way for months, though the longer you harvest the smaller the heads will get. By the time they are down to thumb nail size I am pulling them out as I always have younger plants coming on.
The trick to maintain continual production once the main flower head has been harvested, is to fertilise and make sure you harvest the heads as soon as they are ready, if the heads are allowed to flower production will stop.
The biggest problem with growing broccoli, especially in temperate regions is the dreaded white cabbage moth. Check out my blog post here for some great tips on how to avoid damage to your crop without resorting to using pesticides.
For more information on starting your productive backyard, check out the website