Grow Great Broccoli in Your Back Yard Garden
How I Grow My Broccoli
People often tell me they have a hard time growing broccoli. They ask me to reveal my secrets for growing it. I have even had complete strangers stop their cars and ask me what exotic plant I am growing and where I found it because it is so beautiful. They seem completely astonished when I tell them the exotic plant is nothing more than ordinary broccoli!
I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have no special secret or technique. However, all the questions about what I do to my broccoli to get it to grow so well has led me to think about why it grows and produces so well for me.
Planting and Growing Techniques
I plant my broccoli very early in the spring. This vegetable seems to love the cooler weather. I use both bedding plants, and seed. When working with seed, I usually scatter the seed and then cover it to the depth recommended on the seed package. I pack it down a little with my hands, and keep the soil moist. When the seeds germinate, I thin them out. However, I have been told I do not follow the spacing rules for my plants. My neighbor says I plant them too close together. However, she also said she had never seen broccoli get so big! I do not know if broccoli just likes company or what the deal is, but my broccoli seems to get pretty big.
I think this may have something to do with it. I usually plant my broccoli in spots where it gets the morning sun as well as some of the afternoon sun. However, it gets shade in the late afternoon. Some of that shade is a filtered shade from the willow tree, so it is dappled. During the hot summer months, the heat is broken by the shade. I think getting late afternoon shade allows the roots to cool, and encourages plant growth.
I try to give the broccoli lots of water—especially during the hot months. At times, I will even flood it, and then use my cultivating tool to loosen the soil between the plants while the ground is soft. This way, the air circulates and the roots can spread out more easily. At least that is my theory.
I do not use fertilizer with my broccoli. But I do try to plant in areas where there is a good population of earthworms. When I was a little girl, my father told me that many earthworms are a sign of fertile soil.
I plant marigolds in and around the broccoli to keep ants and other critters away. When I see little white bugs starting to collect on my broccoli (and roses, too), I mix up some dish washing liquid with water in about a 1 to 3 ratio. One part dish washing liquid, to three parts water. Then I go around and spray my broccoli leaves, both the top and bottom of the leaves, with the mixture. I leave it on for about 24 hours and then spray it off. I usually have to do this periodically throughout the summer.
I try to keep up with harvesting the broccoli as soon as it is ready. You know it is ready when it develops the tight, green seed buds. If left to continue growing, the plant will produce pale yellow flowers in a shape and size similar to sage brush. I cut the stem as low as possible, leaving two to four nubs, and on an angle because it just seems like this is healthier for the plant. I find that my broccoli plants keep producing into the fall if I keep up on the harvesting. Usually, I have plenty for myself and plenty to give away with about eight plants.
I hope this helps others to have more success with their broccoli. Again, I am embarrassed to say how little thought I put into this process before now. Even after thinking about it, I am still not quite sure why my broccoli gets so big. I have even used it as landscaping fillers! The plants seem to always get between 2 and 2 ½ feet tall, and about as wide. Sometimes the leaves are around 8 10 inches wide and I have had years where the leaves get quite long, but I haven’t measured them, so I can’t say how long. Unfortunately, I have not taken pictures of the mature plants yet, but I will do that next summer and post them here. The pictures shown above are of plants that are not yet mature.
Happy gardening, everyone!
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© 2011 Nancy Owens