A beginner's guide to growing broccoli
It’s healthy, tasty, and looks like little trees- of course it’s broccoli – and it’s a crop that’s missing from many of Britain’s gardens. Despite this, it’s rewarding to grow successfully, and provides a great value staple veg to accompany your more pedestrian potatoes and carrots, as well as being far healthier. Discover more about the benefits of broccoli and the secrets to cultivating this magnificent crop in our guide below.
Growing from seed
Broccoli is best grown from seed in a greenhouse, regularly watered & fed with fertiliser. Plant the developed root balls out into a fertilised allotment with plenty of space between plants, and good level of sun. You’ll also need excellent drainage to prevent the plants developing club root. Broccoli prefers slightly acidic soil and as you continue to feed you plants you’ll want to use a nitrogen-based fertiliser along with their water. As they continue to grow you’ll need to continually space them out until there’s about 30-60cm between each plant, depending on layout (planting in rows requires more space).
Pests pose a big threat to broccoli, and resisting their attempts to feast on your young plants is a big part of cultivating them. Make sure to control the various birds, caterpillars, cabbage root fly, slugs and snails which can seriously damage your young plants & the grown heads if allowed to. Use high quality netting & repellents to deter pests- unfortunately broccoli attracts a wide range of wildlife- if these get access to your broccoli plants, especially when younger, they will wreak havoc. There will be visible damage to leaves and heads if insects can reach your plants, and there’s also the risk of larvae growing around the shallow roots, causing considerable harm and eventually killing your plants.
Your broccoli will be ready to eat once the heads are well developed but the flowers have yet to open. Take the top spears first, before the ones from the sides.
5 surprising broccoli facts:
- Broccoli was first eaten by the Romans in the 6th century, when they created it by cross-pollinating kale plants.
- 100g of broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange, and fewer calories and only 1.7g of sugar- compared to 12g in an orange! That makes it brilliant for anti-aging, healthy skin and eyes, and immunity.
- Broccoli comes from Italian, meaning the flowering top of a cabbage. It’s a word English people have trouble with- it’s said to be the 6th most commonly misspelled word in English. Go on, close your eyes and give it a try.
- In a shock 2017 poll by Diabetes UK, broccoli came in as the nation’s favourite vegetable, clocking an impressive 18% of the vote in Scotland and overtaking other regional favourites such as tomatoes (London, not a vegetable) and Brussels sprouts (the North East).
- There’s a world broccoli eating contest! The current record holder allegedly consumed 453g of broccoli in just over a minute and a half.