Broccoli prefers soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. To increase the fertility of your soil, mix up to four inches of mature compost into your soil. If your soil is in particularly poor condition, also add a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer to enrich the soil. Organic fertilizers like alfalfa, cottonseed meal, and manure are good choices for planting broccoli.
While broccoli prefers full sun, it will tolerate some shade.
Broccoli does best when started inside and transplanted at about 4” high. This usually takes about 4-6 weeks. For a summer harvest, sow seeds 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost, planning on transplanting your seedlings into your garden beds about 3 weeks before the last spring frost. For a fall harvest, determine your first fall frost date and count backward 85 to 100 days (depending on variety) to figure out when you need to start your seeds. Floating row covers can extend your season by several weeks.
Depending on variety, space your plants 12-24” apart in rows 36” apart.
Apply an organic mulch made of mature compost, leaves, or bark to keep weeds in check and soil temperature regulated.
Allow your plants between one and one and a half inches of water per week. Broccoli likes moist (but well-drained) soil. Make sure not to get the budding broccoli crowns wet when watering. Doing so causes them to mold. In particularly hot or dry conditions, increase the amount of water you feed your plants.
Fertilize your plants about three weeks after planting. Use an organic, nitrogen-rich fertilizer when your broccoli plants begin to form new leaves. Fish emulsion works well for fertilizing broccoli plants. You can continue to fertilize the plants about once a week until they are ready for harvest.
Broccoli plants have very shallow roots. If you disturb the soil you may accidentally break roots and damage your broccoli plants. If weeds develop around the plants, suffocate them with mulch instead of plucking them from the ground to avoid disturbing the roots.
You want to harvest your broccoli crowns when the buds are tightly closed and dark green. Avoid waiting until the buds begin to flower into light green or yellow flowers. Cut the crown where it meets the stem using garden shears. Avoid breaking the crown off. A clean cut will better encourage new growth. With a healthy cut, the broccoli plant should grow small shoots from the side of the stem. You can continue to harvest the small shoots, and the plant should produce more.
Broccoli, Brassica oleracea
Pollination, insect; Life Cycle, biennial; Isolation Distance, ½ mile
Broccoli needs milder winter conditions in order to flower. Isolate seed plants from other Brassica oleracea that may be in flower at the same time. Do not harvest the heads of your seed plants, although one method is to cut the central head and let the side shoots go to seed. Most broccoli plants are self-sterile. Plant at least 6 different plants to protect vigor and ensure a reasonable amount of genetic diversity. Seed stalks are 4″ long and produce a lovely yellow flower. Allow individual pods to dry to a light brown color before picking and opening by hand. Lower pods dry first followed by those progressively higher on the plant. Smash unopened pods in cloth bag with mallet or by walking on them. Winnow chaff and dry.
Based in Asheville, NC, Sow True Seed has a small, dedicated staff of dirt worshippers committed to providing high quality, open-pollinated seeds in support of sustainable food production and regenerative agriculture. Founded in 2008 by lifelong gardener and food activist Carol Koury, Sow True Seed was created to preserve our shared botanical heritage and grow a new era of ecological wisdom.
Sow True Seed supports independent, regional agricultural initiatives that foster a vibrant, sustainable economy, and true food sovereignty. They are committed to growing our awareness and actions to honor the heritage of their seeds, the diverse people and places that have contributed to our collective abundance.
Based in the glorious mountains of Western North Carolina – home to a temperate rainforest and one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America – Sow True prides themselves on working with farmers in the region who ensure the survival of heirloom varieties that would otherwise become extinct.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that seed germination rates be tested at least once a year. A “sell by date” is also required on seed packets and cannot date more than a year from the last passing germination test. Sow True Seed tests the germination rates of all seed varieties twice a year via the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to ensure passing germination rates. The sell by date is not a “use by” date; most seed varieties, stored properly, can last up to three years. Sow True Seed stores all seed varieties in a climate controlled facility that averages 50° F and 50% humidity, which are ideal seed storing conditions. For the home gardener the best way to store seeds is in the refrigerator, in a zip top bag or Mason jar, with silica packets to absorb any moisture. We do not recommend storing seeds in the freezer.
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