HOW TO GROW BROCCOLI:
Broccoli is a favorite of mine. The main head is good, but for the backyard gardener and farmer’s market farmer, the real crop is in the florets. These side shoots will produce all summer long, weather permitting. The more you pick, the more they come. The plants can take frost too, and when planted early enough you can harvest florets for months.
One of biggest keys to success in organic gardening is the condition of the soil. There needs to be adequate organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients. And at the same time, the soil needs to be loose enough for good aeration and drainage, which will help promote strong root development.
Although broccoli is a very heavy feeder, it is easy to grow if your soil has the proper nutrients. People always assume their soil is average, but unless you have a soil test it is just a guess. More often than not, it is necessary to amend the soil to achieve optimum pH balances, as well as the proper levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. Testing your soil is ideal; however, at a bare minimum, before planting anything, work in at least 2-4” of organic mulch and at least one-half inch of finished compost into your topsoil. And if you suspect your soil is less than ideal, mix in a cup of Mega-Veggie if you feel your soil is in great condition, two cups if in good condition and 3 cups if in poor condition, into every 100 sq. ft. of soil. This 100% organic soil amendment will make up for a lot of deficiencies.
Also, mulching with compost or straw will help keep the soil moist and also help to feed the plant and prevent weeds. Don't mulch over 3-4" because this might prevent oxygen from entering the soil and could cause root rot.
If planting from seed: Direct plant seed in full sun when you can work the soil and after the hard freeze season is over. Plant seed 1/4” deep in rich soil, then water with seaweed solution. This will help germinate the seed and promote root growth. Space 2’ apart in rows, with 2-3’ between rows. If planting in raised beds, plant 2-3’ on center.
If planting seedlings: You are more likely to have success in planting from seedlings. If you choose to plant seedlings, start indoors two to three weeks before the last anticipated hard frost. Harden them off first if you are buying or growing starts. This is done by placing the seedlings in direct sun for an hour, then placing in the shade. Each following day increase the time in the sun by one hour; repeat this each day until they are in the sun for 6 to 8 hours, which will take a week or so. Make sure they don’t dry out.
If you know there is a chance of hard freeze, bring seedlings inside until freeze is over. When it is safe, leave seedlings outside, placing them next to a building with an overhang and let them get used to nighttime temperatures. The building and overhead cover should give you some protection. After one night outside and they are used to sun, you can plant without shocking the plant. Plant in soil when outside temperatures may go to 32 degrees but mostly stay above freezing.
When planting, use a tablespoon of bone meal in the bottom each planting hole. If you’re Vegan or don’t like to use bone meal, then Mega-Start will work. It’s 100% Organic and animal-free. It is best to root feed with Seaweed right after planting to prevent shock. Seaweed is better for shock prevention than any other product on the market.
After planting, continue to feed seaweed once a week by spraying leaves, and fish emulsion every two weeks through root feeding until harvest. I use a hose sprayer for fish, but just make sure you spray enough so that the roots of the plants are soaked. If fish gets on the leaves, don’t worry, it won’t burn the leaves.
If your plants are not vigorous, they are not getting enough food and your soil is in poor condition. If so, side dress with 2 tablespoons of Mega-Veggie around the base of the plants and water in. Continue the seaweed once a week along with fish emulsion every two weeks. Do not let the soil dry out; soil should be moist but not soggy.
Recommended Schedule for Fertilizing and Amending Soil:
1. Bone Meal or Mega-Start -- at planting
2. Seaweed -- at planting and once a week until harvest
3. Fish Emulsion -- every two weeks after planting until harvest
4. Mega-Veggie -- if plant does not appear vigorous, every two weeks until harvest
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