Broccoli

Broccoli is a vegetable that grows well in the UK and provides a great deal of taste and nutrition. It is a versatile vegetable that people either love or hate, but which can be put to a variety of different uses in the kitchen. There are three types of broccoli commonly cultivated in the UK: Calabrese broccoli, sprouting broccoli and 'purple cauliflower'. All three are usually known as broccoli though can also be called by their other names.

Growing broccoli:

Broccoli is perfect for cultivating in UK gardens because it is cool weather crop that grows best at temperatures between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius. Calabrese broccoli, the type which creates the large heads that we are most used to seeing in the supermarkets, fares worst in hot weather, while the sprouting varieties generally do better in a range of temperatures. Most broccoli is treated as an annual though there are some perennial varieties that can produce shoots over more than one year.

Due to pests, it is usually easier to grow broccoli from seed indoors in March, April and May before planting out when seedlings are large enough – around 10 to 15cm high. Water very well both before and after transplanting. Sow broccoli seedlings around 30cm apart.

Birds like pigeons love to eat the leaves of brassicas so you may have to net your plants to avoid them being eaten. A mesh cover or fine netting will also protect from pests like cabbage-white butterflies whose caterpillars will eat the plants.

Broccoli will appreciate a nitrogen rich plant feed when they reach around 20cm tall. They prefer a rich, moisture retentive soil and can benefit from the application of a nitrogen rich mulch like grass clippings in late spring. They should be watered deeply every ten days or so in dry weather.

Broccoli heads should be cut when the flower spears are well formed but before individual flowers begin to open. The central head will be cut first but do not remove your plants after that first harvest as there will be side shoots, which will be produced over the next four to six weeks and can be picked regularly.

Broccoli does well when inter-cropped with lettuce and some say that onion planted nearby with help repel pests. It should be placed with other brassicas in any garden rotation. As it likes nitrogen, it will benefit from being planted somewhere there have previously been legumes.

Why grow broccoli in the garden?

Broccoli, whether you love or loathe the taste, is extremely good for you. It contains a whole raft of beneficial vitamins and minerals and is also said to have anti-cancer properties.

Broccoli is a great easy and quick to grow crop for your kitchen garden. It is hardy and various varieties can be used to give a green vegetable crop for much of the year. 

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Brassica oleracea