Broccoli is a favorite garden vegetable in Georgia. It can be planted in early spring or fall. Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family and is closely related to cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Broccoli is a very healthy food and may reduce certain types of cancer.
For a late spring broccoli harvest, start seeds indoors, or in a greenhouse or cold frame, in early February. The new seedlings need to be “hardened off” before being planted in March. Do this by leaving the seedlings outside for a few hours each day for three days. Then, leave the plants out overnight for several nights.
Broccoli can also be started indoors in late July for a fall harvest. The seedlings should be planted by the end of August. Try varieties such as Bravo, Decathlon, Marathon, Packman, Patriot and Premium Crop.
Broccoli can grow in many types of soil, but it prefers a well-drained soil high in organic matter. Broccoli does best in soils with a pH range between 6 and 6.8. For best results, a raised bed garden is recommended, especially in clay soils. However, if you are planting broccoli in your garden, be sure to add organic matter in the form of topsoil, manure or compost. This will increase the amount of nutrients and also improve drainage.
When selecting a planting location in the garden, choose a spot with at least six to eight hours of sunlight. Till the soil to a depth of 8 to10 inches and add organic matter. A soil test will determine the amount of nutrients needed for good plant growth. In the absence of a soil test, till in 3 to 4 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet before planting. Space broccoli seedlings 18 to 20 inches apart.
Broccoli has fairly high water needs. Water every day for the first week, then every 4 to 5 days.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder and will require additional nutrients throughout the growing season. Apply 2 pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer per 100 square feet every month during growth.
Harvest broccoli when the floret around the edge of the head starts to loosen, but the center is still tightly packed. Cut the stems at an angle to reduce water loss for additional harvesting.
After the initial harvest, the stems will continue to produce small secondary heads. Cook or refrigerate broccoli heads soon after harvesting to preserve freshness.
Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource extension agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or firstname.lastname@example.org.