It’s easy to learn how to grow broccoli. Broccoli can be seeded directly
into your garden after the last average frost date has past. Members of the
family Brassicaceae, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are cole crops. Cole
crops perform best in cool weather. However, when exposed to temperatures
under 50 degrees Fahrenheit they may “button” (form heads prematurely).
Broccoli from transplants can be set into the garden from four weeks before
to two weeks after the last frost. This gives you a better timeline for
optimum planting to better establish your broccoli plants.
Broccoli is a regular in almost any vegetable garden Once established, broccoli is a vigorously growing plant. Harvest broccoli when the buds are still small and tightly closed. Start harvesting by cutting the large center cluster. Cut the stem five to six inches below the head and your broccoli will continue producing harvestable side shoots for over a month.
Talking about how to grow broccoli, reminds me of my first experience growing this hearty vegetable. Back in the early 80’s there was no Internet available with ready tips on gardening. Moreover, in the rural area we lived in, organic gardeners were seen as latent “hippies”. Still, I was determined to grow a garden with no chemicals and of course, it was my first year to plant broccoli.
The biggest problem with growing broccoli is that, like other members of its family, broccoli is a favorite breeding ground for a moth larva called the cabbage looper. These green worm-like critters blend in so well that like me, you may not be aware of their existence until after harvesting the broccoli. Believe me, there is nothing less appetizing then seeing your broccoli pot teeming with cooked cabbage loopers!
There are three good ways to get rid of the cabbage looper. The first is to use row covers on your broccoli plants. Theoretically, row covers block the moths’ access to your plants, keeping them from laying their eggs in your broccoli. However, insects are tricky at finding loopholes in human plans to keep them out! To be on the safe side, use row covers together with method two.
After harvesting, soak your broccoli heads in a salt-water bath. Salt water kills cabbage loopers and they will float to the top. However, using a salt-water bath along with row covers decreases their numbers and helps ensure that you get them all!
As for this latent hippie, I use method three. Sevin dust makes cabbage loopers drop like flies! However, sevin is an insecticide and as such kills beneficial insects as well as cabbage loopers. Dust with sevin after harvesting your broccoli. After just a few minutes, thoroughly rinse it off. This keeps the chemicals out of your garden in addition to ridding your broccoli of cabbage loopers. To be sure I get rid of all the cabbage loopers as well as any residual powder, I also treat my broccoli to a salt-water bath before storing or cooking