Broccoli is a healthy green vegetable whose reputation often makes it out to be scarier than it is. A flexible vegetable, it can be served raw, steamed, baked into a casserole or stir-fried; the possibilities are nearly endless, and planting some in the backyard can mean added freshness and taste. Because of a relatively short growing period, some areas can support more than one broccoli crop.
Different varieties of broccoli have different growing times, but most are around 60 days from planting in the garden to harvesting the broccoli. This equation assumes plants are started from seed and allowed approximately 30 days growing time inside. The "Green Goliath" takes about 60 days to mature, but is also one of the more hardy options to plant. Because it is tolerant of heat and cold, plants can go into the outdoor garden earlier than some other types. The short growing season also allows for the late planting of a fall crop, and because of its cold hardiness the Green Goliath is also well-suited to late plantings.
Other types, such as the "Green Comet," are less hardy but have a shorter growing time of about 55 days from transplant to maturity.
Broccoli seeds can be planted indoors to give plants a head start before being moved out into the elements outside. Germination and the growth of young plants is most successful when the temperature is consistent and kept between 60 and 70 Fahrenheit. Plant seedlings in a large, flat container approximately an inch apart and about a quarter of an inch below the soil. Placing a light material such as cheesecloth over the seeds will establish enough of a barrier that they will be encouraged to grow unhindered outwards rather than upwards while still allowing light to reach them. Tall, leggy plants will not produce the stout, rounded broccoli crowns that are most desirable, and keeping plants short will help ensure healthy, compact crowns.
Seeds can be started in trays can kept indoors for between 25 and 35 days. Depending on the area and outdoor climate, plan to transplant seeds when there is no more danger of freezing temperatures or frost.
By the time seedlings are transplanted, they should be approximately but not more than 4 inches tall. Once they are planted in the garden, it will take approximately two months for them to reach maturity. During this time, fertilizing once (about three weeks after transplanting) with nitrogen and keeping the soil moist can help to ensure maximum growth rate.
Alternately, the seedlings can also be planted using not only water but a mixture of water and 5-10-10 fertilizer.
Because broccoli is tolerant of cool weather as well as warm and can be started inside, in many temperate areas, it is possible to plant three broccoli crops in a single season.
For example, starting the first seeds in March will allow for transplanting in April, with a crop harvested in the beginning of June. Starting another crop of seeds indoors in the beginning of May will create seedlings ready to plant in June and harvest in August. Repeating the process -- starting seeds in July, transplanting after the August harvest and finishing the last harvest in the beginning of October -- will allow gardeners to get in several crops.
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