Whether you have already planted heirloom broccoli seeds for the spring or are planning to wait until fall, there tips can help improve flavor and quality. And if you are running behind, and haven’t had an opportunity to start, fall planting offers some advantages. While it does well in the same weather as cauliflower, it can be transplanted earlier in the fall. This provides gardeners with the chance to make several cuttings before a hard frost.
Heirloom broccoli seed varieties will have the best flavor when they can grow and mature with cooler days and nights than many garden plants. It shouldn’t be subjected to long periods below 50 degrees though or smaller immature heads may form.
• Plant broccoli seeds approximately 36-90 days before they will be ready to harvest, which will vary depending on the variety.
• Set seedlings out in the garden approximately 2 weeks before the last frost in the spring.
• Fall transplants should be planned so they can be harvested for an entire month, if not more, before the first hard frost of the year. This provides the gardener with several quality cuttings.
• Broccoli can tolerate sun better than it does heat. Night temperatures ranging from 60-70, and days below 80 are ideal growing conditions for maximum head development.
• Heirloom broccoli seeds that will develop strong side shoots are best for the home gardener. Most commercial varieties are harvested only once, and some newer hybrids won’t develop the good shoots that required for continued harvest.
• Seedlings that are 4 weeks old tend to perform the best for transplanting. The ideal growing range for them indoors, is 60-65 degrees.
• Well-drained soil that is rich and contains adequate supplies of nitrogen will produce the strongest plants. Dolomite limestone, magnesium, calcium, bone meal, or ash are some of the suggested soil additives, although needs vary according the soil quality. Adding a weak compost tea or fish emulsion 2-3 weeks after transplanting will help improve production.
• Plants should be spaced 18 inches or according to package directions. Plants that are placed to close together will reduce the number and quality of side shoots.
• Heirloom broccoli seeds produce tight heads, however they need to be watched closely or the compact head will separate and the produce won’t be as tender as it could have been. Just a few days can make all the difference in quality.
• When harvesting broccoli, cut the stalk about 10-12 inches in total. This removes competition for the side shoots and they will grow stronger than there are more remaining. It does leave the plant vulnerable to two potential problems though, so do so with care. Be sure and leave some of the leaves for photosynthesis, and if damp weather threatens there is a risk of rot setting in. With ideal conditions, most plants will produce a total of 4-6 cuttings, although they will not be as large as the main head.
• Heirloom broccoli seeds should be rotated and not planted where other cruciferous plants have been for several years, to reduce the risk of disease. Use paper collars around the seedlings to prevent cutworms from chopping down the mini forest.
Heirloom broccoli seeds are available in many varieties that can be planted for an extended harvest. The ability to grow organic broccoli seeds using organic and sustainable methods provides much safer food for your entire family.
• Spring Raab Rapini Broccoli is an Italian favorite for its gourmet flavor and has only a 36 day growing cycle.
• Romanesco Broccoli seed creates amazing designs with apple green spirals. It grows well in cool northern nights and requires 75 days for growing.
• Green Sprouting Calabrese Broccoli Seeds grow delicious heads that are frost-resistant, and prolific as its impressive harvest lasts up to six months in some areas.
• Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli is a 59 day harvest variety that is resistant to frost and grows up to 3 feet tall. It produces ample shoots after wintering, and is a highly recommended plant for its leaves and stems as well as vibrantly colorful heads.
• Di Cicco Broccoli is a popular choice that requires 50-70 days for the main head and provides shoots to prolong the harvest season.
• Waltham 29 Broccoli seeds were developed in the 1950s and require a 74 day growing season. The plant is compact with large side shoots.
Choosing organic heirloom broccoli seeds as well as those used for starting other garden plants will help protect your family from the dangerous chemicals found in much store bought produce. Some types of plants will absorb more of these than others; however it is best if they are simply not exposed to them to begin with. Check the bottom of the heirloom broccoli seed descriptions to learn more about the benefits of using organic seeds for the Sustainable Seed Company.