Hardy cabbage relative. Start plants to mature during cool weather but before severe frosts.Frost-hardy broccoli plants should be transplanted to the garden in early spring to mature ahead of hot days or in early fall so they will be ready for harvest before killing frost. In mild Western climates, winter broccoli can be grown successfully, but plants should begin to head before the onset of cold weather.
Recommended varieties. ‘Green Comet’ and ‘Neptune’ are good hybrids. ‘Green Mountain’, ‘Waltham 29’, ‘De Cicco’, and ‘Calabrese’ are older varieties but yield well. ‘De Rapa’ is one of the original Italian sprouting types that does not form large central heads.
How to plant. Grow spring broccoli from started plants; start fall or winter broccoli from seeds sown in the garden in late summer. Where summers aren’t too warm, Sow seed in the garden in early spring. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Later transplant to 21/2 to 3 feet apart. Spring broccoli will mature in 50-60 days; winter crops need 75-90 days to form heads.
Care. Give broccoli plenty of water and push it along with frequent applications of high-nitrogen plant food to develop the big, vigorous plants that are necessary to support large heads. Plant short rows; six plants ace sufficient to feed four people. To avoid having many heads maturing at once, plant three plants at three— week intervals.
Pests. Broccoli heads are so large and tight that cabbage worms and aphids can be difficult to eliminates hosing off aphids or using a soapy solution on them. If you use malathion, spray before tm&- form and follow label precautions. Control cabbage worms with a spray of the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis.
Harvesting. Cut the central heads while the buds are still tight. Include up to 6 inches of the edible stem and leaves. Pierce the lower stem with your thumbnail; peel off and discard the skin where it is hard and woody. Broccoli will send up edible shoots after you harvest the central head. Keeping shoots harvested before flowering will encourage production as long as the weather is cool. When the weather warms, the heat will force broccoli to flower—then it’s past the good-eating stage.