How to grow broccoli in the home garden

Grow broccoli cabbage it is very simple and gives great satisfaction, even in a home garden. It is a Mediterranean plant and its cultivation is widespread above all in the Center-South, where there are several local varieties.
The common names by which it is known are many: Calabrian broccoli, romanesco broccoli, black of Naples, Veronese broccoli etc.
It is generally consumed mainly in autumn and winter, and is cultivated (for early harvests) starting from the summer months.

So let's see what are all the techniques and precautions needed to grow broccoli in the home garden, and have healthy and tasty plants.

The broccoli cabbage

The broccoli cabbage, Brassica oleracea var. italica, is a plant of the botanical family of Cruciferae or Brassicaceae. It is a close relative of the cauliflower.
The salient difference between cauliflower and cabbage-broccoli is in the inflorescence, white and compact in the first, green and more indented in the second.
The broccoli cabbage plant has a high vegetative growth. It has a tap root that does not reach great depths. The stem is erect, when fully ripe it can exceed 50 cm. The leaves are evenly distributed on the stem, they are ribbed, dark green in color and with large white veins. Larger in the lower part, more parades as you climb the stem itself.

The edible part consists of the inflorescences, that is, the branched shoots that end with a large green head. The broccoli, much appreciated in the typical southern cuisine, are nothing more than the buds of the inflorescences. For this reason they should be harvested long before they open for flowering. Broccoli also consumes the final part of the stem, very fleshy.

Another peculiarity of broccoli cabbage is that after cutting the main head, there is the emission of new shoots, that is, smaller but equally tasty broccoli heads. The plant in this way prolongs the harvest period and increases the yield.
Not all varieties, however, maintain this peculiarity. So let's see what the varietal distinction is, within the large family of broccoli cabbage.

Variety of broccoli cabbage

Romanesco broccoli cabbage

The cultivation of broccoli cabbage belongs to the peasant tradition of Central-Southern Italy.
There are many typical local varieties that are unfortunately being lost, replaced by hybrid seeds from multinationals.
With hybrid seeds, the varietal difference is reduced to the distinction of the duration of the production cycle. We will therefore have early (50-60 days), medium (75-80-90 days) and late (100-120 days) varieties. The indication of the days refers to the period between transplanting a young, well-formed seedling and harvesting.

The early and medium varieties are those that produce a good sized central inflorescence, and then many lateral shoots.
The late varieties, on the other hand, produce a single large broccoli, and do not produce new broccoli after its harvest.
Among the classic varieties, Calabrese broccoli is the earliest, while Veronese is among the latest.
The Romanesco broccoli, on the other hand, has average harvest times. The peculiar feature of the latter, which made it famous all over the world, lies in the particular shape of the inflorescences, which resemble the shape of a spiral pyramid.

Period of sowing and transplanting of broccoli cabbage

The cultivation of broccoli cabbage almost always starts in the summer period, especially in the northern regions. Sowing takes place in the months of June, July is August, while scalar transplants range from July to September.
From the planting of the seed (in polystyrene seedbed) it takes about 30 days to get seedlings ready for transplanting. So, if you decide to start from the seed, calculate your times well.
Frequently, however, seedlings are bought in the nursery ready for transplanting. To understand the timing, therefore, it is good to give practical examples:

  • If I transplant an early variety (60 days) in early August, I will start harvesting towards the end of September
  • If you transplant a medium variety (75 days) in September, you will have to wait until the month of harvesting November.

In the Central-Southern regions, transplants can be carried out even at the beginning of October, for later harvests at the end of the winter season.
An excellent idea is to perform scalar transplants, in order to have a continuous harvest over time.
Another principle is that early varieties are less resistant to cold than intense frosts, therefore it is good to start cultivation by the end of August at the latest.

The soil and fertilization

Broccoli cabbage prefers a medium-textured soil, loose and rich in organic matter. What he fears is water stagnation, therefore, before starting cultivation, a good one is needed tillage of the land.
As for fertilization, it is not strictly necessary to carry it out before transplanting. In fact, since it is a vegetable grown in succession to a summer crop, a portion of land can be exploited where abundant organic fertilization has been carried out in the spring-summer period. For example, in a land that has hosted a cultivation of zucchini you hate tomatoes, previously fertilized with mature manure, compost or earthworm humus.

Transplant distances

Broccoli cabbage is a plant that has a decent vegetative development. This means that the right distances must be respected to have lush plants.
Optimizing the space to the maximum, we can say that these are the indications for planting:

  • Early and medium varieties: 40 cm on the row, 50-60 cm between the rows
  • Late varieties: 60 cm on the row, 80 cm between the rows.


To grow broccoli cabbage, there are different needs in terms of irrigation. That is, if we start growing in the summer and there is a great drought, it is necessary to use a irrigation system. In this way we ensure a constant water supply to the plants, at least until the autumn rains arrive.
If, on the other hand, we start cultivating later and we are lucky enough not to run into a period of long drought, the normal rainfall is able to meet the water needs of the plants. So, consider if create an irrigation system or not, also based on the cultivation experiences of previous years.

Cultivation of broccoli cabbage

As we have seen for the cultivation of fennel and gods cauliflower, of fundamental importance is the tamping of the plants.
This operation consists in manually bringing some earth back to the base of the plant. This allows the broccoli cabbage to swell the stem and roots and better resist bad weather such as rain and strong winds. With tamping, another agronomic operation is performed at the same time, namely weeding. It is, in essence, the cleaning of weeds. This operation does not require the natural mulch.
The tamping can be done one month after the transplant and then every 20 days, until the moment of harvesting.


Broccoli cabbage ready for harvesting

To get great satisfaction from broccoli cabbage, you need to be very careful when harvesting.
It is important, in fact, that this happens at the right times.
It is usually done when the broccoli heads are well formed but still firm and compact.
They must have a nice deep green color and you need to proceed before the flower buds tend to open.
The actual operation is simple: cut the inflorescences at the base, taking care to cut a part of the stem together with the heads, with all the branching and relative leaves.
But be careful not to go too low, this could cause the failure to issue new shoots.

Another precaution is to make the cut transversely on the stem, in this way, in case of rain, the water will flow easily, without causing rot to the plant.

Biological defense of broccoli cabbage

Among the pests of the broccoli cabbage, the most fearful is certainly the cabbage, particularly in its larval stage. To eliminate this parasite we recommend two techniques:

  • The first is the use of the natural macerate of tomato leaves and feminelle. This applies to the larvae and literally causes them to fry, so it is very effective.
  • The second solution is the use of the bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki. It is a very effective organic product, to be applied in the evening. Unlike macerate (which you can make at home), bacillus is simple to find on the market (you can find it here).

Other greedy pests of the leaves of the broccoli cabbage are the snails. These can be eliminated by placing some traps made with beer in the area of ​​the plants (use the cheap one).
Among the cryptogamic diseases affecting the cultivation of broccoli cabbage, we remember
the alternaria of brassicae. This can be prevented in organic farming by using a copper-based product 20 days after transplantation (like this).

Uses of broccoli cabbage

Black broccoli is an ideal vegetable to consume in the fall and winter. They are rich in nutritional properties and can be prepared in many delicious recipes. For this reason we will dedicate a special study to its properties and recipes. In the meantime, we wish you good organic farming!

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How to make the Growa garden for a family

The most important thing to consider when deciding the size of the home garden is the number of people to feed in the family. Of course, adults and adolescents will eat more vegetables from the garden of children, babies and toddlers. If you know how many people you need to feed in your family, you will have a starting point for knowing how many vegetables you need to plant in your garden.

The next thing to decide when creating a family garden is which vegetable to grow. For more common vegetables, such as tomatoes or carrots, you may want to grow more, but if you introduce your family to a less common vegetable, such as kohlrabi or Chinese cabbage, you may want to grow less until your family will not get used to it.

In addition, if you consider the size of the vegetable garden that will feed a family, you should also consider whether you plan to serve only fresh vegetables or set aside some for autumn and winter.

Cabbages - here's how to transplant them

After working the soil in depth, fertilizing it with mature manure or slow release granular fertilizer we practice grooves parallel with the hoe about 20 cm deep.

When the seedlings have developed their leaves and are about 15 cm tall, it is time for plant them in the ground. Let's take them off gently from the honeycomb containers being careful not to break the earthen bread.

We lay down the seedlings gently into the furrows by compacting the soil.

There plant density is about 2-3 plants per square meter. The optimal system, if you have space, is a simple row, with a distance between the rows of 60-80 cm for the cabbage. On the row, however, the plants should be spaced 50-70 cm apart. The crop needs irrigations at transplantation and in the head enlargement phase.

A beautiful bloom of cabbages (reinforced with bamboo canes) in cultivation for seed production.

Design of a vegetable garden: Creation of flower beds

Once you have identified the area where to design the garden and the display to give it, we move on to creation of flower beds.

These must have a size that can be easily worked by hand and must be measured according to the quantity of vegetables to be grown. They must have a minimum length of 70 - 80 cm and a width of 30 - 40 cm.

Also among the flower beds spaces for the walkway will also have to be built, while in another area of ​​the garden not interested in crops, it must also be present a tool shed is an area for composting plant materials.
When going to make the flower beds, it is also necessary to decide first if in addition to the cultivation of vegetables (eg tomato, potato, chicory, onion, cabbage, etc.) you also want to grow aromatic plants (basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram etc.) or flower crops, so as to assign each type of species its own space. However, it is necessary to avoid mixing aromatic plants with ornamental ones, because each of them has different needs for nutrition and permanence in the soil.

Against cabbage insecticides

If we have not been able to drive away the insect or prevent its presence, it is appropriate to switch to a direct attack, aimed at defending our cabbages from this voracious caterpillar, so let's find out which are the best insecticide treatments to use in an organic garden against the cabbage. Of course, I exclude putting in place methods of chemical control against cabbage, which involve the use of pesticides that are toxic to the environment and to humans.

I anticipate what I will detail later: my advice is to use bacillus thuringiensis, which is the most effective solution and above all the one that has the least ecological impact on the surrounding environment.

The tomato macerate and other preparations

We've already seen how we can combine cabbage and tomatoes to repel cabbage. One method to make even better use of the properties of the plants is to make a tomato plant macerate to sprinkle on broccoli, cauliflower and other plants of this family to keep the parasitic insect away. The macerate is prepared in a simple way and at no cost, using parts of the plant and not the fruit.

In addition to the tomato also absinthe can be used as a repellent, generally it is better to make a decoction to spray in the garden, or we can still use the macerated tansy.

These natural methods are repellent, not insecticidal, they have limited effectiveness and require consistency in application. However, it is worth doing this work rather than distributing pesticides in the garden.

Pyrethrum and other insecticides

There are many insecticides that are capable of killing cabbage, including pyrethrum. Despite being a permitted treatment in organic farming I don't recommend using it for cabbage: acting only by contact, it is not obvious that all the larvae, hidden among the leaves of the tufts, can be hit.

It is also a product with its own toxicity and a broad spectrum of action, which does not spare useful insects such as bees and ladybugs. Very often insecticides based on chemically synthesized pyrethroids are recommended against cabbage, which are even more persistent and therefore harmful: these are to be absolutely avoided if we want to have a beautiful natural vegetable garden.

The same speech made for pyrethrum is valid for Spinosad and also for the more natural nettle macerate, which can be self-produced.

Bacillus Thuringiensis

Against the larvae the best resource is undoubtedly the already mentioned bacillus thuringiensis, kurstaki variety (BTK), allowed in organic and non-toxic agriculture. It is a bacterium that selectively affects moth larvae and is instead harmless to most other insect species. The only limitation of Bacillus thuringiensis is that it is effective only against young larvae. It is therefore unable to kill butterflies.

To carry out the treatment it is necessary spray in the evening the plants with a solution containing BTK, taking care to also wet the lower page and the inside of the head.

A trick: if it is distributed mixed with sugar, it increases its effectiveness and protects our crucifers in the best possible way.

Video: 5 MUST-FOLLOW Tips for Harvesting Broccoli!

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