Broccoli is a valuable vegetable to include within your diet as it is high is vitamin C and contains many cancer fighting properties.

Belonging to the cabbage family Brassica, broccoli like to grow in a well drained bed that is rich in organic matter. Select an area that is reasonably sunny to grow your crop.  During the autumn work dig the bed over to a medium tilth, incorporating plenty of well rotted manure or compost into the soil. If the soil is acidic the crop will benefit from you adding an application of lime to the soil.

In the spring add a general fertiliser such as Growmore to the soil 3 weeks prior to sowing the seed. Broccoli does not like lose soil so do not fork over the bed prior to planting the seeds, but instead gently tread over the surface and rake lightly to remove any debris.

Sow your seeds thinly into drills 1 cm deep in a seed bed, leaving 15 cm between rows. Cover with soil and water gently. As they grow thin the seedlings to prevent them becoming spindly and weak, leaving spacing's of 6-8 cm between each plant. When the plants have matured to 8 cm high they should be transplanted. Water the plants the day before moving and plant the seedlings in their permanent bed 3 cm deeper than they were growing in their seed bed and 30 cm between each plant. Water gently.

Keep the soil free of competing weeds and feed occasionally with a liquid fertiliser. Water regularly during dry spells to prevent a low yield and add a mulch to conserve moisture. Birds can be problematic and uproot your crop at this stage so protection will be required. In addition, you may want to prevent cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on your plants by covering them with netting.

During the growing season keep an eye out for pests and diseases such as cabbage root fly and caterpillars. Draw up soil around the stems in early winter and regularly stake plants to ensure the stems are firm.

Early purple varieties are ready for harvesting from January but the main harvesting season for purple and white varieties is mid spring. Green varieties are ready for cutting from autumn through to the onset of winter frosts. Cut your broccoli when the spears (flower shoots) are formed but prior to the small flower buds opening. Remove the central spear first and allow the side shoots to develop, which can be picked regularly.

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