I’ve never tried to grow broccoli before this season because I’ve always reserved my garden space for something more versatile, like a dozen different kinds of tomato plants. This year, instead of sacrificing space there, I decided to expand my planting options and added three broccoli plants to the container garden on the patio.
I started the seeds of an heirloom variety called ‘Calabrese’ in mid-March, anticipating an early spring date to transplant them into the container garden. Timing is important for broccoli, because the heads need to be harvested while weather is still cool and before the summer days heat up. If the plants aren’t in the ground in early spring, they’ll quickly bolt once the temperature starts to rise. In fact, if temperatures are too hot, the plants won’t form any heads at all.
Because of unseasonably cold weather in April and May, the broccoli plants didn’t get into the patio garden until the second week of June. Despite my poor timing, two of the three plants produced central heads. I cut these heads when they were about 3-4 inches in diameter along with quite a bit of stem.
Even though it wasn’t a big harvest, I was glad to see the warm weather hadn’t stopped the heads from forming. I cut them, lightly steamed them until bright green, and thoroughly enjoyed them with dinner.
After cutting the central head, I sidedressed the plants with a high-nitrogen fertilizer to give them a boost and to help the plants form strong, lateral shoots. If my luck continues to hold, I’ll harvest these heads when they’re several inches in diameter, too.
However, if this next crop should fail because of hot weather, I can always give myself another chance at broccoli success. Short-season varieties, like ‘Goliath’, do well in cooler fall temperatures and take only 60 days to mature. I just need to get started planting very soon.