Friday, 6 July 2012

Next year's Broccoli

One of my favourite vegetables is Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB), but in order to grow it you have to plan well ahead. This is a plant that is in the ground for upwards of nine months.

I sowed my PSB seeds in 6" pots on 1st June. This last weekend I judged that they were big enough to go into individual pots. I don't have room to plant them out just yet, so I need to grow them on in pots for at least another month, until the Broad Beans are finished. I will only require a total of six PSB plants because they get very big, but as usual I will ensure that I have plenty of spares. Discarding the weakest seedlings, I have ended up with nine plants in individual pots and four more repotted back into the original seed pots (just in case...).

Yes, I know there are more than 9 pots in the photo, but I also did the Cavolo Nero at the same time, and I ended up with nine of those too.

The pots with the white labels are the PSB, and the ones without are the Cavolo Nero. Cavolo Nero has such distinctive leaves that it is easy to recognise even from an early age:

Cavolo Nero "Black Tuscany"

 I am growing two varieties of PSB, and I labelled them so that I can tell which is which, because they all look the same when they are young.

PSB "Red Arrow"

PSB "Rudolph"

The pots I have used for these seedlings are 5" in diameter. They will be fine for these plants for about 3 or 4 weeks. After that I will either plant out the PSB (if space is available) or transfer them to bigger pots.

Last year I had major problems with Cabbage Root Fly, so this year I have taken the precaution of buying some Nemasys Grow Your Own nematodes, which I will apply to not only the beds in which the brassicas will be grown but also the little pots containing the seedlings. This treatment worked well for the beans this year - not root fly problems at all, and 100% success with the Runners - so I think it is probably worth repeating.

"Once bitten, always shy" they say, so I'm not taking any chances. I have sowed another batch of PSB seeds, as an "insurance policy", just in case the first lot succumb like they did last year. This is an approach I often adopt. After all, it only involves a few seeds, a pot or two and a small quantity of compost - and some forethought.

Meanwhile, my "Matsuri" mini broccoli is engaged in a race against time: I put four plants into pots, since I didn't have space in any of the raised beds, but their roots have obviously been attacked by something (probably the darned Cabbage Root Fly) and they are slowly dying off. You can see in this next photo that the outer leaves are floppy, dull and yellowing, whilst the inner leaves are still OK.

In the centre of each plant a tiny little flower-head has formed, so I may yet get a crop from these plants. If only they can hold out for maybe another 10 days!


  1. How exiting, just a few minutes ago i re potted my psb seedlings. I'm so excited. Before the rain started hammering down again i also managed to sow some kale, cauliflower & cabbage seeds. I was going to order a few plants for my tiny growing space but took the plunge and bought some seeds. First time i have sown brassicas so we will soon see. I do like the look of your plot by the way.

  2. I am thinking about what I need to start for fall but am worried because I need something for slugs which have found the greenhouse.

  3. Oh, thank you!
    This is my first year too, I will plant them tomorrow !

  4. I was just looking at my seeds and thinking of starting the fall garden later in July, or even August. Your PSB looks healthy.

  5. I'm very taken with your mini broccoli, Mark. I didn't know about these before so seek them out now. Likewise for the grow your own nematodes. Been mulling over the slug problem as I keep finding (and squishing) them in the veg garden. I've ordered wool cabbage collars for the brassicas and am tempted to buy some nematodes as they seem to work judging by what I've read. Excellent reminder post to think ahead - I'm just starting off my romanesco caulis...

  6. You always seem so well organised in terms of planning ahead! I'm trying Summer broccoli this year.

  7. The nematodes don't seem to be working on our slug population, Mark. Hope your seedlings are safe from the slimy pests.

  8. I will be interested in how your nematodes go.

  9. All my winter brassicas are in the ground and growing away well (touch wood) I don't like to be too optimistic in case something goes horribly wrong. I would make sure you keep yours out of reach of slugs until they are growing strongly. Good luck.

  10. The seedlings look good. The beets look fantastic!

  11. Thank you for the good photos of the broccoli plants! Very helpful to me as this is the first time growing broccoli and I was uncertain if the little sprouts I was seeing (where I was pretty certain I had planted the seeds) were actually broccoli plants! I know it is a bit late in the season in the MidAtlantic area to be planting broccoli (my inspiration came late), but I will see them through and plan better next year. Your gardening gives me encouragement for my own! Thanks!


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