It has been a while since my last blog post and I’ve decided to write one about two of my favorite “B” crops – broccoli and brussels sprouts. Both of these crops belong to the same family (Brassica), which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale.
First up, broccoli. This is a cool weather crop and you can actually get two crops a year if you plant at the right times – early spring and early fall. Most varieties are not heat tolerant and won’t do well during a hot summer. Broccoli requires at least 6 hours of sun a day – I planted several of mine in one of the raised gardens in the soon-to-be greenhouse. I believe that the area gets around that much sun, but it may be a little less. These guys also need rich soil so having a new soil mixture with fresh black kow and nutrients should set a good base. These guys require nutrient-rich soil so it’s best to fertilize regularly. I am hoping to add our compost to amend the soil when it is ready in a few weeks. Broccoli should be spaced out about 18 in apart, and I actually squeezed more in that probably should be there. Ideal temperature ranges from 65-80 degrees, which is about what it has been since the plants were sowed.
Broccoli is harvested when the buds are still tight and closed because opening buds give a mealy texture. It is recommended to use a sharp knife and to cut at an angle to reduce the potential of stem rot. We also shouldn’t expect the huge heads that you buy in the grocery store, because those have been given exclusive treatment, with excess pampering. The leaves on ours are turning yellow, so I need to figure out what is going on and pamper my plants a little bit.
Next up, brussels sprouts! I actually had to look up how to spell brussels sprouts because I didn’t realize that there is an “s” at the end of Brussel 🙂 This makes sense because they were named after the city of Brussels, Belgium. These plants are also cool weather with small heads maturing best in cool and slightly frosty weather. However, they seem to be able to grow well anywhere in the country. Like broccoli, they require nutrient-rich soil and plenty of sunlight. They also require more boron that most plants and without having tested our soil I’m not sure where we stand with the nutrient ratio. It probably can’t hurt to add a little bit, but of course adding too much will be detrimental to the plant. Brussels sprouts also require a lot of spacing, similar to broccoli. Since I planted these pretty close together, I plan to “weed” out the plants that look less healthy to provide more space for those plants that are doing well.
Sprouts form from the bottom of the plant, up. They are ready to harvest when sprouts are 1-2 inches in diameter. It is also a good habit to remove the lower yellowing leaves as you harvest upward to promote more sprouts. These guys also do well with some frosty nights, so we may want to delay covering or possibly move the plants out of the greenhouse to promote the best growth. However, I am sure that they will be fine inside the greenhouse as long as the temperature doesn’t get too warm. If winter is coming fast, then you can actually trick the plant into maturing all at once by cutting of the top of the plant 3 weeks before you want to harvest.
Both of the “B” crops have similar demands and can be grown twice a year as long as the weather does not get too hot during growth. It also helps to plant peas or beans (plants that produce a lot of nitrogen) between the plants when they are small to help promote growth. Beans are fast growers so you’ll be harvesting these before the sprouts or broccoli get too big and require more space. Let’s hope for a good harvest!