I was really optimistic about my broccoli this year. Last year I grew it from seed by sowing it directly in the garden, which didn’t go well at all. I had a handful of plants come up, but only a couple of them actually got a head on them, and it took forever! I also expected them to get much bigger than they did, so I kept waiting and then before I knew it, they bolted.
Same thing this year, though this time I got a much better start. I bought plants instead of trying to sow seed in the garden, which is definitely the way to go. I also installed an app called “Gardenate” on my smart phone and I recorded when I planted the broccoli. Gardenate allows you to keep track of when you plant each crop in your garden, how long each takes to mature, and approximately when you can expect to be harvesting them.
The broccoli plants were looking great all spring, though I did have a battle with cabbage worms, which took no time at all to find us. Even still, I got the caterpillars under control and the broccoli heads were filling out nicely until one day I went out there and found a second round of caterpillars boring holes through the heads and pooping all over the plants! (Grrrr!) I dealt with the caterpillars again and hoped the broccoli would recover. Shortly thereafter we got several hot days with thunderstorms. The next time I was out there to check on them, the plants were bolting! I thought it might be too late, but I picked the heads off most of the plants, washed them, and put them in the fridge. Here is how they looked when I picked them.
We steamed some for dinner and though they looked a little more like broccolini (broccoli rabe) than broccoli, they still tasted like broccoli should and they were very crisp.
I’m disappointed that I blew it again and missed the window, though. Like last year, I was waiting for the heads to get bigger instead of realizing they were mature and would bolt soon. Even though I did catalog my broccoli using Gardenate, I hadn’t been checking the program to check my predicted harvest time. To be honest, some crops in my garden haven’t grown as fast as the app (or even the seed packet) said they should, so I wasn’t putting much stock into what Gardenate said. However, I did go back to check when it said I should have harvested the broccoli and it actually did say it would have been ready just a few days before it bolted.
So, moral of the story when growing broccoli: 1) plant transplants rather than sow seeds, 2) keep the caterpillars in check 3) don’t wait for small-but-mature heads to get bigger and 4) watch the broccoli closely, looking for signs that the flowers are getting ready to open, so you are sure to harvest them before they bolt. I plan to grow a fall crop of broccoli, so we’ll see if I can do better next time around. Third time’s a charm, right?
If you have any tips for growing broccoli, I’d love to hear them! We eat a lot of it around here, so I’m going to keep trying to grow it.