Growing Broccoli in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens
(Brassica oleracea L. (Italica group)
If you have never had broccoli strait from the garden, then you have just never had broccoli. The flavor is amazing. Even if it weren’t my favorite vegetable, I’m pretty sure I would still be impressed by fresh cut broccoli, right from the vegetable garden!
It is easy to grow here in the Northeast Florida garden providing you plant it at the right time. Like many of its brassica relatives, cabbages/ brussel sprouts/cauliflower/collard greens, broccoli is a cool season vegetable in Northeast Florida and needs to be planted when Florida’s hot temperatures won’t cause it to bolt (elongate, and quickly go to seed production).
Foliage, Origins, and Use of Broccoli / Brassica oleracea L. ( Italica group ) for Northeast Florida vegetable gardens:
Broccoli is often thought to be a native of Italy, but evidence links these delectable garden goodies to Crete or Cyprus as well.
Broccoli is traditionally grown and cultivated for its large central flower head that resists opening for some time. But it produces large, and quite tasty edible leaves as well. Use the unopened flower buds, the open yellow flowers, or the leaves fresh in salads and sandwiches, steamed, suateed, grilled, or even fried. In addition, broccoli leaves can be prepared as greens just like you would collards. Any way you like them, broccoli is an easy to grow, great for you, and great tasting vegetable garden plant suitable for every home garden grower.
Planting Season for Broccoli in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Broccoli is considered a cool season crop and should be planted when the leaves and flower heads can develop without the hot summer sun in Northeast Florida vegetable gardens.
Start your Broccoli vegetable plants anytime from August to February in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area vegetable garden. Give them plenty of space if you plan to harvest the side shoots. Try planting 15 inch spacing for intensive gardening and 24 inches for traditional gardening with 36 inches between rows.
Sun Exposure for growing Broccoli in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Plant your Broccoli in a full sun or afternoon sun location for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area vegetable garden.
Soil Preferences for Broccoli / Brassica oleraca (Italica group) in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Broccoli will do best in the Northeast Florida garden when grown in soils that have been generously amended with compost.Keep soils moist but not wet.
Amend your vegetable planting site generously with a good quality compost each year in spring before planting your Broccoli into Florida’s native soils for best results.
Care of Broccoli in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering Your Broccoli Plants:
Newly planted Broccoli will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once the broccoli plants are established and growing, be sure to keep the soil moist by watering at once or twice a week if rainfall is scarce.
Mulching your Broccoli Vegetable Plants:
For maximum growth potential, mulching plants generously, this will help conserve any existing moisture in the soils.
Fertilizing Your Broccoli Plants:
Feed every two to three weeks with an all purpose fertilizer like 6-6-6.
Or for an organic approach, try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray.
If your vegetable plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Broccoli Vegetable Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Most broccoli cultivars will form one large flowering head in the center of the plant, harvest when buds begin to swell by cutting the flower head off 4-6 inches from the top. Leave the plants in place, they will produce a smaller secondary crop of flower heads from the sides of the stalk that can be harvested as needed.
Broccoli flowers are bright yellow, delicious and beautiful additions to any garden salad. So don’t throw them out if you happened to forget to harvest your unopened flower heads, harvest the opened yellow blooms instead!
When harvesting broccoli leaves, remove a few leaves from each plant at a time, making sure you leave enough leaves for the plant to continue to grow and produce with ease. When you have harvested all of you’re broccoli flower heads, use those leaves! They are a garden delicacy you won’t ever give to your worms or you’re compost pile ever again!