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How to Grow Amazing Fall Broccoli

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It’s time to plant your fall broccoli! Here are a few tips for a healthy and delicious crop…

While you may be able to grow broccoli in the spring and summer depending on your climate, in many areas, broccoli is a crop that does best in the fall. When the plant matures during cooler weather, you tend to get a sweeter flavor, larger and more compact heads, and fewer problems with bolting caused by heat.

We are trying broccoli this year for the first time. Since we lost all of our squash plants to bugs this year, I had several now-empty hay bales sitting in the garden that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I had some broccoli seed that I had never planted and didn’t think I had space for, so I thought that might be an interesting way to occupy our leftover hay bales! I will let you know how it goes after following these tips…

When To Plant

You can easily figure the perfect time to plant broccoli seeds this fall. If you want to sow seeds directly in the garden, do so about 85 to 100 days before the average first fall frost in your area. If you prefer to grow from transplants, figure the date for getting your plants in the ground by adding 10 days to the “days to maturity” for the variety you’re growing and then counting backwards from your expected first fall frost date.

Where To Plant

Broccoli grows best in full sun and where the soil is slightly acidic—with pH between 6.0 and 6.8—fertile, and well-drained, yet consistently moist and rich in organic matter. The right pH and the organic matter help ensure that nutrients, particularly essential micronutrients like boron, are readily available. A boron deficiency can cause broccoli to develop hollow stems, but adding too much is toxic to plants, so a soil test is essential…

Fall broccoli has specific spacing requirements. If you’re gardening intensively in a raised bed, space your plants 15 to 18 inches apart; for gardening in rows, set the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart within the row and space the rows 24 to 36 inches apart. Be sure to set transplants slightly deeper in the ground than they were in the pot.

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Protect Against Pests

Row covers provide some protection from pest insects, but the best protection is to grow healthy plants—and that begins with healthy soil, says Colby Eierman, director of gardens at COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, in Napa. Insect pests are generally less prevalent in fall than in spring. But if your broccoli does suffer an infestation of destructive caterpillar pests such as cabbage loopers, you can control them with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, a naturally occurring bacteria that stops the pests from chewing but is harmless to beneficial insects.

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Get more tips for growing fall broccoli at RodalesOrganicLife.com

 

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