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Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable that grows in spring and fall, but in Ohio, harvests can last all summer long. A member of the cabbage family that includes kale and Brussels sprouts, broccoli is a biennial—not a perennial. It will grow in all U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zones in the lower 48 states, depending on when you plant it. Broccoli thrives in full sun and daytime temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Ohio, we know that the weather can change unexpectedly and sometimes unpredictably.
When planting broccoli indoors, start the seeds in containers at about 6 weeks before what could be your area's last spring frost. You can embed seeds directly into the garden in late February or early March if temperatures are hovering above 32 degrees F.
Broccoli seeds typically germinate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees F. Ohio's ever-changing weather often means a frosty spring, but developing stems may be set out as early as April 1st. For an autumn harvest, plant the stems in early July—or about 85 to 100 days before the first frost. In Ohio, that first frost might be before or later than September 30th.
Healthy growing broccoli plants in Ohio require direct sunlight and moist but well-draining soil with pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Place each plant about 12 to 18 inches apart in the garden; 2 to 3 feet between rows. Although you can plant them directly into the soil, broccoli seeds germinate better when seedlings develop in small containers. (Seed packages will note the typical time frame from germination to recommended transplantation). Before moving tender vegetation to the ground, spread 2 to 4 inches of compost or manure on top of the soil.
When selecting broccoli seeds, determine what works best in your Ohio garden. Head size, color, shape, disease-tolerant and yield are factors to consider. If you want broccoli all summer long, plant cultivars that mature at various intervals.
Some early varieties to consider:
Mid season cultivars:
Late season cultivars:
These cultivars have varying growth times.
Similar to other garden vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubbery, broccoli is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases that could damage or kill the vegetation.
Aphids and caterpillars are the most notable problems for broccoli. Aphids can transport viruses as they suck the sap from leaves. Natural predators may keep aphids from broccoli leaves and buds, but at the same time, over-fertilizing increases the numbers of aphid infestation. Applying soapy water to affected broccoli leaves helps to curtail aphid activity.
Caterpillars bore tiny holes into broccoli leaves, usually between the veins on younger vegetation but also at maturation. Common caterpillar types are cabbage loopers, diamondback moths and imported cabbage worms. Removing these tiny bugs from broccoli plants by hand is helpful, but applying a natural bacterial pesticide (such as Bacillus thuringiensis) may be more useful in controlling infestation.
Broccoli plants attract fungi and fungal spores such as downy mildew (Pemospora parasitica), white mold (Sclerotinia minor), black leg (Phoma lingam), and clubroot (Plasmodiophora brassicae). Removing leaves and other vegetative debris from gardens helps to keep soil clean and disease-free.
Fertilizing embedded broccoli plants is recommended; test the soil’s acidic balance to determine the type of chemical to use. Commercial fertilizers applied with a broadcast spreader can be blended into the soil, either directly into a row or along side of the plants. Your local nursery can recommend the best types of fertilizer for your garden.
Broccoli cultivars have various harvesting windows; usually in late June, or September through October.
When broccoli plants are ready for picking, the buds are tight and green. Timing is important because if the vegetables are plucked too late, stems will harden and petals will begin to yellow.
Depending on its height, cut the broccoli stem about 5 or 6 inches below the head. Broccoli stays fresh up to 14 days when refrigerated.
© 2019 Teri Silver