Growing Broccoli and Growing Cauliflower
Growing Broccoli and Growing Cauliflower
Brassica oleracea varieties
This species name includes many varieties of brassica vegetables that bear tasty flowerheads and stalks. It might be thought that, because many of these plants need a good deal of elbow room and take rather a long time to mature, they would hardly qualify for a place in the small. In fact, careful planning and selection of varieties will enable you to choose types eminently suited to any kitchen garden; moreover, the range as a whole adds up to a species that can be harvested in every month of the year.
To give you some idea of the possibilities, the calabrese type of green sprouting broccoli is sown in early summer and cropped in the autumn; mini- cauliflowers need to be spaced only 150 mm (6 in) apart; and catch crops such as quick-maturing lettuce are quite content to grow in the spaces between the normal cauliflowers.
The main varieties of broccoli can be divided into three groups: sprouting broccoli, which has loose clusters of flowerheads; the green calabrese type, which is harvested in summer and autumn; and the more curd-like purple and white-headed types, which are harvested in winter and spring.
Winter cauliflower (which used to be called ‘broccoli’) is similar to the summer form but the curds may be slightly coarser and of deeper colour; it is harvested from early winter to mid-summer. Summer cauliflower (usually called just ‘cauliflower’) is in fact harvestable from early summer to late winter according to type.
Calabrese broccoli and mini-cauliflower are sown in the main plot, the broccoli in June and July, the mini-cauliflower in successional sowings from early April onwards. Sow two or three seeds at each growing point at a depth of 20-25 mm (¾-1 in). The calabrese should be sown in blocks, at intervals of 150 mm (6 in) in one direction, and 300 mm (12 in) in the other; mini-cauliflower should be 150 mm apart in each direction. Both types will crop earlier if they are protected with cloches, which should be positioned two weeks before sowing.
Whether you are growing broccoli or growing cauliflower, all types should be sown in a seed bed and planted out later. They are sown at a depth of 20-25 mm (¾-1 in) and, when seedlings show, are thinned out to intervals of 250 mm (10 in). The broccoli and winter cauliflower are sown in mid-April to mid-May; the summer cauliflower is sown in March and April for summer harvesting, and in April to mid-May for autumn and later harvesting.
The seedlings are transplanted when they have developed two or three true leaves. Water the seed bed first, then lift the seedlings so that they retain as muchas possible; transfer them immediately to the main plot, firm them in, and water. Seedlings should be planted 600 mm (24 in) apart in rows or blocks; an exception is ‘Nine Star Perennial’, which will crop for several years if all its heads are harvested, and should be planted at intervals of 900 mm (36 in). Handle the seedlings as gently as possible, and make sure they are planted out at the same depth as they were in the seed bed.
For all the sprouting broccolies and winter cauliflower, the soil should not be dug over after the previous crop has been harvested, but a low-nitrogen fertiliser should be raked or hoed in before planting. The site should be open but full sun is not essential; keep the soil free of weeds.
For summer cauliflower, the soil should be dug over, preferably some months before planting, and plenty of compost incorporated (manure if you can get it). Break down the soil clods, firm by trampling over the site, and add a sprinkling of general fertiliser before planting. Site as for broccoli. Keep weed-free and feed slow-growing summer varieties (but not winter cauliflower) with a high-nitrogen fertiliser. Protect heads from yellowing in strong sun by folding the leaves over the curds.
For the main pests and diseases, see All About Brassica Vegetables
Each variety is harvested as it becomes ready, before theopen. After the main head of sprouting varieties is cut, small side heads should form. Ripe cauliflower curds soon deteriorate in warm weather, so inspect them regularly as they approach maturity. They should be harvested early in the morning before they are heated by the sun.
Recommended varieties: The following are among the best of each type available; harvesting times are in parentheses
SPROUTING BROCCOLI, GREEN OR CALABRESE: (all suitable for freezing) ‘Express Corona’ Fl (August to September); ‘Corvet’, F1 (about 2 weeks after ‘Express Corona’); ‘Autumn Spear’ (September to November)
SPROUTING BROCCOLI, PURPLE AND WHITE: (all suitable for freezing) ‘Early Purple Sprouting’ (March to April); ‘Late Purple Sprouting’ (April to May); ‘Early White Sprouting’ (March); ‘Late White Sprouting’ (April)
SPROUTING BROCCOLI, PERENNIAL: ‘Nine Star Perennial’ (March to April)
WINTER CAULIFLOWER: ‘Angers’ varieties (January to June); ‘English Winter’ varieties (April to June); ‘Purple Cape’, has a purple curd (February to March); ‘Walcheren Winter’ varieties, fine white heads (April and May)
SUMMER CAULIFLOWER: ‘All the Year Round’ (matures over a long period according to sowing date); ‘Barrier Reef’, compact (late October); ‘Canberra’ (October to November); ‘Dominant’ (June to July); ‘Kangaroo’ (September to October)
MINI-CAULIFLOWER: ‘Garant’ (from July); ‘Predominant’ (September to November)
Site: Preferably open
Soil: Must be well-drained and alkaline (see Brassicas)
Sow: Most varieties, spring; calabrese, early summer
Harvest: Most of the year, depending on variety