Growing Broccoli in Victoria
Broccoli is a cool season crop. It loves the cool autumn and spring temperatures and can quite easily tolerate the cold winters in Victoria. Broccoli is fairly easy to grow and with the right care, you can expect a bountiful harvest. Seeds can be planted in late summer for a winter harvest, or early spring for a summer harvest.
Don’t plant your broccoli too late. You want to make the most of the temperate autumn and spring weather. If it’s too hot or too cold you won’t get nice big heads.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so make sure to prepare your soil with compost and well-rotted manure. Broccoli likes a neutral soil, so if your soil is acidic, add some lime before planting. Where possible, try to let your soil rest for about a week before you plant into it.
Plant seeds in trays, and then into the garden a month later.
Broccoli seeds are most often started in trays or pots and then transplanted into the garden once the weather cools. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and keep them moist while they germinate. Make sure they get enough light and transplant them as soon as they are big enough to handle. Broccoli become leggy quite easily if they are kept in trays for too long.
Try to plant bought seedlings as soon as possible after you get them home and remember to give them a good, deep watering to help them settle in. The trick here is to get them in when it’s not too hot or too cold. When you plant your seedlings out, add a small amount organic bone-meal to each hole. Bone-meal gives seedlings a great start and helps them to develop strong root systems to support a healthy plant.
If your seedlings have grown too long and become leggy; plant them slightly deeper that they were in the pots. This should give you sturdier plants with tighter heads.
Do not let the soil dry out. Broccoli loves water, so it thrives in the wet Victorian winters. Keep your plants well-watered in warmer weather. Once the winter rains start they should be fine, but if the ground seems dry be sure to give your plants an extra water.
Feed regularly with compost tea, fish emulsion or organic fertilizer. Broccoli is a heavy feeder and the rainy Victorian winters can wash the nutrients out of the soil quickly.
Mulching helps keep the soil nice and cool on warm days and keeps it warm if there’s a sudden cold spell in winter. A good layer of organic mulch like lucerne or sugarcane will help keep your broccoli growing happily. Remember to top up your mulch as it breaks down throughout the season.
Normally harvest between 12-16 weeks, but once it gets cold they really slow down and it can actually be up to 20 weeks, so don’t despair.
The broccoli is ready to harvest once it forms firm heads. You need to pick it just before the flowers start to open. Cut off the head with a sharp knife. Some varieties form side shoots once the main head is removed. So, leave them in to harvest the smaller side shoots.
If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with horticultural soap will also be helpful.
Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often if it’s a particularly rainy winter.
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