Broccoli Growing Problems I

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Broccoli is a super-healthy food that should be on your menu. This superfood has lots of beneficial vitamins and nutrients you need. In fact, it is one of the top nutrient dense foods.

For these reasons, it’s advisable to always have some fresh broccoli for your family. The easiest way to achieve that is to grow your own broccoli in your garden. By growing broccoli in your home, you will ensure that the broccoli you bring to the table is always of the best quality.

It’s therefore not surprising that so many people choose to grow broccoli. However, there are some problems and challenges all gardeners face when they try to grow this healthy plant.

Broccoli: Care and Potential Problems

There are some common tips and guidelines most people use when growing broccoli. Most of the time, broccoli is treated and grown just like cabbage. A great attention is made to grow broccoli as rapidly as possible. Also, it’s important to give broccoli plenty of moisture during the growing season.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to feed this plant all through the season. For a start, broccoli should be planted in a bed amended with aged compost. It’s also important to keep in mind that young broccoli is gentle and should not be subjected to frost. Only the older plants get hardy but the younger ones tend to be very gentle.

Here are some quick tips on how to grow broccoli successfully:

When to plant? Keep in mind that broccoli is a cool-season crop. Therefore, it’s important to plant it somewhere where temperatures won’t exceed 80 degrees F. Make sure to plant it in an area with full sun in a colder climate, while warmer climates require broccoli to be planted in partial shade. It’s also important to provide broccoli with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. You can add some aged compost to the planting bed before you plant broccoli. When planting, remember that broccoli can be sown directly into the soil in the garden. However, it’s better to start it indoors, where it can be protected from pests and early fluctuation in temperatures.

The best planting time. In order to ensure success, it’s best to sow broccoli indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. You should set the plants outside about 2 weeks before the expected last frost. It’s best to plant early, because the warm weather in late spring can cause broccoli to bolt and flower. On the other hand, too cold weather (below 50 degrees F) can cause broccoli to form button-like flower heads that will never develop. It’s therefore best not to plant broccoli until the weather is settled. In case you want to grow it as a fall crop, make sure to sow it in the garden about 10 to 12 weeks before the average first frost in the fall. You can protect mid-summer planted broccoli from the heat by simply planting it between taller crops, such as corn or tomatoes. In the late fall, you may use floating row covers to protect your maturing broccoli from high temperatures.

General care. In order to grow broccoli successfully, it’s important to keep it evenly moist. Never allow the soil to dry out. In order to make broccoli grow strong, you may side dress it with some compost tea 2 weeks after transplanting it into the garden. After this, side dress your broccoli with some aged compost when the main flower head begins to form.

Harvesting. Broccoli is ready to be harvested soon after the flower heads reach 1 inch in diameter. Once you harvested the main flower head, broccoli will produce side shots for about 3 months. If you want to have a sustained harvest, space the plants at least 24 inches apart during planting.

These are some of the basic tips on how to grow broccoli in your garden. However, there are also some common growing problems most gardeners face when growing broccoli. While broccoli is not a truly difficult plant to grow, there are numerous problems that can appear. In order to grow broccoli successfully, you need to know about these common problems and how to solve them.

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Seedling Problems

There are several seedling problems you may encounter when growing broccoli.

Seedlings fail to emerge from soil. This problem usually means that there is a pest involved. The seedlings are eaten and the roots are tunneled even before the plants can emerge from the soil. The common culprit is cabbage maggot. This is a small, gray-white worm about 1/3 inches long. The adult form is the cabbage root fly, which looks a lot like a housefly. The flies lay eggs in the soil near the seedling. Maggots hatch and tunnel into roots, leaving brown scars or slimy tunnels. In order to get rid of these pests, you need to remove and dispose damage plants immediately. It’s also helpful to apply some lime or wood ashes around the base of the plants. Another thing you can do is to time plant to avoid the insect growth cycle. It’s advisable to plant a bit later, once the weather is drier.

Weak seedlings or seeds rot. This is usually a sign of damping off. The seedlings collapse and have dark, water-soaked stems. Damping off is a fungus that lives in the soil, especially in very humid areas. To minimize the change of damping off, it’s important not to plant broccoli (or any other plant) in cold, moist soil. Always make sure that the soil is well-drained.

Seedlings are eaten near the soil level. This is a sign of cutworms. These are gray grubs, about ½ to 1/3 inches long. You will find them curled under the soil. They feed on stems, roots and leaves. To get rid of them, you should place a 3 inch paper collar around the stem of the plant. You should also keep the garden free of weeds. Sprinkle some wood ash around the base of the plants.

Sprouts fail to grow or die back. In case you notice bluish-black spot on leaves and stems, it’s a sign of blackleg, a fungal disease which makes sprouts rot at the soil level. This disease is spread by cabbage maggots and cutworms. To get rid of this disease, you need to remove and destroy all of the infected plants. You also need to keep the garden free of plant debris. You may add some organic matter to the planting bed and make sure that the soil is well-drained. Another way to prevent this problem is to rotate crops.

Photo credit: Distant Hill Gardens via photopin cc