Broccoli is an incredible source of protein and fibre and contains lots of other beneficial nutrients like iron and a wealth of vitamins. However, while many people opt to buy their broccoli from the supermarket, growing it at home might be easier than you imagined. But when it comes to how to grow broccoli in the UK, you must be prepared if you want to see successful results.
The good news is that broccoli grows well in UK gardens and allotments owing to its preference for cooler weather. There are three main types of broccoli that are commonly grown in this country, although each is about as easy as one another to cultivate.
In this best broccoli growing guide, we will be giving you all the information you need to know to help you become the proud owner of a healthy and delicious crop of this popular vegetable.
Growing Broccoli In The UK
The UK has some pretty versatile weather, it can be sunny one minute and pouring rain the next. While many Brits may find this frustrating, it does provide some excellent growing conditions for a variety of plants.
If you are looking to grow your own vegetables, broccoli is an excellent choice. Not only is it incredibly healthy for you; which we will talk a little more about later, but it is relatively easy to grow. Of course, as with anything, you will need to make sure you follow a few important steps along the way.
Broccoli is a brassica plant and as such, enjoys cooler climates, making the UK the perfect location to sow the seeds. There are three main types of broccoli known as purple cauliflower, sprouting broccoli and calabrese broccoli. However, it is important to keep in mind that while considered a type of broccoli, the latter is slightly different.
Calabrese broccoli, unlike the other types, will grow before its first winter whereas the other types will grow over the course of winter.
Some of the following are the most popular varieties of broccoli and can be successfully grown in the UK.
- Claret F1 broccoli is a sprouting variety that is exceptionally hardy. It isn’t too fussy about the type of soil it is planted in and so can be cultivated in most gardens and allotments. Owing to this, you won’t need as many plants to get a decent-sized crop.
- Nine star perennial broccoli requires a lot of space and needs to be well tended but you will be rewarded over the course of two to three years. Each spring, the broccoli will sprout up to eight heads. However, you must remember to pick them before they open otherwise this will shorten the lifespan of the plant.
- Bordeaux F1 broccoli doesn’t require cold in order to thrive and can be picked in the later summer months. The beautiful purple stems are just as pretty as they are delicious.
Tips For Growing Broccoli In The UK
Whether you are new to growing your own veggies or are a seasoned gardener, it pays to know that every plant is different. This means that every plant requires different care and broccoli is no exception.
This plant, whilst relatively hardy does need specific growing conditions and may face problems. Let’s start by looking at what issues you might expect to tackle.
Pests And Problems
It isn’t just humans that love a spot of broccoli; many insects and animals have a taste for this nutritious vegetable. As such, when you are growing broccoli in your garden, you will need to be mindful of pests.
One of the most common pests where broccoli is concerned is birds. Pigeons are a particular problem as they are well known to love nibbling on the brassica leaves. This can cause an array of secondary issues including the death of the plant.
In order to deter pigeons and other birds, you can net the broccoli plants. You will need to use a proper horticultural fleece for the best protection.
This works well for the most part and will also help to prevent other pests from trying to get a taste. You can also expect visits from butterflies and caterpillars who will try to get a bite of your precious plants.
Clubroot is a significant problem with broccoli plants and something that you will need to be prepared for. You will be able to tell whether the plant is suffering from clubroot by looking at the leaves, which may turn yellow and fall off.
However, this may be a later sign and the swollen root that is often disfigured is usually the first sign. Ultimately, if clubroot is not addressed, the plant may die.
If you have had a previously affected crop, it is vital that you do not grow any more broccoli in this location for at least one year. In the meantime, you can treat the soil with lime to bring the alkaline levels up and make it more suitable for growing broccoli.
In addition to this, you can also make sure that the soil is well-drained; broccoli will not do well in overly moist soil.
Cabbage Root Fly
Cabbage root fly is also another common problem when growing these vegetables. This is very evident when you notice small larvae that are white in colour around the root.
These will be visible just below the surface of the soil and will affect the growth of the plant. Similarly to clubroot, this issue can cause the plant to die if it is not quickly remedied.
The best way to prevent cabbage root flies is to always grow your broccoli under a very fine, insect-proof mesh. Your seedlings will be most at risk of this so always pay special attention to them, especially when transferring them to their final location.
Sowing Your Broccoli Seeds
The great thing about broccoli seeds is that you have the option to sow them indoors or outdoors. However, if you are going with the latter, you may have your work cut out for you, depending on the conditions of your garden.
The main issue when sowing the seeds outdoors is that they may be eaten. Snails and slugs are the worst offenders so it is important to get a handle on these in your garden before planting the seeds.
Once under control, you are free to sow your broccoli seeds outdoors any time after April. You will need to make sure that you place them around 30 centimetres apart and around 2 centimetres deep. Once the seeds are established, you may wish to thin out each area to maintain the 30-centimetre gap.
If you are going to sow your broccoli seeds indoors then you will need to do this between March and June. However, you should keep in mind that the seeds will do better outdoors after April so you should consider only sowing indoors in March and April.
In this case, you will need to use modular trays with two seeds in each module. They can be kept in a greenhouse or near a window that is in good light until they germinate.
Thinning Out Your New Shoots
A couple of weeks after germination, you will need to take the weakest seed out of each module and continue to allow the stronger one to grow. Giving your seedlings a liquid feed every week should supply sufficient nutrition.
Transplanting Your Broccoli
Once the seedlings hit the 10-centimetre mark, you will be able to move them outdoors. It is important to bear in mind that these plants require a good amount of sun so consider this when choosing your location. It is OK to plant them in a very light shade if you need to.
The soil will need to be well-nourished and you can use either good quality manure or, if you prefer, some all-purpose fertiliser will do the trick. Be sure to use a good amount, we would suggest around 150 grams. You will place the plants in rows that have at least 45 centimetres between them. Furthermore, the plants in each row should be spaced out at 30-centimetre intervals.
Growing The Broccoli
Once your broccoli plants are successfully in the ground, you will now need to wait for them to grow. However, they will still require a good amount of care, so be sure to give this to them. The soil should be well-drained but the broccoli does need a little water to thrive. In the hotter summer months, you may need to water them between every ten and fifteen days. When you do water them, be sure to be plentiful with this.
Be sure to cover the plants with appropriate netting to avoid some of the problems associated with insects, birds and other pests. When May comes, some of these threats die down and some gardeners will choose to remove the nets. However, you should be mindful that your plants will always face some kind of risk, so choose carefully whether to do this.
Once your plants reach around 20 centimetres in height, they will do very well when given plant feed that is rich in nitrogen. You can use mulch clippings from the end of spring as an organic way of getting that much-needed nitrogen into the plants.
Harvesting The Broccoli
You will need to harvest the broccoli at just the right time for the best results. When you notice that the spears or the heads are formed but have not fully opened, this is the perfect time to pick them. The individual flowers should not have begun to open at this point.
In addition to this, you will need to harvest the broccoli in the correct order. Begin by cutting the centre-most spear which will have a lot of smaller shoots coming off the side. These can be picked over the coming six weeks at regular intervals.
Is Broccoli Good For You?
One of the reasons that broccoli is such a popular vegetable to grow at home is that it is so incredibly healthy. If you are looking to grow vegetables that will provide you with excellent nutritional value, broccoli is well worth considering.
Primarily, this veggie contains very high levels of iron and vitamins A, B, C, E and K. Furthermore, it has high protein and fibre as well as lots of potassium and calcium. You could say it was kind of a good all-rounder.
Broccoli is also known to have high levels of folic acid, which is essential in early pregnancy to aid the growing foetus and protect it from certain birth defects. In addition to this, folic acid can be beneficial for people who suffer from anaemia thanks to its ability to rejuvenate red blood cells.
In the UK we are fortunate enough to have a cool climate with lots of sunshine during the summer months. This means that we have the perfect conditions for broccoli plants to thrive. However, there are some things that may cause problems along the way such as pests and various diseases.
Furthermore, the broccoli will need the right growing conditions in full sun with well-drained, nutrient-rich soil if it is going to do well. Our ultimate broccoli-growing guide gives you everything you need to know to get started.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Broccoli grows well in soil that is well-drained and fertile!”
“This plant requires a lot of direct sunlight but can take a little shade!”
“Plants will require at least 30 centimetres of space to flourish!”
“Broccoli is susceptible to various pests and diseases so be sure to protect your plants from the moment they are placed in the ground!”
“The seeds can be sown indoors or outdoors between March and June, although they will do better outdoors after April!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Broccoli easy to grow?
Broccoli is remarkably easy to grow and will grow in the UK without any issues. Broccoli is a great starter vegetable for teaching kids about the goodness of growing your own food.
What month do you plant broccoli?
Sow broccoli seeds indoors in March so that they can be transplanted outdoors in mid-April. If you are sowing directly into the ground, sow your seeds directly after the expected last frost date.
How much broccoli do you get from one plant?
The beauty of broccoli is that after you harvest the first main flower, smaller flowers will continue to grow to enable an ongoing harvest for up to 3 months.