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Broccoli (Sprouting)


Ease of Growing [Scale 1-5] - 3 (Medium)

How Time Consuming

Limited – watering, feeding & staking.

Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Organic Early Purple Sprouting’ – hardy, high yielding, delicious flavour (Sow: March-May, Harvest: March-April)
  • ‘Tenderstem’- matures five weeks after planting. Each plant carries small crops of young spears that taste like asparagus. (Sow: March – June, Harvest: June-October)
  • ‘Lancer Mixed’ – a purple and white sprouting broccoli, perfect for a longer harvest season with successional planting.  Very hardy plants. (Sow: March-May, Harvest: November to May)

Home Grown Vs Supermarket

Home grown always wins for freshness if you have the growing space.

Best Sites and Soils

All broccoli likes full sun/light shade and a rich soil improved with a generous quantity of organic matter.  Soil needs to be firm with a ph of 6.5-7.5

When to sow

Seeds are generally sown between March and June. Sow two seeds per cell in trays in a greenhouse and outdoors from April. Thin to one plant as soon as the seedlings can be handled. Give liquid fertiliser every week at this stage.   When rootball is well bound together plant out into final growing space. From April, seeds can be sown in the open where the plants are to grow; sow three seeds, 2cm (¾in) deep, every 30cms (12in) along the row. When seedlings are large enough to be handled, thin out each ‘station’ leaving one healthy seedling behind.  Before lifting the plants, water them well and water well again after transplanting.
Distance between rows - Allow 45cm (18”). Closer spacing will reduce the number of side shoots formed.
Distance between plants - Allow 30cm (1ft) apart.

When to harvest

When heads are young and small in size.

Problems to look for:

Pigeons and caterpillars like to attack the plants, so cover them with netting to stop them getting access. Whitefly is a real problem with Sprouts in the Harrod Kitchen Garden. We now cover ours with fine insect mesh which prevents these pests from taking hold.

We have had clubroot in the distant past in the Kitchen Garden and consequently now plant all our brassicas with cabbage collars around the base to prevent this disease from returning.

Meet the Author: Jo Blackwell
Jo  Blackwell

Jo Blackwell is new on the Harrod Horticultural block and has recently taken over her post as Horticultural Advisor and Kitchen Gardener in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden. She caught the gardening bug when she bought her first home 18 years ago.  Her first greenhouse soon followed and she later gained an allotment, where she grows her own organic fruit and vegetables.


Further Information

Watering / Feeding - As the plants develop make sure they do not go short of water this is essential for the formation of good spears. 


Guide to sowing and planting - Always plant Brassicas out deeply with the bottom leaves touching the soil, by planting deep this will protect the plants from being blown up by the wind (wind rock).


Problems to look out for - Brassicas can be prone to a number of pests/diseases:-

Cabbage white butterfly are attracted to Brassicas and will lay eggs on the underside of the leaves, producing caterpillars which will eat holes in the leaves, often decimating the plant overnight.  Use Fleece or butterfly net to protect plants.
Cabbage Root Fly – symptoms include poor growth, blue tinged leaves and wilting.  When the plants are lifted all the fine root hairs will have been eaten and small white maggots are frequently seen near the roots. Cabbage Collars are available to protect against Cabbage Root Fly.
Club Root – causes poor growth, wilting and discoloured leaves.  When the plants are pulled up the roots are swollen with reduced root hairs.  These will need to be destroyed, do not compost to prevent spreading the disease. To overcome this problem grow club root resistant varieties, ensure the soil pH is above 7.5, grow on well drained soil and practice good crop rotation.
Birds can be a problem so net plants when the heads are being produced.
Slugs & Snails – Protect young plants


How to harvest by type - Cut the central spear first and then the side shoots when 3-4” long over a period of 6-8 weeks.  Do not allow the flowers to open this means the plant has gone to seed. Regular picking encourages more cropping.


Florets will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days, but they do freeze well.

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