Fresh broccoli is crisp, tender and bursting with flavor, making it ideal for additions to fresh salads and snacking. When added to stir-fries, broccoli provides rich color and gives flavor to meats and poultry. With only 30 calories per one-cup serving, broccoli provides 135 percent of the daily value of Vitamin C and 116 percent for Vitamin K. With a glycemic load index of three, broccoli promotes healthy glucose levels and is a good source of fiber. Growing broccoli in the home garden adds flavor to your meals and brings health benefits as well.
Start broccoli seeds inside eight weeks before your intended planting date. Fill peat pots or cells with moist seed starter. Plant seeds to a depth of ¼ to ½ inch. Cover with plastic food wrap to keep seeds moist. Place the pots in a warm location.
Remove the wrap when seedlings emerge and place in a sunny location. Keep soil moist, but avoid soggy soil. Transplant seedlings to the garden when they have five to six leaves.
Prepare garden soil in a sunny location that receives full sun for six to eight hours a day. Till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure to the soil. Work it in well with a garden tiller or hoe.
Test the pH level of your soil with an inexpensive kit from your local hardware store or home improvement center. Adjust the pH to between 6.0 and 7.0 for maximum growth. Follow the instructions in the kit to adjust the soil pH.
Apply 2 to 3 lbs. of 8-16-16 fertilizer per 100 square feet of gardening soil. Mix fertilizer into the soil to avoid damage to young roots. The Ohio State University Extension recommends applying fertilizer two weeks before planting.
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball of your seedlings. Position the broccoli plant into the hole so it rests at its original planting depth. Fill in around the roots with soil. Firm the soil down with your hand to secure the plant.
Space broccoli plants 18 inches apart in rows spaced 2 to 4 feet apart. If you intend to cultivate with a garden tiller, wide spacing is necessary. Otherwise, 2 feet provides enough room for broccoli plants.
Pour two cups of 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer around the base of each broccoli plant. This provides a boost of nutrients to assist the seedling in establishing strong roots.
Mulch plants with organic mulch like straw, grass clipping or hay to maintain moisture and keep soil cool. Avoid plastic mulch as it raises soil temperatures.
Water when soil dries, typically once a week. Water deeply to saturate the soil to the root level. Frequent shallow watering causes roots to form near the surface of the soil and may interfere with their ability to support the plant.