Thanks for taking the time to read our article on how to grow broccoli for beginners in the UK. Broccoli has become popular and many people in the UK have got used to the green heads of broccoli sold in UK supermarkets. When they try to grow broccoli at home, they then find that it is a purple sprouting broccoli.
Even the seed growers and many of the catalogues call these by the wrong names and it can be confusing for buyers. We shall explain this in more detail below as you will see when you check out the various varieties of broccoli.
Irrespective of which variety you pick, it is a great nutritious vegetable and especially good when served with a cheese sauce.
Varieties that grow in the UK
There are four main varieties of broccoli:
- Purple sprouting varieties - These are by a long way the most popular variety grown by UK gardeners. They are hardy and will grow in cold or heavy soils. The heads do turn green when cooked. The most popular choices are the purple sprouting, late purple sprouting, early purple sprouting and Christmas purple sprouting
- White sprouting varieties - The white sprouting broccoli produce small cauliflower like spears and are not as popular in the UK. There are only two versions which are the early and the late white sprouting
- Calabrese (green) varieties- These produce green spears with a single green head and the popular choices are Express Corona, Corvet, Romanesco, El Centro, Italian sprouting and the Green Comet.
- Perennial Variety - Perennial broccoli grows tall so if you plan on growing this vegetable then leave around 3 feet between the plants. Nine Star perennial is the most popular choice and ideally plant it against a fence.
Broccoli is a brassica and they should always be planted in firm and rich soil that is rich in organic matter. In Autumn it is advised do dig in manure or compost if your soil is poor. In Spring apply a fertilizer and you can then plant seedlings in a reasonably sunny spot.
Germination time of seeds
Life expectancy of seed
Approximate seeds per ounce
Expected yield per plant
Ease of Growing
Medium difficulty as transplanting is also required.
- Seed Sowing Time - Mid April to Mid-May
- Picking Time - Mid-June - Mid-July
Best Soil & Planting Tips
Thin the seedlings out to prevent them from becoming weak. Rows should be made 6" apart, 3" apart and 1" deep. When the seedlings get to about 3" high it is time for transplanting. Water the rows before doing the transplanting.
Make sure they are firmly transplanted and plant about 2" deep.
Hoe regularly and provide netting to provide the protection of the broccoli plants from birds. You should water young plants during any dry spells and apply a mulch to preserve the moisture.
We would also recommend applying a liquid fertilizer as that will help and boost growth. Broccoli is prone to lots of diseases so you need to watch out for those pests, especially caterpillars.
Towards Winter draw soil up and around the plants if they are exposed. We mentioned birds can cause damage especially pigeons.
Broccoli Pests and Brassica Problems
This shows up as a yellowing of the upper surface and a white fungus growth happens underneath. That will ruin growth and it should be treated with Dithane at the first signs of disease.
You will notice swellings form close to the ground and does not cause a lot of damage. It may slightly restrict growth and if it gets bad try using a crop saver.
You will recognise this by discoloured leaves which will wilt in sunny weather. This is a serious disease which will kill broccoli plants dead. There is no fix for that so the plants must be lifted and burned. You will also not be able to use this soil for several years.
White spots appear on leaves and fungus will spread that looks like a white felt. This can stunt growth and quite often plants will die. You should remove plants and burn them.
Slugs & Snails
A slug is basically a snail without a shell. They can devour seedlings in a very short space of time. The best way of controlling these is to just pick them out of the bed and get rid of them. If you don't like the idea of that then slug pellets works really well.
Black rot is hard to see and seedlings are killed. Any mature plants will have stunted growth. The leaves will turn yellow with black veins. The lower leaves will start to drop off. Once again there is no cure so they need to be removed and burned.
Brown rings start to appear on mature leaves. The foilage will turn yellow and fall off. Once again there is no cure so they need to be removed and burned.
Leaves are thin and plant growth is really poor. It can be fixed with the spraying of Fillip.
Hopefully we have given you enough information to be able to grow broccoli in the UK. As a beginner we would recommend trying these once you have some experience as these can be difficult to grow.