Broccoli is an edible plant that belongs to the family of cabbage. It has a flowering head, which is one of the healthiest vegetables that you can eat, especially for people who are losing weight or building muscles. Its head is usually green in color with an edible and thick stalk that forms a cluster, making it look like a tree. It is best to grow this plant in spring and fall, but indoors, you can grow it almost anytime through the year as long as it has an external environment that is suitable for its survival.
One of the most popular varieties of broccoli is Calabrese. Being around since 1910, this is a native to Italy, which is why it is also often called Italian broccoli. Its central head is dark bluish green and has an average diameter of five inches. Another variety is the sprouting broccoli, which has thin stalks and large heads. Meanwhile, in the case of purple cauliflower, which is known for its vibrant color, making it a standout in salads and other dishes. Regardless of the variety or type of cauliflower that you will choose, their growing requirements will most probably be the same.
Planting and Growing Conditions
The first thing that you have to do is to buy broccoli seeds. Pick a variety that you prefer. For best results, you can soak the seeds in water for a couple of hours. This will make the outer coating smoother and will speed up germination. Purchase only from a reputable supplier to be sure that the plant will be disease-free. Also, the planting methods may vary depending on the instructions on the label of the seed packet.
Prepare your seedling tray and potting mix. Fill the tray with a potting soil. The tray does not need to be large. The soil should be fertile, light, and well-draining. Using a water spray, moisten the soil and sow the seeds. Plant it at a depth of about half an inch. Alternatively, you can also plant it in a larger pot and not a seedling tray, if you prefer. Within five to ten days, the seeds will begin to germinate. If you start from a small tray, you can now transfer it to a larger container.
During the first few days of planting, it is best to position the seedling tray in a place that is warm. Once the seed begins to germinate, on the other hand, transfer it to a place where it will receive full sun. A window facing the south side will be the best. Alternatively, you can also use artificial light. At this point, all that you have to do is to wait until the broccoli grows. Throughout the growing period, pay attention to proper care and maintenance, which we will further discuss later on.
If you have not been eating broccoli all your life, here are some of its health benefits, which will make you question yourself on why you are not eating a lot of this nutritious vegetable:
- Fights Cancer: Eating broccoli will be effective in preventing uterus, breast, and prostate cancer, among others. It has anti-carcinogenic compounds, which are the ones that are responsible for preventing the growth and progression of cancer cells.
- Protects the Heart: For a stronger heart, broccoli can be a big help as well. It has omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene, both of which are effective in protecting the heart. They are also good for regulating blood pressure, minimizing the likelihood of a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
- Improves Bone Health: With high levels of Vitamin K and potassium, broccoli will also be instrumental in improving bone strength. This will also prevent the possibility of suffering from osteoporosis.
- Aids in Weight Loss: Losing weight is never an easy task, especially with the temptation to eat unhealthy food. You will benefit from eating broccoli as it is high in fiber, which will also improve digestion. It can also curb overeating.
- Improves Ocular Health: Broccoli is also rich in nutrients that can help in the promotion of better eye health. It has phosphorus, Vitamin A, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin, all of which will minimize the likelihood that you will have cataracts or macular degeneration, especially for older people.
Pests and Diseases
Even if you grow broccoli indoors, there is no guarantee that they will be free from pests and diseases, especially if you do not pay attention to care and maintenance of the plant. The most common diseases in broccoli include botrytis mold, bacterial soft rot, and powdery mildew. For pest infestation, on the other hand, be sure to watch out for the presence of cutworms, flea beetles, aphids and cabbage worms.
Care and Maintenance
Below are some of the best things to do to make sure that you will succeed in growing broccoli:
- All throughout its lifespan, broccoli needs consistent watering. It is important to make sure that the soil is moist, but never drenched. Overwatering can cause problems, especially for the roots.
- If you have a nutritious soil, fertilizing should not be a concern for you. Nonetheless, if you think that it needs feeding of more nutrients, it would be best to apply fertilizer at least once a week.
- To improve moisture of the soil, it is best to consider mulching. Apply a thin layer of mulch, but make sure to not over do it.
- Know the right time to harvest. The first part that you will harvest is the head. Do this when it reaches a diameter of three to six inches, although this would largely depend on the variety of the broccoli that you have.
To grow broccoli indoors and in containers, patience is one of the major requirements. With full sun, rich soil, and right feeding, it is possible to succeed in growing broccoli. Harvesting this fresh vegetable is sure to be a treat for any gardener, not only because it is delicious, but also because it offers an abundance of health benefits.