Small Space Broccoli Growing SuccessJuly 06, 2010
Just a few posts ago I shared that we were having a great broccoli harvest year. In that post, I included a delicious meal to make with broccoli. What I didn’t share was a little more detail on how much harvest we were able to produce in such a small space.
Here’s the deal: I’m fairly certain adding lime and nitrogen-rich fish meal early in the season made all the difference in growing fantastic broccoli. Broccoli needs both. It’s a heavy nitrogen feeder, and if the soil’s too acidic it just doesn’t perform well. In the past we’ve had measly broccoli crops, but not this year.
I seeded our crop inside the unheated greenhouse in mid-February. I transplanted starts out of the greenhouse, into the prepped garden beds, under protective row cover at the end of March. We began harvesting in late June. On the 4th of July, I harvested the full crop so I could prep our precious food growing space for a late season crop of Long Keeper tomatoes. If you’re counting the months, you’ve just realized broccoli takes a long time to grow, but it does grow in the cool season and can be rotated out of the garden in time for a late season, heat loving crop.
So, how much did we get out of how much space? Our broccoli bed was fairly small. I over planted, putting my small young plants less than 1′ apart, so I ran the risk of getting nothing off of spindly plants. The bed itself was about 3′ deep by 6′ long — all of 18 square feet. Broccoli plants get quite wide with large leaves, so I thought I’d be thinning out middle plants early, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. I simply got smaller heads from those interior, crowded plants. I chose to over-plant in case some plants failed along the way. I’d have backup in the end. Also, I had seeded a few times, but the extras have already gone to friends and the food bank, so those backups left the garden early. Hopefully, others are enjoying a similar bounty by now. In the end, we managed to harvest about 7 pounds total of broccoli heads and stalks from our 18′ area.
Although we’re enjoying it fresh in nearly every meal these days, I plan to freeze quite a bit of the harvest into side-dish sized packages for winter. A flash-blanching and quick freeze will ensure a bit of snap remains to this yummy crop even when we cook them up mid-winter in a tasty side salad or one of my favorites – broccoli-cheddar soup!
So, how’s your broccoli coming? If you’re seeing tiny yellow flowers, it’s time to decide whether you’ll harvest and enjoy it or leave it as a favorite food for the bees.