During the last few days I have been preparing some more Gardening Guides for the GardenMessenger web-site. This time they are introductions to Vegetable Gardening, dealt with crop by crop. To give an idea of their scope the following is the Vegetable Guide for Broccoli and Calabrese
Broccoli is now a name restricted to sprouting broccoli, the so-called cauliflower broccoli being regarded as winter and spring cauliflowers respectively. Sprouting broccoli in both its purple and white forms are invaluable green vegetable crops for the darkest days of winter in cold and temperate areas.
There are two main purple sprouting cultivars known quite logically as ‘Early Purple Sprouting’ and ‘Late Purple Sprouting’. The early kind can be harvested from late autumn until mid-winter, when the late kind takes over and continues until the middle of spring. White sprouting broccoli is late maturing and usually ready to pick at the same time as the later purple kinds.
Calabrese is grown rather like sprouting broccoli, but is not as tough. It is sown during spring and harvested in late summer or autumn. The heads that are harvested are bright or grey-green, fewer in number, and larger than sprouting broccoli. There are innumerable cultivars, but ‘Express Corona’ and ‘Corvet’ are well tried kinds.
Sprouting broccoli and calabrese are sown at varying times during the spring according to cultivar. It is best to sow them in a nursery bed and then transplant them as young plants in their permanent positions. Both broccoli and calabrese germinate freely and should be sown very thinly. They are subject to flea beetle attacks in their seedling stages and dusting with an insecticidal powder is a wise precaution. Flea beetles pepper the leaves of seedling brassicas with tiny holes and often cause their demise.
Once the first two or three true leaves appear the plants can be planted in their permanent positions. The planting distances depend upon the cultivar, but sufficient space should be left between the rows to permit regular hoeing. Soil preparations for broccoli and calabrese are very important. The soil should be in good heart, but must not have been recently dressed with organic matter as this may promote soft, cold-vulnerable growth. Prior to planting the soil should be firmed and raked.
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