Broccoli is considered a cole crop and can be grown in late summer and grown through the fall, or it can also be started in early spring. Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables; however, it also gets a lot of negative comments about its taste from children. It is very easy to grow and should be planted in gardens across the USA.
You can direct seed your broccoli into the garden in both the spring and the fall because you need a good lighting system in the house if you are going to start your own transplants. The seedlings tend to get leggie very fast if you don't control the lighting consistently. Plant seeds in your fall garden by about August 20th in Texas, but sometimes it's still too hot, so, you might need to adjust accordingly. You may need a shade cloche to protect the young seedlings until they are strong enough to handle the late summer sun.
You can plant seeds about 1-2 weeks after the last frost at springtime, and plant transplants at about the same time. Plant seeds about 15-16 weeks before the first frost in the fall/winter. Planting seed should be done at no more than a half inch deep, approximately 2 feet apart. If you are planting more than one row of broccoli, plant the rows 3 feet apart.
Keep the ground around your broccoli plants evenly moist by adding a 6 inch layer of straw mulch under the plants. You may consider laying a soaker hose down the middle of the row at the base of each plant, and then cover with the mulch. There are many types of mulches that you can use in the garden but consider using straw mulch for your entire garden, as it retains a lot of moisture and keeps the plants and garden looking clean.
Fertilize once per month with a balanced fertilizer, watering it in heavily after applying. Use about one pound per 50 foot row. If fertilizer is not available, or costs are prohibitive, side dress with newly finished and screened compost. If you have a large garden, you may already have a large compost heap cooking for future use.
Since there are a few insects that like to eat your broccoli as much as you do, use hanging sticky boards around the plants to control the flying insects like cabbage loopers. If the plants are infested with soft bodied insects like aphids, use a simple soap (dish soap) and water solution (about one teaspoon per gallon of water) to spray all over the plants, including under the leaves. If you are going to use a pesticide, please use it according to the label.
Harvesting can be a little tricky if you are doing it for the first time. The key is to wait until just before the flower buds on the head of broccoli open up. Don't let the flower buds swell up too much as it will be too late. Make sure the buds are still tight. Let the buds get as big as they can before you cut them. Broccoli will produce side shoots for multiple cuttings.
Broccoli is used in a variety of ways, including fresh. Lots of recipes for stir frying are available from multiple website cooking resources, as well as pasta, beef and chicken dishes that include broccoli too. It can be blanched and then frozen or canned up using a high pressure canner. No matter how broccoli is stored or prepared, you are sure to enjoy this wonderful vegetable from your own garden.