Gardening Articles

Broccoli: Italian Style

Italian-style broccoli needs abundant moisture to be tender and make large flowers. Given enough elbow room, many varieties can endure long periods of moisture stress, but the smaller, woody, slow-developing florets won't be great eating. Without any irrigation, spring-sown broccoli may still be enjoyed

in early summer and Purple Sprouting in March/April after overwintering. _Sowing date:_Without any irrigation at all, mid-March through early April. With fertigation, also mid-April through mid-May. This later sowing will allow cutting through summer. _Spacing:_ Brocoli tastes better when big plants grow big, sweet heads. Allow a 4-foot-wide row. Space early sowings about 3 feet apart in the row; later sowings slated to mature during summer's heat can use 4 feet. On a fist-sized spot compacted to restore capillarity, sow a little pinch of seed atop a well-and deeply fertilized, double-dug patch of earth. Thin gradually to the best single plant by the time three or four true leaves have developed. _Irrigation:_ After mid-June, 4 to 5 gallons of drip bucket liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks makes an enormous difference. You'll be surprised at the size of the heads and the quality of side shoots. A fertigated May sowing will be exhausted by October. Take a chance: a heavy side-dressing of strong compost or complete organic fertilizer when the rains return may trigger a massive spurt of new, larger heads from buds located below the soil's surface. _Varieties:_ Many hybrids have weak roots. I'd avoid anything that was "held up on a tall stalk" for mechanical harvest or was "compact" or that "didn't have many side-shoots". Go for larger size. Territorial's hybrid blend yields big heads for over a month followed by abundant side shoots. Old, open-pollinated types like Italian Sprouting Calabrese, DeCicco, or Waltham 29 are highly variable, bushy, with rather coarse, large-beaded flowers, second-rate flavor and many, many side shoots. Irrigating gardeners who can start new plants every four weeks from May through July may prefer hybrids. Dry gardeners who will want to cut side shoots for as long as possible during summer from large, well-established plants may prefer crude, open-pollinated varieties. Try both.

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