How to grow purple-sprouting broccoli

Do it:

Mar

Takes just:

15 minutes

At its best:

Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov

Purple-sprouting broccoli has great flavour, a long harvesting season and is extremely good for you. A single portion provides half your daily requirement of carotenoids, plus high levels of folic acid and vitamins A and C.

If you choose the right varieties, and time your seed sowing well, you can keep harvesting your crops from autumn through to early summer the following year. Purple-sprouting broccoli is extremely hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as -12°C, so it’s a good winter crop.

Like other brassicas, purple-sprouting broccoli thrives in a fairly heavy, alkaline soil. Avoid growing it on an exposed site, where the wind will buffet the stems and loosen the soil around the roots.

You will need

Purple-sprouting broccoli seeds

Good quality, multi-purpose compost

9cm pots

Fork

Trowel

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Sow the seeds into small pots or multi-cell trays, using a good quality multi-purpose or loam-based seed and cuttings compost. Once large enough to handle, prick seedlings out and transplant into single 9cm pots, watering in well.

Fork the soil over, removing large stones, debris and any perennial weeds. Bulky organic matter is essential on lighter soils – even on heavy soil, it’s worth adding to improve moisture retention and texture. Brassicas dislike loose soil, so firm lightly with your foot.

Transplant out when the plants are 7-9cm tall. Water them well before removing from their pots, and plant them 50-60cm apart, with a similar distance between the rows. Water again after planting and firm each rootball in well. Grow six plants if you want enough broccoli to feed a family of four.

Keep the soil moist at all times and remove weeds to reduce competition. If growth is slow and stems of purple buds fail to appear, use a liquid feed to prompt them.

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Give winter protection using fleece or micromesh over a frame or cage. This encourages early crops, and keeps pigeons and cabbage whites away.

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Fact file: sprouting broccoli

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