With tender, delicious stems and a flavorful head to match, what’s not to like about spouting broccoli?

Ahh yes, sprouting broccoli – large-headed broccoli’s slender, limelight-stealing cousin. Not only is this superstar veggie packed with vitamins, calcium, potassium and iron, but its sprouting nature makes it a pretty plant in your patch. Though it is generally a cool-season crop, hybrids such as tenderstem (broccoli crossed with Chinese kale) can be planted and harvested all year-round. 

In South Africa, seeds are available in purple (early purple sprouting broccoli, an English heirloom) and green (green sprouting Calabrese, from the plant’s Mediterranean homeland) varieties.


Sowing & planting broccoli:

 1. Sow 1–1½ cm deep in seedling mix, 1–2 seeds per plug in a seedling tray

 2. Water to keep the soil moist 

 3. Move the seed tray outside during afternoon sun for the plants to harden

 4. After about 4 weeks, when the seedlings are 7 cm tall, pinch out the weaker plant (if you sowed two seeds per plug) and transplant 

Broccoli planting spacing:

 • Plant 60–75 cm apart; some varieties need up to 75 cm – check your package instructions

• Dig holes the size of the seedling tray plugs and transplant the seedlings

• Mulch and water well

Harvesting broccoli:

 • 55–200 days, depending on sowing time (overwintering requires a longer maturation time)

• Stem length should be 10–15 cm

• Cut the central spear first, then regularly pick the side shoots over 4–6 weeks

• Make sure you pick before the individual flowers begin to open

Nutrition & care:

 1. Water well and keep the soil moist in dry weather. Feed with balanced fertiliser five weeks after transplanting

2.  Feed regularly with liquid seaweed fertiliser before shoots develop. Remove yellowing and fallen leaves and burn to prevent fungal disease

Soil requirements:
  •  The plants will thrive in soil with 6.5–7.5 pH
  • Full sun
Sowing time:
  •  Year-round, dependent on variety. Avoid growing in summer – hot weather can cause premature bolting
  • Cool & moist
  •  Store in the fridge for a few days or blanch and keep in the freezer
Good broccoli companions:
  •  Celery, borage, rosemary, sage, dill
Bad broccoli companions:
  • Tomatoes and strawberries
Germination time:
  • 7-12 days
Edible parts:
  • leaves, stems unopened flowers
Pests & diseases
  • Aphids, caterpillars and mildew –  Consult your local nursery for advice


[Image via Pexels]