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Growing Broccoli & Calabrese

How to grow Broccoli and Calabrese in containers garden beds and allotments


Broccoli and Calabrese

Family/Latin Name

NB  The name "broccoli"  properly refers to purple or white varieties. The green varieties are Calabrese.

Brassicaceae - Brassica oleracea var. italica (Purple and white Broccoli)

Brassicaceae  - oleracea botrytis cymosa (Green Calabrese)

Type of Plant

Brassica - Crop Rotation Group = Brassicas

Suitable for

Garden Beds, Allotments, Containers

Pests & Diseases    Companion Plants    In the Kitchen

See also:-  Vegetable Growing Glossary  |    Container Growing  | Buying Seeds & Plants


Plant Dimensions

Height up to 60cm/2ft  -  Spread up to 45cm/18"

Yield per plant 675g/1½lb

Time between sowing and harvesting

About 12 weeks Green Calabrese

about 40 weeks Purple and White Sprouting

Where to Sow

Outdoors in a seed bed

Sowing time

Late April to May  - temperature   +12C/54F. 

How to Sow

12mm/1/2" deep - very thinly - in rows 15cm/6" apart or in groups/ blocks

After Germination

Start thinning plants as soon as they can be easily handled to prevent them becoming weak and spindly. Finally thin to 7.5cm/3" apart. 

Growing on -  in Pots

Once the plants are 7.3cm/3" tall,  pot up individual plants into minimum size 20cm/8" containers  about 2.5cm/1" deeper than they were growing in the seed bed.

Growing on - in open ground

Once the plants are 7.3cm/3" tall, transplant to final growing positions planting them firmly about 2.5cm/1" deeper than they were growing in the seed bed and spacing the plants 30cm/12" apart in rows or in blocks.


Water in dry weather and feed occasionally with liquid fertiliser. Pull  surround earth up around the base of each plant during the growing season. May need staking in the autumn.


Cut the central spears once they are well formed but before the flower buds start to open. Side shoots will appear and these should be harvested regularly without completely striping the plant. Do not allow any of the flowers to open to ensure continuous cropping over a period of about 8 weeks.

Pests and Diseases

Companion Plants

Club Root
Indications Discoloured leaves which wilt in warm weather, swollen, solid galls on roots
Treatment None - lift and burn diseased plants
Prevention Organic
1. Lime plot where you intend growing brassicas
2. Do not grow brassicas in the same place for 2-3 years (crop rotation)
3. Make sure the site is well drained
Indications Holes in leaves or much of the leaf eaten away in severe cases
Treatment Organic
Inspect plants regularly and pick off eggs or caterpillars. The caterpillars like to lie right next to the veins of leaves, sometimes making them difficult to find
Spray with a pesticide containing Fenitrothion
Prevention Try growing crops under a net which will prevent the butterflies/moths getting to the plant to lay their eggs
Pick off and destroy eggs as soon as you see them to prevent them from hatching
Cabbage Root Fly
Indications Stunted growth especially seedlings. Discoloured wilted leaves. Roots are black and rotted with maggot damage and tunnelling and white maggots present
Treatment Organic
Prevention 1. Place a 15cm/6" diameter collar around each plant stem as early as possible which will prevent the fly laying eggs on the soil near the plant.
2. Grow crops under a tent of fleece
3. Dispose of affected plants and practice crop rotation in future years

Companion Flower Graphic


Celery, Beetroot, Onion, Shallots, Garlic, Chamomile, Spinach, Chard, Geraniums,   Rosemary, Nasturtium, Borage

Create a bio-diverse environment by planting flowers nearby to attract bees, ladybirds and other "friendlies". 


To learn more about companion planting click here.

In the Kitchen

Storage:  In the refrigerator for 5 days.  Excess amounts can be frozen. Prepare as below then blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, drain well and allow to cool before freezing 

Preparing:  Wash well in cold water. Break the broccoli head into florets and remove most of the thick parts of the stems and any leaves if desired although these are perfectly edible. Tenderstem varieties can have most of the stem left in tact (about 12.5cm/5-inches)  


Boil 4 - 8 minutes
Fry/Sauté Small florets and the sliced stems can be stir-fried for 2-3 minutes
Microwave  3-5 minutes
Steam 5 - 10 minutes


For more preparation and cooking information about Broccoli plus lots of  recipes visit our sister site www.recipes4us.co.uk.

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