Broccoli (Purple Sprouting) and Italian Calabrese are often confused as the supermarket sold 'broccoli' is in fact the large green headed calabrese.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli is an excellent crop for filling the harvesting gap at the end of the winter and heralds the start of the new grow your own season for many gardeners.
Where to grow
All forms of broccoli and calabrese do best in an open sunny position. Protection from strong winds will prevent the plants from rocking.
Both require a rich soil. Manure in the Autumn and apply lime if necessary to bring the pH up to 6.5-7 in particular for the purple sprouting variety.
During Spring sow purple sprouting seed thinly in rows to a depth of 1cm with 15cm between rows. After germination thin to 5 cm apart in preparation for transplanting to their final position. Calabrese do not transplant as happily so should ideally be sown direct and thinned to 30 cm apart. Easy Poly Tunnels will aid germination and Easy Net Tunnels protect the young seedlings from birds.
Transplant deeply with the first leaves sitting on the soil surface to discourage cabbage root fly and help stabilise the plant. Firm in well, again to help secure the plant and eliminate any air pockets.
Keep well watered during dry periods to allow healthy growth throughout the long growing season. Mulching the rows with garden compost will help retain moisture and keep weeds in check as will regular weeding between rows with a Speedhoe will help loosening the soil around the developing plants.
Harvesting and Storage
Start harvesting in late winter and continue through to mid spring, depending on the variety grown. Harvest shoots of Purple Sprouting varieties before they flower at around 15cm long. Regular cutting encourages new shoots and any that reach flowering stage should be removed to prevent exhausting the plant.
Calabrese can be harvested from late summer to early autumn. Heads should be cut, starting from the central flower head, while still tightly closed. Spread harvesting of the crop to avoid completely stripping a plant.
Broccoli Pests and diseases
In order to prevent damage to the roots from wind rock (damage to the roots of young plants, caused by the movement of the stem in the wind.)use a Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier