Purple Sprouting Broccoli 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. It is also the hardiest and easiest broccolis to grow.

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. You can get soil testing kits from the garden centre which will quickly tell you the pH of your soil. 


If growing from seed then plant in the greenhouse or a windowsill from March to April. You can plant in pots or for a better result try Rapid Rootrainers. These will allow you to transplant them without root disturbance that could slow their growth. You can also sow seed thinly direct into their final position. Sow 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

Cabbage root fly is the main pest to effect broccoli and calabrese. Protect with fleece during the early stages to help avoid this - Easy Fleece Tunnels are ideal for this. 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 For a really thorough way to keep pests off them the Haxnicks Grower Frame with the Micromesh cover The Grower frame is taller than your average growing space so ideal for broccoli. The Micromesh cover is an ultra fine netting that will keep insects as small as aphids and carrot flies out. Your broccoli and many other veg will be more than happy to be grown in one.

Sarah Talbot