Oh, how I envy the highland gardeners who can dine on freshly picked broccoli from their gardens. What a special taste broccoli adds to a meal, and it’s loaded with nutrition, too. Broccoli is a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as niacin, calcium, iron and potassium. Recent studies suggest broccoli contains valuable anticarcinogenic properties.
If you live in a region 1,000 meters or more above sea level, don’t miss the chance to grow this beauty in the home garden.
What with today’s rising food costs, growing broccoli at home also makes good economic sense. Here are some tips on how to make broccoli flourish.
The earliest varieties of wild broccoli originated around the Mediterranean Sea and were spread across Europe during the Roman Empire. For centuries, gardeners and farmers selected and bred varieties to create the broccoli we know today.
In Costa Rica, agricultural supply stores offer hybrids that grow well here. If you plan to collect seed from your own broccoli plants, which is easy to do, I’d suggest you have someone send or bring you organic seeds of standard varieties from abroad. Seed catalogs offer a wide variety of standard and hybrid seeds for the gardener. “Waltham 29,” “Calabrese” and “GreenMountain” are popular standard varieties.
It’s best to get your seeds started in flats of prepared potting soil. When they are about five to 10 centimeters tall, transplant them to a cup or pot of rich compost soil. Keep them well watered for two weeks, then transplant to the garden beds.
Broccoli loves the cool weather of the highlands. Warmer temperatures tend to make the heads of broccoli flower quickly.
Tropical gardeners often grow broccoli under shade to keep the soil temperature from rising. The soil should also have additions of dolomitic limestone, known as carbonato de calcio dolomítico in Spanish. Use light additions of two to five kilograms per 10 square meters to raise the pH to 6.0.
Each plant should receive at least one pound of compost fertilizer. Broccoli is a heavy feeder of water and nutrients, so watering your plants with compost tea will also help boost growth and production.
Foliar-spraying the leaves of broccoli plants with seaweed extract (extracto de alga marina), as well as extract of citrus seed oil (Kilol) will help prevent leaf diseases that often attack the plants. Both these products are safe, approved for organic agriculture and available at leading farm supply stores around the country.
Another serious pest is the cabbage moth larva. These caterpillars attack the undersides of the leaves. Luckily, you can spray the undersides of the leaves with Bt, or Bacillus thurigiensis, a biological control sold here as “Javelin.”
When your plants are ready to harvest, clip off the main head and leave the plant in the garden. In about two weeks, the plants will produce another harvest of smaller broccoli heads.
Gardeners who live in mid-range elevations can take advantage of Romanesco or Italian broccoli. “De Cicco” and “Sessantina Grossa” are favorite varieties that do well under warmer conditions, though the broccoli heads are smaller.
For information on tropical home gardening, visit www.thenewdawncenter.info or e-mail Ed at email@example.com.