Winter greens are a vital part of any balanced diet and sprouts an essential dish for Christmas dinner. The key to success is to plant in a soil that has been enriched with organic matter for and the soil to be really firm. Summer broccoli (calabrese) needs different timings - for details see our page on growing cabbages.
Soil and position
A sunny or semi-shaded spot that is protected from high winds is ideal. A dressing of Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food should be raked into the soil before planting and the soil then firmed by shuffling your feet all over the suface.
Sprouting Broccoli: Most common seed are simply marked Early or Late, although few will have edible results before late February or early March depending on the weather.
Sprouts: Standard varieties such as ‘Bedford Fillbasket’ (early) will produce a bumper crop of large sprouts that can be picked over many weeks. Whereas ‘F1 Hybrids’ tend to mature all at one time. For an early crop before Christmas try ‘Maximus’ or ‘Breeze’. For a late maturing variety try ‘Wellington’. For a kiddy-friendly taste ‘Trafalgar’ is said to be great.
Sow seed very thinly in May. Leave a gap of 8cm (3in) between seeds in a shallow drill 1cm (½in) deep and cover with fine soil. Water well.
When the seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves, transplant them to their final growing position. If the soil hasn’t been fed this year, rake in some Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food and then firm the soil to remove any air pockets. Make planting holes 60cm (24in) apart with a similar gap between rows.
If you know that your soil is infected with Club Root disease fill the planting hole with Levington Multi Purpose Compost before transplanting your seedlings. Firm the soil well after planting and water in.
During the summer, watch out for caterpillars. To prevent the problem, rub out the yellow eggs of the cabbage white butterfly found on the underside of leaves. If you see caterpillars themselves, spray with BugClear Gun! for Fruit & Veg.
Support your plants with tall stakes so they will remain firmly upright during high winds. Early in winter firm the soil again with your heal and check the stakes are still rigid.
Before December carefully cover the plants completely with netting to exclude pigeons that can strip all leaves during cold weather when other food is unavailable. Support the roof of the netting well above the tops of the plants so that pigeons can’t land on plants and peck through the netting.
Keep weeds under control with a hoe.
Pick sprouts for immediate use when they are large enough for cooking. Cut spears of Sprouting Broccoli when they are well formed, but before the flower buds have opened. First cut out the central head to encourage the side shoots. When cutting side shoots don’t strip them off completely, but leave a part of the stem to sprout more spears.