Calabrese: What Is It?
Growing broccoli is an interesting process, to say the least. Its relative ease in growing is one of its biggest charms, and at the same time a painstaking process to undertake. The best way to go about this gardening adventure is to follow three simple steps to get started off right. These steps are easy enough to pick up and adapt to your own personal broccoli garden.
Preparing the soil: Before planting, it is important to prepare the soil. This can be done by hand tilling, if you're confident of your handling abilities. If you don't have the time, there are pre-made mixes available for this purpose. Calabrese, purple sprouting broccoli seeds, and other hybrid seeds are best suited for pre-soaked soils.
Cleaning the florets prior to planting: Unless you live in a heavily populated urban area, you are unlikely to have a garden right next to your doorstep. For this reason, it's not necessary to clean out your broccoli plants as soon as they sprout. Wait two to four weeks between cleaning florets, depending on when they first appear. This gives the young seedlings room to develop roots and form strong root networks.
Sowing off the seedlings: When the ground begins to show signs of wetness, it's time to start sowing off the young seedlings. Use a sharp knife to separate each group. Avoid touching the young plants with your bare hands, as touching them during this critical stage will cause disease. Place each group in shallow dish of water to collect and evaporate any excess water. Continue with small batches until your frost-free zone has been reached.
When you have chosen your site and have the soil ready, you're ready to begin sowing your Calabrese. Set your garden plot into a large gravel bed. Keep in mind that you want to space the beds approximately one to two feet apart. For maximum growth, plan your planting to occur a full year ahead. Allow enough room for the seeds to germinate, so the bulbs and seedlings do not dry up between each growing season. You'll know if you have enough space by measuring how much garden space is available before you plant your bulbs or seedlings.
Plant the plants in the space you have identified for each plant, and fill in around them, using a natural compost material with good drainage. The main head of your plant should be planted first, followed by the rest of the plants. It's best to stagger the sizes of the plants and their origins so you don't confuse which plants are for the main trunk. Be careful not to crowd the plants too much or they may become overcrowded and suffer. Be patient, as these plants take time to get established.
After the plants have had a chance to establish themselves, you can move on to sowing Calabrese bulbs or seedlings in pots. If you have planted your bulbs or seedlings into containers prior to setting them out, be sure to move them carefully so no air pockets develop and the roots don't get damaged. You'll want to set the pots on raised beds, but if they're in a field, out of harm's way. It's also a good idea to put some meat inside the pots to prevent the plants from becoming moldy while they're sprouting. Don't over-water the plants, either; you can overwinter in the beginning and then let the soil dry out between watering, but you have to water the Calabrese plants well in the beginning to encourage the sowing process.
Once you have planted your Calabrese, don't be surprised if you start seeing little heads emerging - this is the harvest time! The plants will produce more shoots as the year goes along, and each new head will be smaller than the one before it. You can pick off these small heads as they come out, too - the leaves on the flowering heads look like little mushrooms and are worth eating!