I’ve been cultivating Brussels Sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli over the last few weeks and they’ve now reached the stage whereby they’re big enough to plant out. The plants are around 15-20cm tall with good robust steams and accompanying lovely foliage.
I’ve prepared a bed, (and by prepare, I mean weeded) that has good exposure to the sun. I’ve also chosen to plant the brussels sprouts and broccoli together as the mixture of scents will cut down on the amount of pests that are likely to attack the plants.
Not so long ago I teased out the seedlings and planted them in to pots to give them a bit of room to grow. Since then I lost of couple of Brussels sprout plants to slug attacks – something I’ll have to bare in mind for later on. Planting Brussels sprouts and broccoli is very simple, just dig a hole big enough for the root stock, place the plant in the hole and cover well. I’ve mulched the surface of the bed with some goodness from the compost bin, I’m hoping this will retain water and keep the weeds down.
Brussels sprouts and broccoli are both from Brassica oleracea specie so it’s safe to say that they’re both likely to attract the same pests.
Brassica pests and diseases
Slugs: It’s no surprise that slugs will try and go for my plants, they eat anything in their path and the sprouts and broccoli are clear targets. I’ve peppered the bed with slug pellets to try and keep damage to a minimal.
Flea Beetle: I think these are already attacking my broad beans, you know you’ve got flea beetle to deal with when you notice little white holes in the leaves of your plants. As I’ve said before, I’ve planted broccoli and sprouts together to use the mixture of scents to confuse flea beetles and any other pests.
Pigeons and butterflies: Pigeons and butterflies love sprouts, broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower and they’ll soon make short work of your plants if you’re not careful. I’ve put together a rudimentary frame and covered the plants with netting to try and stop butterflies and pigeons getting in to eat the plants.
Earlier on in the year I planted some Early Purple Sprouting seeds in some polystyrene cells and they’ve really done well.
Like the Brussels sprouts I’ve got to the point whereby I need to separate them into their own pots.
I’m conscious of separating seedlings early on so that they do not become ‘leggy’. They become leggy because they get too much heat and not enough light – this is often the case in seed trays as each of them compete for both – they result are spindly looking seedlings.
If the plants are on a heat bench or in a propagator and they are looking spindly, turn the heat down and try to give them as much light as possible.
As a rule of thumb, seedlings can be thinned out when their leaves begin to touch their neighbor and when they have sprouted their second set of leaves. This is known as the true leaf stage.
To separate the seedlings, gently tease them out using an old spoon or a dibber and then carefully separate the seedlings by holding them by the leaves. Avoid holding the stem or the roots as they can damage easily.
In a pot, With the dibber, create a large hole deep and wide enough to hold the root system and then lower a seedling in and firm the soil around the base of the seedling. As a rule, I tend to water the pot before I place the seedlings in so that I know that that the seedlings are going into moist conditions.
It’s important to keep seedlings properly watered before you plant them out in the garden, however, that said, Generally speaking, you’re better off under watering your plants ever so slightly. This may sound strange but you’re encouraging the roots to search for water and that develop a better root system.
Before I plant out, I need to harden the plants off, this means getting them used to the outdoor temperatures. I keep my seedlings in a cold frame so I will place these outside for a week to 10 days before I plant out.
I’ve chosen to sow the seeds of Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli, because it’s a hardy variety, bursting with flavour which, with a bit of luck, will satisfy food stocks with some heavy cropping.
I think they’ll also look pretty funky next to the Brussels sprouts and some cabbage and no roast dinner would be complete without some broccoli on the side.
Early purple sprouting broccoli was the broccoli of choice for the Romans, and its name comes from the Italian ‘brocco’, meaning arm or branch. Broccoli has been grown it the UK since the 18th century, but this particular variety has only really become popular in the last 30 years or so.
Broccoli, as a variety, is in the same family as the cabbage and is related to the cauliflower. Last year I planted broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower together and it kept pests and diseases down, due to the mixture of scents and smells.
I’ve filled the seed tray of six cells and planted two seeds to each cell, and placed them about two centimetres under the compost. I expect germination within two weeks.
Broccoli is a great source of iron but it also has other health benefits. Broccoli contains glucoraphanin, which when injected into the body is transformed into sulforaphane – a compound used to fight cancer cells.
Broccoli also reduces cholesterol and improves bone health. If you have heart problems, or issues controlling blood sugar levels, broccoli will help.
(Yes I did Google the information above, as I’m not a scientist 🙂 ).
Remember that when your mother tries to force it down you!