Sprouting broccoli – sold as tenderstem in the shops – is a fantastic veg to grow yourself. The pick-and-come-again nature of sprouting broccoli means you can harvest this plant for months.
I will show you how to grow and harvest this hardy crop in this straightforward step-by-step guide.
Before we think about starting our sprouting broccoli, we first need to decide what type we will grow.
Most varieties are harvested over winter and spring, but an increasing number of new varieties can be sown early spring and harvested in the summer and autumn.
I recommend trying one of these varieties as your first go if you are new to sprouting broccoli. Try Sprouting Summer Purple if you are unsure what to grow.
Start your seeds in a module tray in early spring undercover. I like to plant in late feb/early march in my greenhouse.
If you don’t have a greenhouse or other sheltered spot, then you can sow these directly outside from march onwards but look out for slugs!
I sow one seed per module, but you can always sow a couple and thin out the weakest to ensure a 100% germination.
Before planting your young plants outdoors, you will want to harden them off.
All this means is that you move them outside for the day before putting them back into the greenhouse overnight, do this for a couple of weeks to get your plants used to the conditions outdoors.
Broccoli grows into a large plant so you want to leave room between plants when planting out.
I recommend leaving 50cm between your plants.
If you are worried about cabbage root flies you can fit brassica collars around the base of the plant (this is what you can see in the photo above).
I don’t do this and instead net my brassicas with enviromesh, a really fine mesh that keeps out cabbage root flies and white cabbage butterflies.
You will want to net your sprouting broccoli (something you need to do with all brassicas) to keep away cabbage white butterflies.
The caterpillars from these butterflies love any brassica and will devastate your crop. Netting is the best way to fight this.
I use a thin white mesh that I mentioned earlier called Enviromesh.
If we have a dry spell, you will also want to water your plants regularly as they don’t like drying out.
How To Harvest
You want to regularly snip your broccoli florets (the purple broccoli sprouts above).
If you leave them too long, the flowers will begin to open, and regular picking also encourages the growth of new sprouts. Meaning you get more the more you harvest!
Use secateurs or something like my fruit pickers below, available on my store!