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Vermont Garden Journal: One Type Of Broccoli Is Just Not Enough

These days, broccoli comes in unusual sizes, colors and textures which makes planting and eating this staple vegetable lots of fun!
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These days, broccoli comes in unusual sizes, colors and textures which makes planting and eating this staple vegetable lots of fun!

Broccoli has become a popular vegetable in many gardens and on many plates. But not all broccoli is created equal. There are some unusual heirlooms and hybrids on the market that can make growing  broccoli downright fun!

For the longest time, the trend in broccoli heads was to get big. Now, it's going in the opposite direction. Small-headed varieties such as 'Happy Trends' and the heirloom 'De Cicco' feature bushy plants that produce multitudes of three- to four-inch diameter heads all summer. They're perfect for a small meal.

If you've ever wondered about eating broccoli leaves (they are edible), try the 'Spring Raab' and 'Sessantina Grossa.' These broccoli raab varieties are quick to mature in cool weather from direct-sown seed. 'Spigariello Liscia' is a leaf broccoli that you eat once the leaves are large enough. It's sweeter tasting then broccoli raab. Plant these in succession for fall crops.

For something really different, try the 'Sante' sprouting broccoli variety. It produces small, purple heads and is best grown during fall.

Broccoli is a heavy-feeding vegetable, so grow them in raised beds in compost-amended soil. Add an organic fertilizer at planting time and monthly. Keep flea beetles off young seedlings with sprays of diatomaceous earth. For varieties that grow all summer and into fall, I found it's best to grow them under floating row covers or tulle. This prevents the cabbageworm butterfly and Swede midge fly from laying eggs that will damage the heads and leaves. When harvesting, strip the broccoli side shoots back to the main trunk to encourage fewer, but bigger side heads to form.

Now for this week's tip:  for Mother's Day, take mom to your local garden center and pick out a container, flowers, veggies and herbs to co-create a container garden together. It's a simple way for mom to remember you all summer.

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