Broccoli can be a bit of a tricky veggie to grow on its own, never mind combining it with friends. But it’s a worthwhile challenge to many an ambitious gardener.
Broccoli is well known as a tasty vegetable and has gained the nickname “The Crown Jewel of Nutrition” for a reason.
It’s positively packed with vitamins and minerals and is an amazing source of folic acid, vitamin A, iron, potassium, and fiber.
Even better, it’ll keep producing shoots of itself throughout its growing period if well cared for.
If you’re reading this, then you’re here to learn about broccoli and how best to care for it in your garden and we’re here to help you do just that.
Here are some tips to help you grow broccoli and its various ‘friends’ and what to avoid in the process.
Helpful Broccoli Companion Plants
This funny little vegetable loves friends. These are broccoli companions, plants you put in the soil to grow alongside it and help keep it healthy.
Here are a few to keep in mind:
1. Nasturtium Flowers
Planted at the base of the broccoli in each row will act as living mulch and help repel pests and improve flavor.
Plant in between the broccoli for flavor improvement and masking the scent of its neighbors against predators.
Set pots of it near the broccoli, but not in with it; it’s too invasive and will take over. This discourages harmful insects with its powerful aroma.
4. Mexican Marigolds
Planted between plants or rows will help to discourage just about everything from pests to weeds, to even rabbits of all things.
5. Dill, Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage
Planted alongside the broccoli not only gives you a great selection of cooking herbs, but it also serves as a repellent for most harmful bugs and a lure for helpful ones.
Harmful Broccoli Companion Plants
There are many plants that you should not plant with this vegetable.
Broccoli companion plants are there to help it and each other grow well and thrive.
These listed plants will not only hinder your broccoli’s growth, but they may even accidentally harm themselves as well.
Broccoli is a cool weather plant, whereas tomatoes are very much sun-lovers and require a lot of it.
If you plant these together, at the very least, your tomatoes will die in the cooler temps that broccoli loves.
Also, when tomatoes are planted in the cool, they are more susceptible to fungus and diseases which could infect your broccoli plants.
Similar to tomatoes, strawberries love warmth and sunlight and need a lot of it, so they won’t do well in the cool air for broccoli and vice versa.
On top of that, unless you’re an expert at planting them, strawberries tend to spread out and may choke the young broc. shoots.
Simply put, cabbages are big. They need a lot of room for their heads to spread out and would essentially suffocate the broccoli, cutting it off from sunlight and a lot of water and nutrients.
Cauliflower has a bit of a, shall we say, reputation among farmers for being rather temperamental. It’s very choosy in when it’s planted and how it’s nourished.
At first, it may seem like the perfect fit for its love of cooler temperatures, even cooler than broccoli.
That’s one of the largest problems in growing them together.
Cauliflower likes it even colder than broccoli and it’s so fussy about its living conditions that it almost needs to grow entirely by itself to be happy.
How to Plant Broccoli
First things first, the planting of broccoli and broccoli companion plants. This vegetable loves sunlight and will thrive best in either early spring or fall.
Its ‘friends’ will all be plants who love similar temperatures and climates, making them relatively easy to pair up.
You’ll want slightly acidic soil that’s very moist and loamy with about four inches of compost. Plant them about half an inch deep three inches apart and water them well.
The rows should be about thirty-six inches apart at all times and make sure to time the planting well to avoid the frost if you’re doing any late planting.
How long does broccoli take to grow? Growing from seeds planted directly in the ground, it takes between 100 to 150 days to mature.
From transplants, they’ll take approximately 55 to 80 days.
Care and Maintenance
Once the plants reach two or three inches tall, thin them down and provide constant moisture to the soil, particularly if your area is prone to seasonal drought.
About one and a half inches of water should make them happy. However, make sure not to water the heads of the broccoli to prevent any rot from settling in.
If your soil is starting to heat up, you can counter this with mulch.
What’s especially cool about broccoli is that even after the main head has been harvested, the shoots will continue to produce small side heads that can be snipped.
Keep up the acidic levels in the soil alongside your regular watering schedule and you’ll be in supply for weeks to come.
Pests and Diseases
Every gardener’s nightmare — pests and pestilence. One, in particular, to watch out for with your broccoli and broccoli companion plants is aphids, which suck out the valuable sap.
Spray a little soapy water on the sides of leaves to discourage these little buggers.
Aside from them, cabbage loopers, cabbage root maggots, clubroot fungus, yellow patches of downy mildew and nitrogen-deficient soil are all major problems where this vegetable is concerned.
When to harvest broccoli? Harvest the head when flower clusters and separation are dense between buds.
Also, if you notice that the flowers start to turn yellow, or they begin to open or separate, harvest immediately.
Don’t harvest the entire plant — cut the main bud and side shoots when they develop a dark-green color. You can expect about 6 harvests as side shoots will continue to sprout.
Where to Buy Seeds
This is actually one of the easier parts about growing broccoli.
In search of a reputable seed dealer, you honestly have a wide range of choices to pick from, as well as seeds for broccoli companion plants.
Many local farm and garden stores will carry the seeds.
Growing broccoli doesn’t have to be intimidating, especially to beginner gardeners. Of all the growing challenges out there, it’s easily one of the milder.
Take on the challenge, pay attention to its needs and its companions and in no time, you’ll be enjoying delicious organic broccoli straight from the garden.