Broccoli; everyone loves a big, fresh, tasty head of broccoli straight from their own vegetable garden. Start the plants indoors weeks before the last frost date and the gardener is virtually guaranteed to harvest prime heads of broccoli long before those who seed the garden directly can even dream of doing so. The earlier that broccoli is planted the larger the heads tend to grow before bolting, giving the gardener a second shot at neighborhood bragging rights.
The USDA considers all of New Jersey’s Passaic County to fall into hardiness zone 6A. There is some variation within that zone, with the last frost date in Paterson falling about April 21, and up north in West Milford around May 10. Plants should be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before planting in the garden; that planting can be done anywhere from 4 weeks before until 3 weeks after the last frost date.
A little quick math tells us that the time to start the broccoli is…now!
There is still time to order. Grab your favorite seed catalog, or access the website and grab an early, hardy variety like Belstar or Fiesta, both available from Territorial Seeds as well as many other suppliers. Use peat or plastic pots, larger is better (4” at least) to allow for good root development. Use a lightly fertilized potting soil for best results.
Plant 3 to 4 seeds per pot, ½” deep. Germination will take 5 to 10 days.
Prepare the soil with generous amounts of compost and a little general purpose fertilizer as well, broccoli plants are heavy feeders. Leave at least 18” between each plant and mulch when the average temperature begins to rise. Do not allow the soil to dry out – this will negatively impact yield.
Then just wait for the tasty, dark green heads to mature which will take 55 to 70 days depending on variety and conditions. By starting the plants early you are assured of a harvest far earlier than you have ever been able to achieve before.
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