Anyone stressed over not finding a good variety of broccoli to plant need worry no longer: a search of the literature reveals more than two dozen varieties, most of which taste pretty much the same. But the judicious gardener, knowing a few tricks, can do much better than an average ‘plant and hope.’
Broccoli belongs to the Brassica genus and is closely related to other cole crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. The secret to growing a ‘best-of-the-best’ head of any cole crop is to “GROW IT FAST.” In addition, it appears that hybrid varieties provide the best production of central heads and produce better in hot weather.
In the spring, two recommended varieties for early harvest are ‘Signal’ and ‘Arcadia.’ A general consensus winner for all seasons is ‘Belstar’
But a caveat on specific broccoli varieties favored by gardeners is necessary here. For every favorite listed by one source, other gardeners often rate the same variety as less than desirable. But since ‘grow it fast’ is the key to getting the best results, here are few varieties that appear to pass the general consensus test:
- Packman. 51 days to harvest; produces good, firm heads.
- Signal. 51 days to harvest, noted for consistent early maturity.
- Early Dividend. 50 days to harvest, produces plenty of fruit bearing side shoots after main heads are harvested.
- Arcadia (65 days), longer time, but one of the best for fall and winter, with excellent resistance to plant diseases.
- Bule Ribbon, 52 days to harvest; very heavy yield.
The days to harvest of the above listed varieties are for transplanted seedlings. Planting broccoli from seeds will add another 22-30 days to the harvest time.
For those willing to wait the extra 25 or so days, seeds sown directly into the ground often produce more vigorous plants with increased resistance to disease, insects, and plant stress. Seeds should be sown 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, 2-3 seeds per hole, spaced 12-15 inches apart. A nitrogen boost is crucial in getting broccoli varieties off to a fast start. Good sources are aged manure or a complete nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, worked into the soil.
For best flavor, the central heads should be harvested when the unopened flower buds are just beginning to swell, but before they open and reveal yellow petals.
Plant and Seed Sources
Four local places to find broccoli seedlings are Armstrong Nursery, Rogers’ Gardens, Home Deport, and the Plant Stand in Costa Mesa. All four places generally carry seedlings all year round, but the varieties can change with the season.
The same four garden/nurseries also carry broccoli seeds, but the availability of any specific variety is also uncertain, based on how often seed packets are ordered to replace sold-out inventories. Another good source of broccoli seeds is amazon.com, which lists several varieties. The best way to find out what seed varieties and what seedling varieties are currently available is to call each of the stores. If you’re lucky, you could get someone knowledgable who can provide the information you want. The best sources by phone would be Rogers’ Gardens and the Plant Stand; Home Depot could be difficult.
Armstrong Gardens (Irvine): (949) 857-9278
Armstrong Gardens (Newport Beach): (949) 646-3925
Rogers’ Gardens (Newport Beach):(949) 640-5800
Costco (Fountain Valley): ask for the outdoor nursery (714) 434-0502
Plant Stand (Costa Mesa): (800) 698-1077