Growing Broccolini in Gardens
Generally Speaking, growing broccolini in Gardens is neither easy nor difficult. It is somewhere in-between depending on where it grows. Since it is a trademarked hybrid cultivar, its perfect growing conditions are lesser-known to the public. But that does not mean growing broccolini is impossible.
This article primarily focuses on growing broccolini, propagation, caring, harvesting, preservation, uses and other facts
Before learning about growing broccolini in gardens, let us find some information on broccolini itself.
What is Broccolini
Broccolini (Brassica oleracea Italica Group x Alboglabra Group) is also called baby broccoli. It has similar characteristics like broccoli. But it has long, thin stalks and smaller florets compared to its parent.
Normally, this plant grows about 80 centimeters tall. The length of its slender smooth stem is about 15–30 centimeters. Generally, this is a glaucous, herbaceous, and biennial plant.
In fact, it is a hybrid cross of Chinese kale (gai lan) (B. oleracea var. alboglabra) and European broccoli (B. oleracea var. italica). Both of them belong to Brassica oleracea Specie. Mann Packing holds “broccolini” name trademark registration.
This is an edible plant. You can consume all parts of this plant including unopened flower shoots, flowers, leaves, and young stems. Its flavor is usually sweet, with undeniable notes of asparagus and broccoli. However, this plant is not related to asparagus.
This vegetable has high vitamin C content. In addition, it has dietary fiber and vitamin A significantly. Generally, one cup (122 g/4.3 oz) of broccolini contains vitamin A (39% of daily intake), vitamin C (105% of daily intake) dietary fiber (15%), and 37 calories (155 kJ) of energy.
In addition, this vegetable also contains iron, calcium and potassium.
Sakata Seed Company, Yokohama, Japan developed broccolini. The research itself took more than eight years. Unlike most of the genetically modified cultivars, the company developed it as a hybrid cross of Chinese cabbage and broccoli.
The Sakata Seed Company launched this product commercially in Mexico, collaborating with Sanbon in 1994. They named it Asparation to resemble its asparagus flavor.
This plant made its first debut in the US market in 1996. Seeing its commercial success, Sakata Seed Company decided to launch this product in US markets under a US Specific brand name. So, it launched this product in US markets collaborating with Mann Packing (California) in 1998.
They registered this product under the name Broccolini. They also continue the research to invent new forms of Broccolini. For example, purple broccolini is a newly researched form of original Broccolini which is also a huge commercial success.
Growing Broccolini – Propagation
The recommended USDA Zones for Growing broccolini is 2-10. This plant is hardy to those zones.
If you live in colder regions, it is advisable to plant after the dangers of frost are gone. Remember, this plan can tolerate only a light frost. Heavy frost can kill the plant as a whole.
You can expect more success while transplanting Broccolini from indoors rather than sowing seeds directly into the ground.
You can purchase seeds from amazon or directly from local nurseries. Start sowing seeds in pots, 4-6 weeks before the last frost date.
Sow 3-4 seeds 1 /4-inch-deep in every pot. Place them in near windows where you can get plenty of bright sunlight. You can also use full-spectrum grow lights as an alternative to natural sunlight. You can expect the germination process to complete within a couple of weeks.
Before transplanting, harden off the healthy seedlings by incrementally exposing them outdoors. Remove the unhealthy, dead seedlings.
You can transplant them when the seedlings sprout 6-8 true leaves. This usually takes about a months’ time.
You can also start the sowing process in late summer and transplant during early fall. In this method, you can harvest during autumns.
Before transplanting, make sure to amend the soil with compost or aged manure. Plant the seedlings reasonably deeper (about an inch). Plant them in rows which are about 2 feet apart. Make sure the distance between plants is at least a foot (12 inches).
Alternatively, you can also directly sow them in your garden. Before that make sure to amend the soil with compost or aged manure. Make sure to maintain the distance as described above. Also, thin the seedlings when they develop. This facilitates the airflow between plants.
Caring – Growing Broccolini
First of all, be aware that, broccolini is a trademarked hybrid cultivar. So, information regarding Its perfect growing conditions is lesser-known to the general public. This aspect may prove challenging while growing broccolini.
Generally, this plant prefers to grow in cool weather. But it is not as cold hardy as broccoli, its parent crop. Most people consider its growing requirements to be similar to broccoli.
Normally, this plant prefers to grow in full sunlight and in well-drained soil with a PH level 6.0-7.0.
Cover the ground around the plant with multiple layers of straw mulch or shredded leaves. This helps to fight weeds and retains moisture. If you see enhanced weed growth, remove them completely with a good quality weed Wacker.
In addition, Broccolini consumes plenty of water, gulping up about 1-2 inches every week. So, you have to keep a watch on the plant and soil. If the soil begins to dry, water it up immediately. Make sure the soil is moist but not too wet or waterlogged.
Also, spray the plants periodically with comfrey tea, compost tea, or balanced organic liquid fertilizers. This advice becomes mandatory if you notice nitrogen deficiency (yellowing leaves) in the plant.
The regular habit of spraying the above-mentioned chemicals gives extra nitrogen boot to the plants. This helps in growing broccolini larger and also increases the plant ability to withstand odds (resilient)
When the plants grow 8-10 inches tall, hill the soil around the stems. This helps in developing more side-shoots. While harvesting, you can pluck these side-shoots.
Growing Broccolini – Pests and Diseases
There are some common diseases and pests which affect cruciferous (Brassica) vegetables including Broccolini. If the previously planted brassicas had suffered infections, there is a great chance that the prevailing soil is also infested. If you plant new seeds in such a soil, the disease transmits radially to the newly Growing Broccolini.
Generally, it is a good practice to grow broccoli separately in a new place without mixing with other brassicas. By growing broccoli this way, you can control the spread of the disease and ensure its health.
Normally slugs appear on plants during moist conditions. They can eat through the leaves causing large holes through them. Finally, the foliage dies and the plant fails depending on the severity of the infection.
If you find them in small numbers, just handpick them and dispose in soapy water. You can also pour some garlic oil on and around the plant. Garlic oil has a tendency to act as a repellent.
You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on and around the plant, particularly surrounding its base. Diatomaceous earth is proved to be an effective deterrent for slugs. To prevent this scenario, you can cover the whole crop with floating row covers during the initial stages of growth itself.
Crop rotation is the effective way to cut off the infestation chain.
Generally, these are tiny legless critters. They lay eggs on the base of plants. They feed on the underground roots of the plants. As a result, the root rots and the plant fail.
If you notice impaired growth of plants or wilting leaves then, your plant is most possibly infected by root maggots. In this case, check for the roots immediately. If they are infected, remove the plant as a whole and destroy it. In this way, you can prevent the spread of infestation to other plants in your garden.
Generally, Aphids are soft-bodied insects that feed on foliage, feast, and sap. They prefer to infect newly grown plants. They also excrete “honeydew” which in turn attracts other pests, including mold (fungus). You can often find them loitering under leaves.
Normally, you can treat these pests like aphids by watering forcefully every day using good quality spray jet hoses. If you find them reappearing, again and again, treat them with insecticidal soap.
The flea beetle is a small insect. It is also called jumping beetle. It belongs to the leaf beetle family (Galerucinae subfamily) under the Alticini tribe. They are usually black in color.
These insects usually, make several small holes in the leaves. This results in failed foliage. They also tend to lay eggs at the plant base or in the soil near plants. If the plant is infested severely, no treatment can save it. Just destroy the plant as a whole. Otherwise, the infestation can spread across the garden.
One of the effective ways to treat these insects at initial stages is to spray neem oil or diatomaceous earth on infested crops. However, to prevent these scenarios, cover the crop with good quality floating row covers in the initial stages itself.
Generally, these are small green caterpillars. You can find them commonly on some of the brassica plants. They loiter on them and eat through their leaves. These damaged leaves attract many other harmful fungus and bacteria. As a result, the plant as a whole dies off.
In addition, they also tend to lay small green eggs, build silky cocoons for hatching larvae. If you do not treat them at the early stages, they grow bigger and stronger causing more danger to the plant.
If you find just a couple of them, just handpick them up and dispose them in soapy water. You can also use diatomaceous earth (food-grade) formulated for vegetables to treat these insects. Just sprinkle the chemical on and around the plant regularly. This makes caterpillars and other related insects disappear form plants.
In addition to Cabbage Loopers, many other similar insects, especially moths can damage the plant in the same way. So, it is advisable to cover the plant with good quality floating row covers, during the initial stages of planting itself.
Generally, this disease darkens or rots the leaf veins. This results in foliage wilt and the plant itself dies ultimately. Also, this disease creates a foul odor in plants. This disease develops due to warm, wet environments. Overcrowded gardens and foliage debris are also one of the primary causes of this disease in the plants.
You cannot treat this disease effectively as there is no specific cure available in the market. But you can reduce the risk by planting the crop in well-drained soils, practicing rotation of crops, reasonable watering (do not allow waterlogging), Etc.,
In spite of the above precautions, if the plant gets infected, it is advisable to remove the plant as a whole and destroy the debris of the plant immediately. This can prevent the disease from spreading across the garden.
The infestation of this fungus is common among the cole’ family crops. This fungus causes dark spots on the leaf surface. This Fungai disease develops commonly in warm and wet conditions.
This fungus can spread easily throughout the garden. So, destroy the infected plant immediately. Also, make sure to clean and remove all the debris after harvesting at the season end.
You can prevent this infection by applying a thick layer of mulch around the plants. Clean and remove the weeds periodically using a good quality weed Wacker. Most importantly, water the plants in the morning. So that they have enough time to dry before cool evenings.
These precautions can prevent the black Leg fungus infestation.
Generally, downy mildew affects plants during moist conditions. It causes brownish or yellowish spots on leaves that develop white mold due to wetness. Finally, the foliage dies. It also causes impaired growth in plants, resulting in plants’ death.
If you encounter such a situation, remove the plant as a whole, and destroy the debris. In this way, you can prevent the disease from spreading across the garden.
To reduce the risk of these kinds of diseases, weed the surroundings regularly using a good quality weed Wacker. Also, thin the plants regularly so that the air passes abundantly in between plants.
Normally, it is advisable to choose early morning times to water the plant. So that the plants dry at least by afternoon before evening’s cool temperatures arrive. This method also helps to reduce the plants’ vulnerability to creepy molds.
Growing Broccolini – Harvesting
After 2-3 months of sowing, you can see the plants’ developed main heads. Cut them off before they split into individual flowers. Also, begin harvesting when the leaves have a vibrant greenish shade.
If you delay harvesting, the leaves will turn yellowish and the heads will start to lose its flavor and finally wilt down.
Start harvesting by slicing the main crown of the head, including about 6 inches of the stem. If you slice the stem, the plant will energetically shoot side stems. These side stems are our targets for future harvest.
After the side stems develop, you can cut them off just above the leaf sets. This leaf set, further develop new stems. If these vibrant green leaf sets are healthy, you can expect multiple floret stems.
You can also expect 3-5 harvests from a single healthy plant. Thus, proving to be a profitable crop!
Growing Broccolini – Preservation
You can easily preserve the crop by freezing it in a refrigerator. First of all, Wash the harvested crops in running water thoroughly. Cut them into individual chucks.
After that, blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Then plunge them immediately in ice-cold water for a few minutes. This stops the cooking process. Generally, blanching preserves the quality of the crop for longer durations.
Make sure to drain them completely before starting the freezing process.
Place a good quality baking sheet in the freezer. Then place the broccolini as a single layer on the baking sheet. This prevents individual pieces from sticking together. Allow this arrangement to freeze for a couple of hours.
if you prefer to store them for longer periods, pack them in airtight containers or freezer-safe bags. After that, Place them again in the freezer and use the crop whenever you want.
For shorter durations, pack them in sealed plastic bags. Place these bags in a refrigerator. If you wish to cook, just take them off the refrigerators, unpack them and use them. However, don’t wash them until the last moment. This helps in increasing shelf life.
You can cook this plant as a dish! Generally, you can use stir-frying, steaming, sauteeing (dry-heat cooking), or boiling methods for cooking.
Horticulture Australia study (2005) reveals that 78% of Australian consumers steam broccolini. 53% of them stir fry it and 3% of them eat it raw or use it with salads.
This plant is a popular spring vegetable in and around Japan. Japanese consumers usually steam it for consumption. They also use it in green salads.
Final Thoughts on Growing Broccolini
If you are living in a place where the temperature is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Growing Broccolini is comparatively easy. High temperatures have an adverse impact on this crop.
Also, avoid planting broccolini at the same place repeatedly. Rotation of crops can prevent various plant-related fungus and diseases.
You can also mix other crops while growing broccolini. It happily grows with its relatives. However, it is advisable to grow these plants separately.
You may face little challenges while growing broccolini, But this crop will never fail you. To sum it up, growing Broccolini is worth your time and patience!