How to grow big green broccoli
Broccoli is a green delicious vegetable that is closely related to cabbages, kale and cauliflower.
It can be used to make broccoli soup and salad or cooked to be consumed together with a variety of dishes.
Its health benefits include reduced blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol levels, protects against cancer, promotes heart health, healthy bones, better digestion and reduced constipation, promote healthy brain function, helps slow the aging process and supports a healthy immune system as well as better dental and oral care.
According to reports, broccoli farming in Kenya is expanding as more people become aware of its superior health and nutritional value.
Broccoli takes two to three months to grow to maturity.
Solomon Maina a broccoli farmer, shared with Smart Harvest that there are two varieties of broccoli: Heritage that takes three months to mature and Rock Broccoli, which takes two and a half months.
Broccoli does well in cool weather, well drained, fertile soils that receive six hours of sunlight daily.
In Kenya, Broccoli grows well in central Kenya, rift valley, parts of eastern and western regions according to smartfarmingkenya.com
It requires a soil PH of six to seven and temperatures between 14 to 200 degrees Celsius.
Farmers willing to grow it are advised to mix compost manure and nitrogen-rich organic fertilisers in their soils in order to promote good plant growth.
Broccoli is grown from seeds which are first planted in a nursery.
The farmer should water the seedbed regularly for proper germination before transplanting 14 days to four weeks later when the seedling has at least four leaves.
It should be planted at a recommended spacing of 45cm to 90cm between rows and 30cm to 60cm within rows.
The crop requires adequate water supply for optimal growth and yields of large heads by ensuring constant moisture availability.
Farm management practices include application of manure to improve soil fertility.
Mulching is highly recommended to keep off weeds, conserve moisture, add soil fertility on decomposing and keep off pests and diseases.
Weeding should be done to suppress weeds and reduce competition for sunlight, soil nutrients, water, space and keep off pests causing diseases.
Some of the pests that attack the broccoli to include birds, rats, cutworms, aphids, Diamond black moth, cabbage cutworms which can be controlled by insecticides and inter cropping.
Diseases reported to attack broccoli are black spots, ring spot, leaf spot, downy mildew and damping off.
They are controlled by applying appropriate fungicides, crop rotation, use of healthy certified seeds, resistant varieties and field hygiene.
Broccoli is ready for harvesting when the heads are well-formed and before they begin to show any yellow colour.
A farmer should cut broccoli stems at an angle to prevent water settling in the stem which may cause rotting notes smartfarmingkenya.com
Due to its short shelf life a farmer is advised to take the produce to the market immediately.
The produce has a huge demand in supermarkets, hotels and for the export market.
To increase its shelf life broccoli should be stored unwashed in loose or perforated plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.