Advice for those waiting for Broccoli to sprout

We’re not quite at the time for winter grown broccoli to start producing spears, but it won’t be long and there are a few things to look out for now to make sure your plants don’t take a turn for the worse before they start cropping…

Watch out for root problems

You can see some leaves wilting in this photo. Normally, wilting leaves are associated with heat and a lack of water, but at this time of year when there is frost and snow and plenty of moisture in the ground, it can be seen as a general indication of a problem at the roots. This may be any number of things, but possibly the most common during winter is root disturbance – if there is any underground activity from the likes of voles, then the roots may have been disturbed, or if there have been strong winds and the plant has been partially uprooted, for example.

It is also worth checking for club root, although this is usually a problem in late summer/autumn. If all of your broccoli plants are showing signs of wilting, and particularly if they are also stunted, it could well be a club root infection – pull one plant up and inspect the roots. If they are distorted and knobbly, then that’s a sign of club root.

Remove yellowing leaves

This is a good job to do regularly – removing any yellowing or damaged looking leaves (typically from lower down on the plant) will help to prevent any lurking diseases from spreading and it will help to keep the plants free from slugs and snails (which are attracted to the decaying leaves)

Prevent plants from toppling over

Strong winds can easily topple a taller broccoli plant, and although they usually survive, it can mean that they are more prone to fungal infection and slug damage etc as the leaves will be largely lying on the soil’s surface. Staking plants ahead of strong winds is a good idea.

Don’t worry about frost and light snow

These are tough plants and they will stand well in cold temperatures. They won’t grow much, but as warmth returns in spring, they will pick up their growth pattern and soon produce broccoli spears to harvest.

When will they start cropping?

If you planted back in summer last year, then you should get a nice early crop this spring, perhaps in March/April time. For plants that were planted in autumn, they may take a little longer, but hopefully will start to produce harvestable spears of broccoli for you in May or June.