Broccoli is a great crop to grow over autumn and winter, providing a welcome change from all the kale and cabbage leaves. Both Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calabrese Broccoli are quite a tall plants, so they will be best planted into the ground or in a raised bed so that they can put their roots down well. (If you can plant them in a greenhouse or polytunnel, then so much the better!) Be sure to leave enough space between plants, at least 40cm, but preferably a little more at this time of year.
Planted in September/October, cabbage white butterflies are less likely to be a problem, however, keep an eye out as there may still be a few flitting around trying to lay their eggs. You will need to watch out for pigeons (if you have a lot in your area, it really is worth popping a net over any brassicas that you plant this month, as they can eat the whole lot in just a couple of hours!) and slugs/snails.
You’ll find that your broccoli plants put on some good growth whilst the weather is still mild and we have plenty of daylight. We’d recommend staking them or earthing them up once they reach about 40-50cm, to keep them stable on blustery days. Once temperatures start to drop in November/December, and daylight hours decrease, then growth will significantly slow down and your plants will remain quite stagnant over mid-winter. You won’t need to worry too much about them as they are fairly hardy plants and are unlikely to be affected by frosts.
Once the worst of winter is over and spring starts, the plants will start to grow again and will soon start sprouting giving you an early spring harvest of delicious broccoli spears and broccoli heads. They will most likely finish cropping in mid to late spring and you can pull up the plants to make way for new spring plants to go in the ground.