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Calabrese (broccoli)  - Key Growing Information

Calabrese, commonly known as broccoli, is a nutritious and popular vegetable that can be a rewarding addition to your garden. This guide will provide you with the best methods to grow calabrese, including tips on planting, spacing, watering, and choosing the right varieties. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced gardener, these tips will help you achieve a bountiful harvest.

Scientific Name

Brassica oleracea var. italica (Broccoli)
Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (Calabrese)

Crop Culture

Broccoli and Calabrese, both part of the Brassica family, are cool-season crops that grow best in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. They require consistent moisture and good air circulation.

  • Starting Seeds: Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for spring planting. For a fall harvest, sow seeds in mid to late summer. Transplant seedlings outdoors when they have 4-6 true leaves and after the last frost.

Planting Calabrese

Proper spacing and planting are crucial for healthy calabrese growth.

  • Spacing: Space plants 18-24 inches apart in rows 24-36 inches apart. This allows each plant enough space to grow and ensures good air circulation, which helps prevent diseases.
  • Depth: Plant seeds about 1 cm deep in seed trays or pots, and transplant them into the garden when they are 10-15 cm tall and the soil has warmed up.
  • Fertilizing: Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting and again when plants are halfway grown.
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

Soil and Watering

Calabrese prefers well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

  • Soil Preparation: Work compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting to improve fertility.
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Watering regularly helps prevent bolting (premature flowering) and ensures even plant development. Mulching can help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Recommended Varieties

Choosing the right variety can enhance your growing experience and yield. Here are some calabrese varieties that are good for solving common problems and avoiding diseases:

Variety Description Benefits
'Green Magic' Reliable and disease-resistant with large, tight heads Resistant to downy mildew, high yield
'Belstar F1' Early maturing, with uniform heads Good flavor, consistent size
'Marathon F1' Late maturing, with excellent disease resistance Tolerant of heat and cold, high yield
'Calabrese Natalino' Traditional variety, with medium-sized heads Good flavor, bolt-resistant
'Fiesta' High-quality heads with good disease resistance Tolerant of various growing conditions

Preventing Common Problems

Certain varieties and cultivation methods can help prevent or reduce common problems associated with growing calabrese.

  • Avoiding Bolting: Choose bolt-resistant varieties like 'Calabrese Natalino' and ensure consistent moisture levels. Avoid stress conditions such as irregular watering and extreme temperatures.
  • Pest Control: Keep an eye out for pests like cabbage worms, aphids, and flea beetles. Use organic insecticides or introduce beneficial insects to keep pest populations under control.
  • Disease Management: Practice crop rotation and ensure good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases like downy mildew and clubroot.

Harvesting Calabrese

Knowing when and how to harvest calabrese is crucial for the best flavor and yield.

  • Harvest Time: Calabrese is typically ready to harvest 60-90 days after sowing, depending on the variety.
  • Signs of Readiness: For broccoli, harvest when the central head is fully developed but before the flowers open. The heads should be firm and tight, with a deep green color. For calabrese, which forms smaller heads, harvest regularly to encourage continued production.
  • Harvesting Method: Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the main head from the plant, leaving about 5-6 inches of stem attached. After the main head is harvested, the plant will produce smaller side shoots that can be harvested later.

Storage and Preservation

  • Short-Term Storage: Broccoli and calabrese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Long-Term Storage: For longer storage, blanch the florets for 3-5 minutes, cool them quickly in ice water, drain, and freeze. They can also be pickled or incorporated into canned dishes.

Additional Tips for a Successful Harvest

  • Temperature: Calabrese thrives in temperatures between 10-20°C. Protect young plants from late frosts and provide shade during extreme heat.
  • Fertilizing: Use a balanced fertilizer at planting and again midway through the growing season to support healthy growth and head development.
  • Weed Control: Keep the bed weed-free to reduce competition for nutrients and water. Mulching helps with weed suppression.

Growing Calabrese in Containers

Calabrese can also be grown successfully in containers, making them perfect for small spaces such as balconies.

  • Container Size: Use a pot that is at least 30 cm in diameter and depth.
  • Soil: Use a high-quality potting mix enriched with compost.
  • Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist and ensure the container has good drainage.

By following these guidelines and choosing the right varieties, you can enjoy a plentiful harvest of delicious calabrese. Whether you have a large garden or just a small balcony, calabrese is a rewarding and versatile crop to grow