Monday, March 18, 2013

Broccoli - first seedlings of 2013

What a difference a year makes! At this time last year, we'd already planted some seeds outdoors (radishes and spinach), and were a bit worried we were falling behind on our indoor seed starting. This year... well, it snowed this morning, and we've had to keep the chicken coop enclosed because it's getting down to the teens for overnight lows.

But that will all soon change, which is why we've begun our first indoor seeds of the year. You may recall we built up a big seed-starting shelf, which to this point has only held our mostly unsuccessful indoor lettuce project. That's changed in the last few weeks, as you can see here.

The very early season is prime time for cold-hardy crops, of which our favorite has to be broccoli. Last year we enjoyed some unusual (for us) success with broccoli, and we plan to fill an entire garden bed with it this year. Broccoli can be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost, which in central Iowa is usually mid-May. So, now is a pretty good time to get going. We started some last week, and now they've just begun to sprout.

Of course, we really wanted an early batch of broccoli, so we also started some the week before. They look like this:

And, just because we have a cold frame and a low tunnel, we figured we could take some risk, so we even started some the week before that. They've gotten quite big, and you can see some of the "true" leaves forming.

Our goal here is to stagger our planting so that ideally we can also stagger our harvest. These three-week old plants should form full-size broccoli heads first, then we can successively cut the others so we have fresh broccoli over multiple weeks. When you're growing 32 broccoli heads, that makes things a lot more manageable!

Depending on your zone, it's probably not too late to start some broccoli seeds of your own. Otherwise, the next few indoor plants we'll be looking at are peppers (hot and sweet, probably within the next week), and tomatoes, which we'll plant a few weeks thereafter. It's a great feeling when it's still too cold and slushy outside to see these little reminders that spring isn't too far away after all!


  1. I love the look of broccoli seedlings with their pretty heart shaped leaves! They're just so spring. Last year I got sick of broccoli with only 4 plants though. Do you freeze or preserve your broccoli in anyway for the winter? Love reading what other Iowans are doing!

  2. Well, we really love fresh broccoli, so we used ours up last year. But you could certainly freeze it too. Like most veggies, we would blanche it in some boiling water then pack it into plastic bags and squeeze out as much air as you can. We've also had good luck with a Food Saver vaccuum sealer.