We are all very familiar with growing leafy veggies in pots and containers, but have you ever thought that vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli can be grown on your balcony too? The scientific name of cauliflower is Brassica oleracea var. botrytis while broccoli’s scientific name is Brassica oleracea var. italica. Both of these vegetables belong to the same family and hence have very similar requirements. Let us look at the materials required to cultivate them.
- Containers –
Both of these vegetables consist of a head that we consume. That head is large and needs space to grow. Take a pot which is 12 to 15 inches deep and has the same diameter. If you wish to plant more than one seedling, you can even opt for bigger pots or rectangular ones. The pots should be well perforated for better drainage.
- Soil –
Both of these plants are heavy feeders, which means they would require a good amount of fertilizers. You can add vermicompost and FYM rich in nitrogen content. The potting mix can be made with clayey loamy soil and if the soil has low water holding capacity add cowdung manure or cocopeat or more clay soil than loamy as these veggies want their soil moist and well drained.
- Mulching –
As mentioned above, these plants prefer good moisture at all times, in order to provide that you can opt for mulching. Sometimes we forget to water the plants or sometimes we need to go out for a couple of days. In such cases, mulching is going to save the day. You can take some dried-up leaves, and twigs and spread them on the soil to preserve moisture.
You can prepare a nursey of these veggies using seeds. Plant them in a small container or pro trays (germination trays) at a depth of 2 to 4 cm, cover them with light soil and they will germinate in 7 to 14 days. After germination wait till the saplings reach the 4-leaf stage and transplant healthy plants into their individual containers. If you want to stay out of the hassle of growing a nursery you can also buy saplings directly.
When to plant them?
Both are winter season crops so it is desirable to plant them during October – November in India. There are some varieties available which can withstand a little heat and can be grown in early summers too.
How much light do they require?
As they are winter veggies, sunlight is going to be a little limited. It is better to place the pots in a bright sunny spot as 6 to 7 hours of sunlight is desirable.
Do they need to pollination?
Lucky for us, the parts of broccoli and cauliflower we consume are unfertilized, unopened flower buds which can be cultivated even without pollination. So one less thing for us to worry about.
Water, water and water!
These veggies constantly need water but will rot if over watered. Use of well drained soil and perforated pots will avoid water logging. Water them regularly and make sure that the top portion of soil never goes dry for a good harvest!
What about pests and insects?
Unfortunately, these crops are the favourite targets of those squishy insects and bugs. So in order to protect the plants, first of all, if you see any of these creepy crawlies on them, throw them away. You can use the force of water too to drive them away. Since we should try to minimise the use of chemicals, it is advisable to pick varieties which are resistant to insects and diseases.
Voila! It’s time to harvest.
After 50 to 70 days of constant caring, watering and saving the plants from attacks of insects, you can harvest your veggies. If the broccoli head has turned dark green with small compact flowers in clusters, it is ready to harvest. While cauliflowers are ready to harvest when they are pale yellow or off white in colour and all the florets are tightly packed. If florets start to open in any of these veggies, harvest them immediately.
- Main head – Firstly, harvest the main head by using a sharp knife. Make a cut 5-6 inches below the head. This will encourage side branch growth too.
- Side heads – If the summer heat hasn’t kicked in yet, then you can definitely get more heads from side branches too. They will be comparatively smaller in size but will be equally delicious.
Both of these veggies have good iron, protein and vitamin content. It is very good to consume them regularly and will taste extra delicious when grown on our own balconies.
Happy gardening folks!