Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting your green thumb journey, this article will provide you with all the essential knowledge and practical tips you need to successfully grow and harvest your own broccoli.
From selecting the right broccoli variety to nurturing your plants through each growth stage, we’ve got you covered. Learn everything you need to know about growing delicious, nutritious broccoli in your very own garden!
Table of contents
- Planting broccoli: What you need to know
- Broccoli growing conditions: How to care for your broccoli
- Harvesting broccoli: When to harvest your broccoli crowns
- Different types of broccoli to plant: What’s best for your area?
- Common pests and diseases that affect broccoli plants
- How to grow broccoli: FAQ
Planting broccoli: What you need to know
The first step to growing broccoli is, of course, planting it! Broccoli is easy to grow from seed, and it’s much cheaper than purchasing seedlings and planting those. So, let’s explore how to grow broccoli directly from seed.
When to plant broccoli
Timing is everything when it comes to planting broccoli. Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable that thrives in moderate temperatures and can tolerate light frosts. The key is to provide your broccoli plants with optimal growing conditions to promote healthy development.
For most regions, the ideal time to plant broccoli is during the spring and fall seasons. Aim to plant your broccoli seedlings outdoors when the average temperatures range between 55°F to 75°F. This temperature range encourages vigorous growth without subjecting the plants to extreme heat or cold.
How to plant broccoli
Choose a well-draining, nutrient-rich soil for your broccoli. Add compost or aged manure into the soil to enhance its fertility – your broccoli will grow bigger and healthier this way! Broccoli prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH of around 6.0 to 7.0. If you don’t have a pH meter, don’t stress, broccoli is fairly tolerant and should grow in most regular garden soils.
If you want an early start to the growing season, consider starting broccoli seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date. If planting broccoli for your fall garden, start your plants about 85-100 days from your first frost date. For more helpful info on growing broccoli for a fall crop, check out this guide.
Use seed trays or containers filled with a quality seed-starting mix, and keep the seedlings in a sunny location. Here’s helpful guide with advice on successfully starting broccoli from seed- indoors or directly in the garden.
Transplant the seedlings outdoors when they have at least two sets of true leaves. Choose a sunny or partially shaded location in your garden. Space the seedlings about 18 to 24 inches apart in rows that are around 2 to 3 feet apart.
Plant the seedlings at the same depth as they were in their containers or seed trays. Gently pat down the soil around the seedlings to eliminate air pockets and ensure good soil-to-root contact. Give your newly transplanted broccoli seedlings a thorough watering to help them settle into their new environment.
Broccoli growing conditions: How to care for your broccoli
Broccoli thrives in full sun, which typically means providing it with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. However, it can also tolerate partial shade, especially in regions with hot summers. Maintain the recommended temperature range of 55°F to 75°F to prevent bolting (premature flowering) and ensure healthy growth of your broccoli plants.
Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot. Aim to water at the base of the plants to minimize moisture on the leaves, as wet foliage can invite diseases.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder, meaning it requires a steady supply of nutrients to produce those sizable crowns. Incorporate a balanced fertilizer or compost into the soil before planting, and consider side-dressing with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer about three weeks after transplanting.
Harvesting broccoli: When to harvest your broccoli crowns
The main indicator that your broccoli is ready for harvest is the formation of the central head, also known as the crown. Wait until the crown reaches a suitable size and is firm to the touch. A mature broccoli head will feel dense and tightly packed.
For most varieties, the ideal size for harvesting is around 4 to 7 inches in diameter. If you wait too long, the florets might begin to loosen and separate, affecting the overall quality. Harvest your broccoli when the central head is fully developed but before the individual florets start to bloom and open.
After you’ve harvested the main central head, keep an eye out for smaller side shoots that develop along the stem. These secondary heads are just as tasty as the main crown!
Different types of broccoli to plant: What’s best for your area?
When it comes to growing broccoli, there are lots of different varieties to choose from. The most common is standard green broccoli, or Brassica oleracea. It’s well suited to a range of climates and generally easy to grow.
Another popular option is broccolini, which features long, slender stalks and smaller florets. It’s generally ready to harvest earlier than standard broccoli, so it’s a great option for impatient gardeners!
If you live in cooler areas, you might like to try purple broccoli. It’s typically a late-season variety, with harvest occurring during late winter to early spring. Purple broccoli is hardy, can withstand colder temperatures, and tastes delicious!
Common pests and diseases that affect broccoli plants
Keep a close eye on your broccoli plants for signs of pests and diseases. Common pests that might target broccoli include aphids, cabbage worms (pictured below), and slugs. If you see any signs of holes in the leaves, inspect further to see what’s causing the damage.
Cabbage worms might be the most likely pest you’ll encounter when growing broccoli. They like to lay eggs on the leaves. Once those eggs hatch, you’ll have little caterpillars eating their way through your broccoli plants. Those caterpillars can do A LOT of damage (see below).
Prevent this common problem by covering you broccoli plants while they’re young. This is when pest damage can really ruin your harvest. Once they’re established, they can handle a bit of pressure from pests. If you’re growing in raised beds and want to keep your plants covered their entire growth cycle, my raised bed covers would work great!
Natural predators like ladybugs can help you manage these pests, as can organic sprays like neem oil. Remove any damaged leaves and try to prevent your broccoli plants from becoming overcrowded, as this encourages pests.
How to grow broccoli: FAQ
Do you have more questions about how to grow broccoli at home? We have the answers you’ve been looking for!
What is the trick to growing broccoli?
One of the key tricks to successful broccoli cultivation is providing consistent and even moisture. Broccoli plants need regular watering to develop healthy heads!
How long does it take to grow broccoli?
On average, most broccoli varieties take around 60 to 100 days from transplanting to reach harvestable size. Some fast-maturing varieties, like broccolini, can be ready in as little as 50 to 60 days.
Is broccoli easy to grow?
Yes, broccoli is generally considered an easy-to-grow vegetable, especially when you provide it with the right growing conditions. With proper care, sunlight, and water, broccoli plants tend to grow well in most areas.
Does broccoli grow back after cutting?
Yes, some varieties of broccoli can continue to produce smaller side shoots after the main central head is harvested. However, the main crown itself won’t grow back.
What month do you plant broccoli?
In general, broccoli can be planted in early spring or late summer/early fall. For spring planting, start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date or transplant seedlings outdoors when temperatures are consistently between 55°F to 75°F.
For fall planting, aim for a similar temperature range and consider planting about 85 to 100 days before the first expected frost date.