How to Grow Broccoli? Full Guide

Broccoli is part of the cabbage family whose flowering head and part of the stalk is eaten as a vegetable. Broccoli is a very healthy vegetable and you can grow it at home or in your garden quite easily.

In this guide, I will show you all the important steps and I will tell you all the important things, that you need to know so that you can successfully grow your own Broccoli at home!

So let’s get started with the kind of soil, that you need.

What Kind of Soil is Best For the Broccoli?

Broccoli is grown best soil that has a compost-rich, well-drained soil with a neutral pH balance between 6.0 and 7.5.

Add aged compost to the soil at the time of planting to supplement soil nitrogen.

Loam is a quality soil for planting vegetables. It is fertile, it drains well, and it has an organic matter that will support just about any crop. Structure and consistency of your soil are very important because soil that holds too much water can cause fungal infections such as root rot and soil that has too little water can cause malnourished and dehydrated plants.

Broccoli grows best when temperatures range between 45° and 75°F. Temperatures as low as 20°F can be tolerated since broccoli is frost hardy.

How Do You Plant Broccoli?

Broccoli is breast grown in the cooler spring and fall seasons. Summer heat will cause bolting. When the soil is at least 40°F direct seed broccoli seed into the ground.

This is normally 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow seeds ½ of an inch deep and 3 inches apart. Two to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date you can set out transplants with 4 to 5 leaves 12 to 20 inches apart in holes slightly deeper than their container depth.

Make sure to space rows 36 inches apart. Spacing seeds closely yields smaller main heads and a higher yield of secondary heads. Direct-sow 85 to 100 days before the first fall frost for fall plantings when soil and ambient temperatures are high. Water the seeds well.

Avoid planting broccoli near strawberries, tomatoes or pole beans. Cross-contamination, the release of certain compounds, and excessive shade cast by taller plants over smaller neighbors are some reasons not to plant these plants by broccoli. Broccoli can be grown near onions, celery, potatoes, beets, and herbs.

How Do You Fertilize Broccoli?

Three weeks after planting seedlings in the garden fertilize the broccoli using a low-nitrogen fertilizer.

This gives the broccoli plants enough energy to get large enough to support full heads. After plants reach 2 to 3 inches tall thin them. Spread compost 2 to 4 inches into the dirt just as you did the fertilizer.

Soil structure will be improved, macronutrients and micronutrients will be added to the dirt and this will enhance soil drainage which broccoli plants require to thrive. Twenty-eight days later after planting the broccoli fertilize the soil again by applying ¼ cup of fertilizer for every 5 feet of planting row.

Simply scatter the fertilizer onto the soil surface making sure that you do not mix it into the soil because it can disrupt the plants’ root systems. The roots are shallow, suffocate weeds with mulch. Mulches with grass and straw clippings work best with broccoli plants. Mulch feeds the plants as it decomposes, and helps block out weeds that may compete with the broccoli for the soil’s nutrients.

As you water your broccoli plants apply enough irrigation so that the dirt is moist enough at a depth of 6 inches. The fertilizer’s nutrients will go down to the broccoli plant’s roots and prevent nitrogen burns at the plant’s base. Before harvesting fertilize the soil a third and final time wants to broccoli’s head measures about the diameter of a quarter.

Only use half as much fertilizer as you did previously and water the plants immediately after fertilization. Maintaining an active water and feeding schedule will help to promote the growth of a second head after the first has been harvested. Add blood meal if you notice the bottom and top leaves are turning yellow.

Warning

When spreading the fertilizer on the broccoli plants after they have started growing make sure you did not apply the fertilizer to close to the plants. Spread the fertilizer approximately 6 inches away from the plant’s base to avoid nitrogen burns.

How Do You Harvest Broccoli Plants?

Broccoli harvesting can be a bit tricky, but there are a few signs that can tell you when your broccoli is ready to be harvested. Seeing all of the well-formed heads of broccoli in your garden will make harvesting a rewarding experience.

Here are a few signs to help you determine it is time to harvest your broccoli plants.

  1. Has A Head: You have to have an initial head and it needs to be firm and tight. Harvest broccoli in the morning before it heats up. Open heads showing small yellow flowers are past the eating stage.
  2. Head Size: Typically the head will grow to be 4 to 7 in inches wide in size. Don’t go on size alone be sure to look at other signs as well.
  3. Floret Size: This is the most reliable indicator of individual florets or flower buds. Once the size of the florets on the outside edge of the head gets to be the size of the head of a match, you can then start harvesting broccoli from the plant.
  4. Color: The color of the florets should be a deep green so pay close attention. Harvest the broccoli immediately if you see a hint of yellow on the florets because this means the florets are starting to bloom or bolt.

Now that you know the signs to look for you can begin to harvest once your broccoli plants are ready. Use a sharp knife to cut the head of the broccoli off the plant.

Broccoli head stems should be cut 5 inches or more below the head. Make a slanted cut on the stalk to allow water to run away. Water can pool on top of the broccoli plant and began to rot the center thereby ruining the future crops that you can obtain from the broccoli plant.

After cutting the broccoli head stem off then remove the head off with a swift cut. Next harvest the side shoots after you have harvested the main head. Side shoots will grow like tiny heads to the side of where the main head was. In order to determine when the side shoots are ready for harvest look at the size of the florets.

Cut them off as they become ready. You can harvest for many weeks from the same plant. Now that you know how to harvest broccoli you can put nutritious vegetables right on your table.

What Pests Should You Look Out For And How Should You Get Rid Of Them?

  1. Aphids: The plant’s sap maybe being sucked by insects if the leaves are curling. These insects colonize on leaves and they are tiny, oval, pink, whitish-green, or black pear-shaped. They leave behind sticky excrements called honeydew which can turn into black sooty mold. Applying soapy water to all sides of leaves will remove aphids. Use the soapy water whenever you see aphids.
  2. Clubroot: The soil may need to be sterilized if you suspect a clubroot. This is a fungus that may be in your soil if plants or wilting quickly. Gently dig up and remove the entire plant including the roots and root tendrils. Clubroot is the problem if the roots are gnarled and misshapen. Remove the plants quickly so that the fungus does not continue to live in the soil. Do not compost to your plants instead raise the pH of your soil to above 7.2. Rotate crops for at least 2 years.
  3. Cabbage Loopers, Cabbage Worms, And Other Worm Pests: Green caterpillars and other worms are present if the leaves of the plant have small holes between the veins. Control the problem with Bacillus Thuringiensis a natural bacterial pesticide or if the problem is small hand-pick the leaves. Floating row covers can be used just after planting through harvest to prevent caterpillars and worms.
  4. Blackleg: Cabbage root maggots spread blackleg. Blackleg is a fungal disease that causes sprouts to girdle and rot at soil level blacklegs. Broccoli plants will have bluish-black spots on their leaves and stems and young sprouts will fail to grow or die back. Remove and destroy infected plants while keeping the garden free of debris. Keep the soil well-drained while adding organic matter to the planting bed. Rotate crops as necessary.
  5. Downey Mildew: Plants will have irregular yellowish to brownish spots on upper leaf surfaces and a grayish powder or mold on the undersides. This is a fungus and is caused by moist weather. Improve air circulation by buying resistant varieties. Rotate your crops and keep your garden free of debris.
  6. Cabbage Worm Maggots: They are the small gray-white legless worm. The adult is the cabbage root fly and it looks like a horsefly. Flies will lay eggs in the soil near the seedling or plant. As a result of cabbage worm maggots, seedlings will fail to emerge from the soil, seedlings are eaten and roots are tunneled. Maggots tunnel into the roots leaving brown scars and some broccoli plants may be honeycombed with slimy tunnels. Use floating row covers to get rid of the flies. Remove and dispose of damaged plants. Time planting to avoid insect growth cycle and apply lime or wood ashes around the base of the plants. Try planting later when the weather is drier.
  7. Nitrogen Deficiency: If the broccoli plants have bottom leaves that are turning yellow and the problem continues towards the top of the plant this could mean nitrogen deficiency. Plants will need a high nitrogen (but low phosphorus) fertilizer or blood meal. Blood meal is a quick nitrogen fix for yellowing leaves.
  8. Young Plants Flower: Floating row covers will protect young plants from the cold weather. Cold causes young plants to prematurely flower and produce seeds without forming ahead.

These are some of the pests that can destroy your broccoli plants. Take the necessary precautions and procedures to make sure you grow healthy and vibrant broccoli plants.

Can Broccoli Plants Be Grown Indoors?

Yes, Broccoli can be grown indoors to maturity if you have the proper growing area. People also often grow broccoli indoors in preparation for transplanting into the garden in the spring.

Steps To Follow:

  1. Pick a sunny indoor location, which could be a greenhouse, a south-facing window that receives direct sunlight, or you could even buy a grow light. Most indoor lighting is not sufficient enough to grow broccoli plants indoors.
  2. You can make your own seed starting soil or seedling soil mix. If making your own, use compost to ensure fertility and to make sure the mix has a light well-draining texture. The purchased mix should be well-draining, light, and fertile.
  3. Sow seeds in pots if you will be growing the broccoli plants indoors for a long period of time and you are concerned about insufficient room for the roots as the broccoli ages. Otherwise, fill a seedling tray with seed starter soil. Spacing should be about 3 inches apart with a depth of about a quarter inch.
  4. Take a water spray bottle and moisten the soil to prevent moving the seeds around or flushing them. Soil temperatures should remain closer to 75 degrees for faster germination and keep soil evenly moist until germination. Once germination is complete soil temperatures are more favorable closer to 60 degrees.
  5. Around 4 to 6 weeks after planting seeds transplant broccoli plants to the garden or the final growing area when broccoli has four to five true leaves. During germination the first two leaves that broccoli produce is not true leaves.
  6. You can grow broccoli indoors with at least six hours of direct sunlight every day, or grow lights that are timed to provide six hours of light per day. Less than three feet of growing space is needed for a smaller broccoli head that is harvested twice and for each broccoli plant approximately three feet of growing space is needed for a large broccoli head. Make sure broccoli has at least 6 to 12 inches of soil depth for roots to grow in or grow broccoli hydroponically according to your hydroponic system specifications.

You will have fun growing broccoli indoors especially if you have children who want to see how plants grow and they will have a nutritious and healthy vegetable as well.

Can Broccoli Plants be Grown in a Container?

Broccoli plants can easily be grown in containers. Well-drained fertile soil, plenty of water, and full sunlight are some of the necessities needed for broccoli plants to thrive in a container.

Many people still believe that containers are only for small herbs and ornamentals. If you feel this way you are about to read about what you have been missing out on.

What Kind Of Container Is Best?

Containers need to meet two specific requirements. Drainage holes need to be at the bottom of the container so that your plant’s roots won’t rot and the container needs to be big enough for the broccoli plant.

A single broccoli plant can be grown in a five-gallon container and two or three broccoli plants can be grown in a 15-gallon container. The width of the container is also important.

Choose a container that’s at least 18 to 24 inches in diameter. This will prevent your plant from being too top-heavy and possibly tipping over its pot. Containers must have an opening to let the excess water drain away. Too much water trapped around the roots will cause them to rot that’s why proper drainage is important.

Built-in drainage holes are the easiest way to make sure that the containers drain properly. If you find a container that does not have drainage holes you can take nails and make holes yourself.

What Variants of Broccoli Plants are There?

Broccoli heads found in supermarkets are the main varieties of broccoli grown commercially. Gardeners can choose from a wide range of varieties of broccoli plants not commonly found in commercial production. Different broccoli varieties differ in their time to maturation, disease resistance, side shoot production, and the shape and size of their heads.

Broccoli Raab is dark green and it has a bitter taste. Multiple small heads are formed instead of one central head.

Romanesco is an Italian ancient type of broccoli with chartreuse pointed spiral florets. It has a gorgeous texture like sea coral.

Purple Sprouting has multiple small purplish florets instead of a single large main head. During cooking the purple florets turn green.

Green Goliath has extra-large bluish-green heads and ample side shoots. This variant grows in a non-uniform fashion so main heads will not be ready at the same time because each matures randomly over a period of several weeks.

Belstar is a hybrid variant that has six-inch blue-green heads. It is known for its good production of side shoots after the initial crowns are picked.

Gypsy produces nicely-domed green heads with medium to small bead size. Known for its strong root system that is great for good productivity in poor soil.

Spigariello Liscia is known as Italian leaf broccoli. It is a favorite in southern Italy.

Tips for Selecting and Storing Broccoli

Yellowing florets or softer stems mean it’s not fresh also make sure the stalks are not limp nor cracked. You want the florets to be tight and the stems to be firm.

The greener the broccoli the better. Fresh broccoli should last about one week in the refrigerator. Blanch the broccoli first by boiling it for about five minutes and then adding it to an ice bath afterward it can be stored in the freezer.

Frozen broccoli can be stored for about twelve months.

Broccoli is a cool-season crop. As you learn how to grow broccoli you will discover it is not difficult as long as you follow these simple steps. Enjoy and have fun growing broccoli.