Growing Broccoli is easier than you might think, and it’s also a lot of fun. This article will explain how to grow broccoli for beginners-from the best soil to use to what type of fertilizer to use.
It’ll also provide tips on harvesting and storing your produce.
Broccoli is a member of the cole crops family along with cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale and other cruciferous vegetable.
The article below will teach you how to grow your own in a small space with little effort and no prior gardening knowledge.
You’ll learn about soil types, seed varieties, fertilizers, harvesting techniques and storage tips for your very own homegrown vegetables.
Check out my post on DIY soil test you can do at home.
How to Grow Broccoli
There are four main things with growing broccoli: planting depth (generally 6″), spacing between plants (leave 24″ per row or 18″ for double rows), variety selection for pest resistance; and fertilization practices.
Planting depth: Plant most types of broccoli at least 6″ deep but two inches deeper will be better.
Spacing: Space most types of broccoli 24″ apart in rows set 18″ apart. This is for full maturity plants.
If you are growing hybrid varieties that produce side shoots, space them 2′ 6″ apart and plant them 4 feet apart from each other to prevent overcrowding as the heads mature.
How to Start Broccoli From Seed
If you’re going to start your broccoli from seed, start them in early spring, 7-9 weeks before the last frost date.
If you don’t want to bother with transplanting your broccoli, you can either direct sow seeds outdoors 2 weeks before the last frost, or buy starts from your local garden center.
For a fall harvest, sow in late summer, 14-12 weeks before the first frost.
In order to start broccoli from seeds, you will need a container with drainage holes in the bottom and a well-drained soil mix.
You can use sphagnum moss, peat moss, perlite or vermiculite.
You should be able to find a small amount of moist seed starting mix at your local nursery.
Plant your seeds about 1/4 inch deep and water them sparingly. Place them in a warm, sunny location that gets plenty of light.
Make sure that the soil stays moist but not wet between waterings to avoid diseases like damping off. Use a spray bottle or mist gently from above to avoid disturbing the soil too much. Spray twice daily for best results.
Expect your seeds to germinate in 10-14 days.
When temperatures are over 85 degrees, your seedlings can wilt due to the heat and may die if you don’t provide some additional shade.
Transplanting Your Broccoli
When your broccoli starts have at least two sets of true leaves, they’re ready for transplanting. But wait until at least two weeks before the last frost.
Most broccoli is frost tolerant but a hard freeze can damage young plants.
Check out my post on how to protect your plants from frost to be prepared.
Once your broccoli transplants have 3 to 4 true leaves, transplant them outdoors. Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as your seedling’s current container. Carefully remove the plant from its container without disturbing the roots.
Place it in the hole and fill around the base with soil mix, tamping down lightly to avoid air pockets. Water well after planting.
Broccoli Growing Tips
1. The best fertile soils to use for growing broccoli is a mix of compost and sand.
2. Broccoli needs 6-8 hours of full sun per day, so find an area that gets plenty of light
3. Broccoli is a heavy feeder so use a fertilizer like fish emulsion or liquid seaweed once every couple weeks to ensure a large head.
4. Harvest as soon as the head even begins to turns yellow – don’t wait too long!
5. Store in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to 2 weeks before eating it fresh or cooking it into recipes.
6. If your area has begun to heat up faster than expected, cover your broccoli with row covers to shade them and keep them cool.
For companion planting with broccoli, plant your broccoli near beans, celery, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and sage.
Avoid planting with cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, pole beans and tomatoes.
Common Pests of Broccoli
Some common pests of broccoli plants are aphids, flea beetles, cabbage worms, and various caterpillars like the cabbage loopers.
To avoid these pest problems make sure to plant your broccoli far away from other plants also make sure not to fertilize or water the plants too much which is a great way for disease to set in on your plants.
You can help protect your plants from aphids by planting close-growing repellent crops like coriander, sage, chives, and fennel near the broccoli clusters as they release natural substances that repel these pests.
Common Diseases of Broccoli
Some common diseases that affect broccoli plants are black rot, downy mildew, gray mold, damping off, and leaf spot.
Gray mold is caused by fungi that live in cool, wet areas and attacks the leaves of the plants.
The leaves yellow or brown and curl up on themselves.
Leaf spot is also caused by fungi which cause dark spots on the leaves with white stippling around it.
Damping off is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora and it infects new plant growth and causes the stems to rot.
To avoid these problems make sure you only water your plants from below to prevent gray mold and that your garden soil drains well so that the roots do not stand in stagnant, wet soil which will cause damping off.
It’s also a good idea to plant resistant broccoli varieties for leaf spot and use crop rotation.
How to Save Broccoli Seeds
The little buds on the end of the broccoli heads are actually immature flowers of Brassica oleracea. If you let the plant pass the stage when you would normally harvest it, the flower buds will evolve into flowers.
Once the flower heads have been germinated, the yellow petals will fall off to reveal tiny seed pods.
Let these pods mature until the plant begins to die off and dry up.
Then snip the pods off with garden shears and bring them indoors to completely dry off.
The seeds of broccoli are about the size of a flea and super tiny. Break open the pods to reveal these seeds and save them in an air tight container or a cool dry place.
If they are not fully dry they can develop mold and they will not germinate the next season.
How to Grow Broccoli FAQs
Q: Should I use organic or synthetic fertilizers for my broccoli plants?
A: If you don’t naturally have rich soil, you should use an organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, compost, or liquid seaweed.
Synthetic fertilizers will burn the leaves of your plants and can also cause them to grow too fast.
Also, synthetic fertilizers have salts in them which could be harmful to the soil’s microbial life.
Q: What is a good time of day to water my broccoli?
A: Morning watering is best because it allows the plant’s roots to dry out during the day. This prevents damping off problems (damping off is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora).
It’s also better if you have well-drained soil because then the moisture will not stand around in puddles on the soil, which can cause damping off.
Q: How do I get rid of aphids?
A: Aphids are tiny green or black insects that feed on your broccoli plants and leave behind a sticky substance known as honeydew.
They are usually found on the bottom of the leaves.
To get rid of them, spray your plants with a strong blast of water from a hose and that will knock them off.
For a complete list of natural solutions, check out my post on Natural Ways to Get Rid of Aphids.
Q: What causes gray mold?
A: Gray mold is caused by fungi that live in cool, wet areas. It attacks the leaves of your broccoli plants leaving them yellow or brown and curled up on themselves.
Q: What causes damping off?
A: Damping off is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora which infects new plant growth and causes the stems to rot.
Also, overwatering also contributes to this problem because it encourages fungi living in the soil to grow and can cause the roots to rot.
Q: What causes leaf spot?
A: Leaf spot is also caused by fungi which cause dark spots on the leaves with white stippling around it.
These spots turn brown and start to look like water stains.
You can prevent this problem by using crop rotation so you do not plant broccoli in the same place every year.
Q: Is broccoli easy to grow?
Broccoli is not hard to grow but because it likes cool weather. Broccoli will produce all winter and into the spring.
Q: How long does it take for broccoli to grow?
Growing broccoli from seed to fully mature head can take anywhere between 50-100 days, however if you live in a colder region, it’s best to use a cold frame to start the seeds indoors or buy broccoli starts.
If left in a garden bed with no protection from the frost and cold winds, fertilizing just once per season may not be enough for optimal growth throughout the winter.
Q: How many heads of broccoli do you get from one plant?
You can get a lot. One plant usually produces at least 1 or 2 heads but you could even get 3 if the temperature is right and you give it enough water.
If you harvest the main head, leave the plant in the ground and the plant will send up smaller side shoots with broccolini heads.
Q: What month do you plant broccoli?
Our Favorite Heirloom Broccoli Varietals
- Di Ciccio
- Waltham 29
- Purple Sprouting