How to grow Broccoli at Home

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Broccoli heads in white background

To grow broccoli successfully, knowing the right temperature conditions is crucial as it is a winter crop. The ideal temperature is 40°F (4°C) to 70°F (21°C). Broccoli plants like well-draining slightly acidic (6-7 pH) soil that is always moist but not soggy. It needs at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.

Broccoli General Info

Origin

Northern Mediterranean

Genus

Brassica

Scientific Name

Brassica oleracea var. italica

👪Family

Brassicaceae (Cabbage Family)

🌵Type

Cool season crop

🌡️Temperature

40°F to 70°F (4°C to 21°C), can tolerate up to 95°F (35°C)

💧Watering

Only when 1-2 inch of topsoil is dry

Soil

Slightly Acidic (6-7 pH) and sandy soil.

 

For seed germination, Peat + compost + perlite

For transplants, 40% soil + 40% Compost + 20% Sand

☀️Light

Full sun, 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day

Fertilizer

After 30-40 days, all purpose organic liquid fertilizer at half strength, every 2 weeks.

🌼Growing season

Winter

🐛Pests

Cabbage worm, Cabbage White Butterfly, Brassica Aphid

Propagation🌱

By seeds or by stem

Height📏

2.5 ft (75 cm)

🌼Flowers

Yellow colored flowers

Nutrients

Rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin K

Growing Broccoli from Seeds

Step 1 - Pick the Variety of Broccoli to grow

Here is a list of the best Broccoli varieties that you can grow.

 

Broccoli Variety

Climate and Zone

Sun King Hybrid

Heat-tolerant variety to grow where winter temperatures are warm or hot. Zone 1-11.

Belstar

Heat-tolerant variety to grow where winter temperatures are warm or hot.

Destiny

Exceptional heat-tolerance, ideal for Zones 7-11

Purple sprouting Broccoli

Needs a long growing season, so do not pick this variety if you live in a climate that has a short growing season for broccoli.

Calabrese

Good for Zones 3-10. 

DiCicco

Zones 3-10, mature heads in 50 days.

Green Magic

Zones 3-9.

Purple Sprouting

Zones 2-11. Purplish florets instead of large head

Romanesco

Zones 3-10

Waltham 29

Cold-tolerant variety. Zones 3-10

 

Step 2 - Sowing the Broccoli Seed

When to Plant:

Broccoli is a cold season crop, so you can grow it in the late summer/early fall or in the late winter/early spring. Since they are frost tolerant, you can actually plant them 2 weeks before your last frost date.

How to Plant seeds:

Start the seed indoors. Sow the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep into the soil. Place the seeds first, and then add some soil on top of it.

 

Pot Size: 6 inch, with drainage holes.

 

Soil: The ideal seed starting mix for germinating Broccoli seeds is to take equal proportions of: 

Peat + compost/manure + perlite. 

 

Watering: Water thoroughly after sowing. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Let the top soil dry out between waterings.

 

Sunlight: Keep the container under grow lights that are on for 16 hours and off for 8 hours. It takes about 10-14 days for germination.

Step 3 - Transplanting into a Pot or Raised Bed

15 to 19 days after the sowing of seeds, the broccoli will grow its first set of true leaves and that is the time to transplant into a bigger pot, it's time to transplant the broccoli into a container, a raised bed, or in the ground. Plant the broccolis 15-18 inches apart.

 

Pot Size: 10-12 inch

Soil: 40% soil + 40% Compost + 20% Sand

Watering: Keep the soil moist, but not soggy.

Sunlight: keep it under a shade for the first 5-7 days before introducing direct sun

Fertilizer: Fertilize after 3 weeks of transplanting.

Plant spacing: 15-18 inches apart

Row spacing: 24 inches apart

Step 4 - Harvesting Broccoli

Once the broccoli heads start to form, wait until they reach their maximum size. However, you need to harvest the broccoli before they start to flower. Once you see the heads of the broccoli are starting to loosen up; each little bud on the broccoli head starts to swell - it’s time to harvest. 

 

To harvest, cut the broccoli right below the head where it starts to branch out into the head. Down below, each intersection of the stems (arm pits) will produce little broccoli florets sprouting. These won't be as big as the broccoli head, but will keep producing tiny broccoli florets as long as you keep plucking them off. 

Growing Broccoli from Stem

  1. Cut a 5-6 inch long stem of the Broccoli plant.
  2. Remove any leaves at the bottom of the cutting
  3. Place the cutting in water.
  4. Once the roots have developed, transfer the plant into a new pot with soil.

How fast does Broccoli grow

Starting from sowing the seeds, it can take about 80 to 110 days (2.5 to 3.5 months) to harvest broccoli.

 

Broccoli will take up your garden space for about 3.5 to 5 months. If you’ve got limited space, do some intercropping. It means, planting companions that get along well, so you are using up your space well. Good companions for broccoli are lettuce, arugula, spinach and beets. You can either sprinkle their seeds around your broccoli or you can plant the transplants.

 

Broccoli roots are very shallow so be careful not to disturb the roots while weeding.

 

Here is a table that explains the rate of growth for broccoli that you can expect:

 

Event

No. of Days

Germination

4-7 days

Seed Leaves

10-14 days

First True Leaves

(now is the time to transplant)

15-19 days

Leaves size: 3-4 inches

Plant size: 18 inches tall

40 days

Broccoli heads form and increase in size

70-90 days

Broccoli harvest

80-100 days

 

Flowering but no broccoli

This is called bolting when the broccoli plant does not produce the broccoli heads but goes into a flowering stage. This happens in places where the temperatures are higher.

Broccoli leaves curling

This can be caused by brassica aphid infestation. Open the curls and look out for a powdery gray substance. That’s brassica aphids. Spray insecticidal soap spray or neem oil spray.

How to water💧

Keep the soil moist and water frequently. Water your Broccoli plant when the top 1-2 inches of the soil is slightly dry. Broccoli plants like rich and moist soil.

 

During summer, you may need to water Broccoli plants every day to make sure the soil does not get too dry under full sun. During spring and winter months, you may need to water the plant just 3-4 times a week. Whatever the climate may be, just make sure the soil is moist at all times, but not soggy. Do not water over the broccoli heads as this can cause rot. Too much rain can also damage the crop.

 

Sunlight Requirements ☀️

Broccoli prefers full sun, a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

 

Temperature and Humidity 🌡️

Broccoli is a cool season crop.

 

For seed germination, the temperature should be below 80°F (<26°C) so it is ideal to start the seeds indoors at room temperature. 

 

For a mature broccoli plant, the ideal temperature is between 40°F (4°C) to 70°F (21°C). 

 

Broccoli can tolerate and survive at a maximum temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35°C) and a minimum of 40°F (4°C).

Soil

Broccoli needs following properties in its soil

  • well-draining soil
  • lots of organic fertilizer
  • Slightly Acidic (6-7 pH)
  • Slightly moist at all times

 

Broccoli plants prefer rich, slightly acidic (6-7 pH), and well draining soil. That is why a mixture of  40% garden soil + 40% Compost + 20% Sand is recommended. However, if you are sowing the broccoli seeds, that much compost is not needed and it is recommended to use peat instead of garden soil for germination of broccoli seeds. A mixture of Peat + compost + perlite in equal proportions is recommended for seed germination.

 

Fertilizer

First leaf that comes out after germination of seeds is the seed leaf (Cotyledon). Then comes the “true leaves” and that's when you can start to fertilize broccoli. You can use an all purpose organic liquid fertilizer at half strength, every 2 weeks. Fish emulsion works well for fertilizing broccoli plants. I recommend you to get Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer as it's a nice and gentle fertilizer. If you have just transplanted, wait for 2-3 weeks before fertilizing the freshly potted transplant.

Pests 🐛and Diseases🦠

If you grow broccoli in the late summer/fall and then through the winter, you will face little to no pest issues because as the weather cools off, the bugs tend to die out. 

 

3 main pests that love your broccoli:

  1. Cabbage worms

To detect them, look out for chew marks on the edges of broccoli leaves. You can find them under the leaf, pick them off and feed them to your chickens. They love 'em.

  1. Cabbage White Butterfly

You can cover the plants with floating row covers until harvest time. Another way is to find the eggs of a cabbage white butterfly under the leaves. They are very small and light green in color. Just take them off.

  1. Brassica Aphid

Also called cabbage aphids, they are powdery gray aphids. If your crop is infected by Brassica aphids, your leaves will curl and if you open those leaves, you will see cabbage aphids. Spray insecticidal soap spray or neem oil spray.

How to harvest broccoli seeds

Broccoli produces really beautiful yellow flowers. You may choose to leave some broccoli heads to keep growing and eventually blooming to collect seeds that you can use. Bees also seem to enjoy the bloomed broccoli nectar.

 

You can prune the broccoli flowers if you would like it to keep producing broccoli. However, if you want to produce seed, let your broccoli flower.

 

Once the broccoli flowers, they will open up and get pollinated by the bees, and close again. Once closed, the flowers will produce seeds and form a pod and seed will be ready for harvest as the pod dries.

How to grow broccoli from scraps

  1. Cut about a 20cm long healthy broccoli stalk.
  2. Put the stems in water.
  3. In a few days, roots will start to develop.
  4. Plant 1-2 sprouts per container.
    1. Pot Size: 10-12 inch
    2. Soil: 40% soil + 40% Compost + 20% Sand
    3. Watering: Keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
    4. Sunlight: keep it under a shade for the first 5-7 days before introducing direct sun
    5. Fertilizer: Fertilize after 3 weeks of transplanting.
    6. Plant spacing: 15-18 inches apart
    7. Row spacing: 24 inches apart
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