Everyone’s familiar with the health benefits of eating broccoli, right?
It’s so packed with nutrients that it’s considered a superfood by many.
So you’ll be pleased to know that it’s relatively easy to learn how to grow broccoli at home provided you choose the right time of year.
When is the right time of year? And what else do you need to know? I’m going to tell you!
Keep reading for your basic guide to growing broccoli at home.
- Optimum Growing Conditions for Broccoli
- How to Grow Broccoli from Seed
- How to Harvest Broccoli
- Handy Tips for Growing Broccoli at Home
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Optimum Growing Conditions for Broccoli
Different vegetables have different preferences when it comes to temperature, soil, and water. So growing vegetables successfully basically comes down to paying attention to what different vegetables require to thrive, and meeting those requirements.
Broccoli is different from other vegetables in that it needs cooler temperatures but lots of sun. This can be a tricky requirement to meet and means that it needs to be grown in spring and fall. If the soil gets too warm, it will bolt, or go to seed, and you won’t end up with much that’s edible.
Let’s take a look at what broccoli needs in more detail:
Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable, best grown during spring or fall in temperate regions. It likes at least 5 hours of direct sunlight during the day, but comparatively cool soil temperatures.
While broccoli is frost tolerant, the plants will be healthier if they don’t have to cope with freezing temperatures.
I mentioned above that broccoli needs at least 5 hours of direct sunlight. This can be achieved fairly easily outdoors, but don’t forget that your indoor seedlings also need lots of light.
If they’re not getting the minimum 5 hours of sun in your home, you may need to invest in some grow lights to make your seedling starting practice more viable.
Broccoli likes sandy, free-draining soil and is a heavy feeder. This means your plants will benefit from some fertilizer or compost applications.
In saying that, too much nitrogen can promote lots of leaf growth but prevent the formation of a head. So, while you need to make sure that your soil is rich in nutrients, you want to avoid fertilizing with too much nitrogen and make sure there is enough phosphorus and potassium present.
Dig some aged compost into your soil before planting broccoli and then feed once or twice with balanced (10-10-10) organic fertilizer during the growing season for best results.
Broccoli also prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6 to 7. If you’ve added some compost and didn’t start with extremely alkaline soil then you should be fine on this front. But you can always test the pH of your soil with a home testing kit if you want to be sure.
Using homemade compost is the perfect solution to keeping broccoli well-fed as you know what’s gone into it so there are no contaminants.
If you’re not making your own compost yet, you still have time!
Get yourself set up with a kitchen compost bin to make your life easier, then add a compost tumbler to your yard and you’re good to go! Remember to wear gloves and a dust mask when handling compost as it can contain live organisms that can be harmful to your health.
Broccoli should be watered regularly and deeply. It should not be allowed to dry out between watering but at the same time won’t appreciate getting water-logged.
Make your life easier by setting yourself up with a good irrigation system if you have a larger garden. Watering with a can is enjoyable but quickly becomes a chore and can be time-consuming. Using hose reel carts and soaker hoses can be a game-changer.
How to Grow Broccoli from Seed
Wondering how to plant broccoli at home? Whether you should plant seeds outside or grow seedlings first? Keep reading!
Broccoli seedlings are easy to start yourself with as they don’t need warm temperatures to germinate. In fact, broccoli seeds can germinate when soil temperatures are as low as 40˚F making direct sowing a viable option. But growing seedlings inside typically results in higher strike rates as you have more control over temperature and moisture.
Starting seedlings inside also means that you can start them earlier and have them ready to be transplanted as soon as conditions are right, giving them more time to mature and produce ahead before the weather gets too hot or cold.
Sow seeds inside 6-8 weeks before the last frost is predicted. Broccoli seedlings need around 4-6 weeks to grow big enough to be transplanted outdoors.
Sow seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in seed raising mix. Keep them moist but not wet and provide plenty of direct sunlight once they germinate.
Harden the seedlings when they have 4 to 5 true leaves by gradually exposing them to outdoor temperatures and wind during the day and then at night. Water well after transplanting.
Direct seed your broccoli in the second half of summer. Thin the seedlings to allow for at least a foot between plants once they are a few inches tall. Water well.
How to Harvest Broccoli
Broccoli heads are ready to harvest when they are dense and green. If you start to see small yellow flowers forming, you’re almost too late. Harvest immediately as there is no going back from this point.
The best time of day to harvest is first thing in the morning when the heads are tight, firm, and cool. Harvesting later in the day means your broccoli may go limp.
Harvest by cutting the head off from the stalk at a slanting angle. This will allow you to leave the plant in the ground a little longer as any rain will slide off the stalk rather than collecting and causing rot.
If you’re lucky, the plant may produce a few more smaller heads as side shoots which you can also harvest.
Handy Tips for Growing Broccoli at Home
- Broccoli is a brassica that is tasty food for many insects including slugs, whitefly, caterpillars, and aphids. You can attempt to reduce exposure by netting the plants when they are seedlings. You can also handpick off caterpillars and slugs (at night – be sure to toss far away to overcome their homing instinct or feed to chickens!) and spray soapy water over the tops and undersides of the leaves.
- It’s best to avoid getting broccoli heads wet as they can be prone to rot. Use a soaker hose for irrigation for best results. If you’re new to the concept of soaker hoses, have a read of my guide to the best options here.
- Spacing plants further apart can result in healthier plants as they don’t have to compete so much for nutrients. This is provided you stay on top of weeds of course!
- Mulching helps greatly with this at the same time as regulating soil temperatures and moisture levels.
- Practice crop rotation to minimize the chance of your broccoli plants encountering disease. In a nutshell, this basically means planting crops from different families in the same soil each season as some diseases can persist in the soil.
Growing broccoli at home is not without its challenges, but if you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with one of the healthiest vegetables out there to serve up with your dinner.
The easiest way to meet its finicky requirements for temperature and light is to get the timing right for growing during spring and fall.
Do you agree with this? Do you have any additional tips for how to grow broccoli at home? I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to share them below!