Growing Broccoli: The Complete Guide to Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Broccoli

Garden 11

Broccoli is a vegetable rich in vitamins and tastes delicious in a variety of recipes. Knowing these two qualities, you should be asking yourself why you aren’t growing it in your yard right now?

If your answer is, “I don’t know how” then let me fix this problem for you.

I’m going to share different broccoli varieties, how to plant and care for broccoli, how to handle common problems when growing broccoli, and how to harvest and store your broccoli.

By the end of your time reading this guide, you should be ready to plant your broccoli and enjoy many delicious treats.

Plus, your health should get a boost as well. Here’s what you need to know to grow broccoli:

Quick Gardening Facts for Broccoli:

  • Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (find yours)
  • Soil: Sandy, pH between 6.0 and 6.8, fertile, well drained, 2-4 inches of rich compost or a thin layer of manure before planting
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Planting:
    • Start Indoors: 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date
    • Start Indoors (in fall): 85 to 100 days before the first frost date
    • Hardening Off: 7 to 10 days before transplanting.
    • Transplant Outdoors: 5 to 6 weeks after starting indoors
  • Spacing: 12 to 24 inches between plants and 36 inches between rows
  • Depth: ½ inch, slightly deeper when transplanting
  • Best Companions: Celery, potato, onion, rosemary, sage, dill, mint, beet, nasturtium, marigold, garlic, spinach, swiss chard
  • Worst Companions: Tomato, pole beans, lima beans, squash, strawberry.
  • Watering: Water regularly to keep the soil moist consistently, avoid getting heads wet
  • Fertilizing: High-nitrogen compost such as composted manure, fertilize three weeks after transplanting or when heads begin to form.
  • Pests: Cabbage worms, aphids, flea beetles, cutworms
  • Common Problems: Cabbage worms, aphids, flea beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, downy mildew, cabbage root maggots, whiteflies, nitrogen deficiency, clubroot, woodchucks
  • Harvest: When the heads are tight, with a dense set of small, green buds, before the first sign of yellow petals

Broccoli Varieties 1. Gemini

Gemini is a variety which is known for producing broccoli which looks similar. This is ideal if you’re someone who presents food on special occasions and is concerned about a uniform food presentation.

2. Tahoe RZ

If you’re looking for a variety of broccoli which will give you a beautiful harvest for the work you put in, you’ll like this variety. It’s known for producing a nice size, quality harvest.

3. Avenger

Broccoli is frequently thought of as a cold weather plant, which is correct in most cases. This variety has shown it can grow well in different climates. In some areas like Mexico and Guatemala, Avenger variety has done quite well.

4. Asteroid

When you grow your broccoli, there are some varieties which produce different colors. The Asteroid variety is not one of them.

This variety produces a dark green crown. Another wonderful advantage for this variety is the ease in harvesting because of how erect and neatly the plant grows.

5. Constellation

This variety of broccoli is known for producing a harvest all at once. If you’re someone who preserves food, this could be helpful.

Also, this variety is one which can be enjoyed during both the spring and fall growing season.

6. Paraiso

This variety is known for producing quality sized florets. Whether you’re growing broccoli for personal consumption or business, this would be a nice variety.

7. Marathon

When you go to the supermarket, this variety is what you’re most likely accustomed to seeing. It is a favorite among those who sell broccoli commercially because it produces well in a variety of climates.

8. Lieutenant

This broccoli is an excellent option for a spring garden. In fact, this is the only time it’s recommended to grow this particular variety.

Though it can’t be grown two times in a year (like some varieties), it makes up for it by only taking 58 days to reach maturity.

9. Blue Wind

The Blue Wind variety produces smaller broccoli heads with a blue tint to them. This variety is one which must be harvested quickly since they don’t do well when being left in the garden.

10. Emerald Crown

This is another variety which is known for producing uniformed broccoli. If you prefer only to grow broccoli in your fall garden, this would be a great option since fall is the recommended time for this variety.

11. Centennial

Are you someone who lives in a colder climate year round? Well, you need to consider this variety of broccoli because it can be grown year round as long as it remains in a cooler climate.

12. Imperial

The Imperial variety is one which requires more daylight. Because of its need for longer days, it should be grown during spring.

How to Plant Broccoli

Planting broccoli isn’t a complicated process. You need to follow a few steps, and you should be on your way to giving your plants a healthy start:

1. Choose the Right Time

When thinking of planting your broccoli, you need to know when the right time is. Broccoli seeds will germinate in soil with temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you live in a colder climate where this could take a long time for the soil to reach this point, consider placing black plastic over the ground to warm the soil. You can plant through the black plastic to get your broccoli in the ground faster.

However, if you live where your soil will reach this temperature on its own by early spring, you’ll know you are ready to plant your broccoli.

2. Know the Rules Based on the Season

There are different rules to follow based upon whether you’re growing broccoli in the spring or fall. If you’re planting broccoli in the spring, you might want to consider starting your seeds indoors.

You’ll need to start seeds five to six weeks before the estimated final frost date for your zone. One week before planting your broccoli transplants, you should begin to harden them off.

You can direct sow seeds in the spring, but be advised your soil will have to be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit before the seeds germinate.

If you decide to grow broccoli in the fall, it’s recommended you directly sow the seeds. You’ll do this 100 days before the first frost of fall.

Be sure to sow the seeds ½ inch deep in the soil. When the plants begin to sprout, if you realize you’ve planted them too close together, don’t fret. Instead, thin them out to give each plant room to grow.

When planting transplants, dig a hole deep enough for the transplant to sit in and be securely covered with soil.

The goal is to have one foot between each plant and three feet between each row of plants.

3. Pick the Proper Location

The best location for broccoli is one which has full sun. This equates to at least six hours or more of sunlight.

You’ll need to create a bed which has well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0-7.0. It’s a good idea to work in compost and other organic matter to make the soil as rich as you can before planting.

If your grow-spot can meet these specifications, you’re doing all you can to give your broccoli the best beginning.

How to Care for Broccoli

Broccoli doesn’t need a ton of care. Follow these few simple steps, and you should be well on your way to a bountiful harvest:

1. Fertilize on Time

Paying attention to your broccoli is important. After transplanting, the heads should begin to form around three weeks later.

When you begin to see heads form, you’ll want to apply a fertilizer which is high in nitrogen. This will give the plants what they need to grow and produce a quality harvest for you.

2. Water Consistently

Next, you’ll need to make sure you care for your broccoli by giving it the water it needs. It’s best to place a rain gauge in your garden to know how much water is provided through rainfall.

This way you’ll know how much water you need to add to your plants. Broccoli usually needs around an inch to 1.5 inches of rain a week.

3. Watch for the Heads

Though water is important, you need to make sure it’s applied in the right places. When the heads of broccoli are forming, it’s important to water in a way they don’t get wet.

It isn’t good for the plant and can cause problems for your harvest. Broccoli is best if watered using soaker hoses to ensure only the roots get watered.

4. Don’t Pull Weeds

Finally, if your broccoli begins to have weeds pop up around it, leave them be. Broccoli has shallow roots. If you pull weeds from around the plant, you could upset the root system of the broccoli as well.

It’s best if you apply mulch around your broccoli plants and between each plant to keep weeds from popping up.

Common Pests and Diseases

Like any plant, there are diseases and pests which want to take over broccoli. Here are the most common pests:

  • Cabbage loopers
  • Cabbage worms
  • Cabbage root maggots
  • Aphids
  • Flea beetles

Many of these pests travel by crawling in between plants. It’s a good idea to incorporate row covers after planting to deter many pests. You’ll also want to keep a clean garden to prevent any areas for pests to hide and make their homes near the broccoli.

Finally, if you see pests on your plants (such as aphids) using cold water or a soapy water mixture, spray the plants to knock the pests off. This should loosen them from the plant and is much faster than hand picking bugs from your crops.

Broccoli also has diseases which are commonplace for them as well. Here are the diseases to look out for:

  • Downy mildew
  • Blackleg
  • Black rot
  • Clubroot
  • Yellows

These diseases are obvious as the plants will be coated in mildew (for downy mildew) or you’ll begin to see the plant become weaker, discolored, and wilting. If you see any signs of illness in your plant, start to treat the visible symptoms.

For an issue with mildew, you’ll see a coating on the plant, and it should be treated with a fungicide. If you see other signs of illness, remove the sick plant from your garden without composting it.

It’s a good idea to raise the pH in the soil slightly to make the soil less desirable for any disease which may be living in it.

You’ll also want to wash any garden tools which touched the sickly plant to keep from spreading it to other plants.

One of the biggest struggles broccoli faces is a lack of nitrogen. If your broccoli is losing its color, be sure to give it a boost of nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen will give the plant what it needs and help it bounce back.

Finally, you’ll want to be sure you plant broccoli during the right time with the right temperature. The temperature will affect how well your broccoli does every time. The ideal temperature for a broccoli plant is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If it’s colder than these temperatures or warmer the broccoli will begin to form heads too quickly. This equates to tiny broccoli florets.

I made this mistake my first year growing broccoli. I planted too late, and it killed my harvest. Pay close attention to the weather to avoid my mistake.

Best and Worst Companion Plants for Broccoli

Broccoli has certain plants it does better when planted near. Those plants are:

  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Celery
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

There are certain plants which need to be avoided around broccoli too. Some of these plants have similar nutritional requirements which could hinder your broccoli harvest.

Other plants feed heavily from the soil (as does broccoli) which causes your soil to become depleted of nutrients quickly. Also, some of the vegetables (such as nightshades) have been scientifically proven to hinder broccoli production.

Here are the plants to avoid around broccoli:

  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Greens
  • Grapes

How to Harvest Broccoli

Harvesting broccoli is simple. It requires only a sharp knife or a sharp pair of snips to turn your plants into a meal. Here’s how you harvest broccoli:

1. Look at the Head

The head of the broccoli should be tightly put together when you harvest. If the head is showing signs of flowering or has turned yellow, it’s time to harvest your broccoli quickly.

Don’t be alarmed if your broccoli heads aren’t as large as what you’re accustomed to purchasing from the store.

They’re homegrown and fresh, which makes up for anything they may be lacking in size.

2. Do It in the Morning

It’s important to harvest your broccoli in the morning unless you’re in an urgent harvesting situation where the heads are beginning to yellow.

Otherwise, you’ll want to harvest when the soil is still cool because it gives the broccoli a better flavoring in the long run.

3. Leave Enough Space

When you collect the broccoli, you’ll take the head of the broccoli off by cutting part of the stem. You’ll need to take six inches of the stem when cutting the broccoli head loose from the plant.

4. Let the Plant Produce

Depending upon the variety of broccoli you planted, you could have side shoots coming off of the plant. If this is the case, leave the broccoli plants alone.

They’ll produce more broccoli heads from those side shoots in the weeks to come. If you live in a cool enough climate, you could have broccoli producing all year long.

5. Wash and Dry Well

After you’ve harvested your broccoli heads, you’ll need to bring them in the house and wash them in fresh water.

Be sure to dry each head thoroughly before you store it. If not, you could cause the harvest to rot before you get to enjoy it.

After the hard work you’ve put in, you don’t want this.

6. Store in the Fridge

If you’ve only grown enough broccoli to eat as you go, you’ll want to take the freshly washed broccoli heads and store them in your fridge.

Be sure to use them within the next five days, or they’ll go to waste.

7. Store Long-Term

If you’ve produced enough broccoli to store for the long-term, you’ll want to blanch the broccoli heads in boiling water quickly.

This means you dip the broccoli in boiling water for one minute. Pull the broccoli heads out and let them drain any excess water from them.

From there, you place the broccoli heads in a freezer bag and store in your freezer for one year.

Well, you now know how to grow broccoli, care for it, and preserve your harvest. Hopefully, you’ve gained some confidence from reading this guide and are ready to launch your own broccoli growing experience.

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Kaynak

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