Growing Broccoli in the Garden

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
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Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable that is easy to grow, even for beginning gardeners. Plus, if you have ever tried broccoli fresh from the garden, you know how much better it tastes than the tough, woody-tasting vegetables found in most grocery stores.

This vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse with high amounts of vitamins A and C, along with B vitamins and minerals like calcium and potassium, making it a food that really belongs in your kitchen garden.

You can plant broccoli from seeds in spring and late-summer for a fall harvest. For a late-spring harvest, start the seeds inside about six weeks before the last average frost date for your area. If you want a fall harvest, start seeds indoors about 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost date.

Keep your planted broccoli seeds in a cool, dark place. The seeds spout best when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the little seedlings emerge, place them under grow lights or on a sunny windowsill.

Once it’s time to move the plants to the garden (after about four weeks), allow the broccoli to become accustomed to the outside light and temperature conditions gradually each day for about a week.

 

packman-broccoli-with-violas

 

You can also start broccoli from transplants bought at a nursery, and plant them in spring a few weeks before the last frost date. That’s how I grew this ‘Packman’ variety of broccoli last year in my garden.

Broccoli thrives in full sun, although it does like afternoon shade in very hot climates. These vegetables

grow best in a rich, fertile garden soil, so add 2 to 4 inches of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Fertilize your broccoli plants with a well-balanced organic fertilizer, according to the directions. Repeat as the plants begin to form central heads.

 

four broccoli

 

Space your broccoli plants about 18 to 20 inches apart. Here are four broccoli plants growing in a 3 feet by 3 feet raised bed in my garden last summer. Nestled alongside the broccoli plants are radishes, violas and carrots.

Although these are cool-season vegetables, my broccoli plants lived from late-spring until the fall. As with many broccoli varieties, once I picked the center head the plant produced small, flavorful side shoots.

 

broccoli flowers

 

A lot of people don’t realize that when they eat broccoli, they are actually eating unopened flower buds. As the season comes to an end, the vegetable starts to flower and prepares to die.  Here, you can see the broccoli plant in full bloom.

 

broccoli fall

 

It was the end of the harvest, so I let my plants flower during the fall for the pollinators, as you can see here. But to prolong the life of your broccoli plants, always prune off the flowers as soon as they emerge during the growing season.

Can’t get enough broccoli? Using row covers and hoop tunnels will help extend your harvest even longer into fall and early-winter, providing you with months more of this delicious vegetable to enjoy.