Complete guide for how to grow broccoli easily, outlining varieties, when and how to plant them, care and feeding, pest control, and how to harvest so they regrow. Plus how to grow broccoli sprouts from seed.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) can actually be bought in stores all year round. And yet it is worth growing it in your own garden. Freshly harvested, the healthy cabbage still contains many minerals and vitamins. In addition to the green varieties, there are also different colored varieties!
How to grow broccoli: the varieties
Broccoli is closely related to cauliflower. It belongs to the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea), which originally comes from Asia Minor and which also includes kale , kohlrabi , red cabbage, white cabbage and savoy cabbage.
Broccoli does not form a head, but rather florets or flowers. The varieties differ, among other things, in color and in the growing time. Basically, they are divided into two groups: Summer and autumn broccoli such as the Calinaro and Green Calabrese varieties are sown in spring and harvested in the same year. Winter broccoli, on the other hand, can withstand light frost and form small flowers in the following spring.
The best known and most widespread is certainly broccoli with its dark green, sometimes slightly bluish shimmering buds. But there are also varieties with yellow and purple florets!
‘Santee’ and ‘Rosalind’ have beautiful, red-purple flowers. The robust organic variety ‘Coastal’ is suitable for growing in early spring as well as for autumn cultivation. The winter broccoli variety ‘White Sprouting’ can be sown until the beginning of September and hibernates on the bed under a protective fleece at temperatures down to minus 8 degrees Celsius.
How to grow broccoli: Sowing and planting
- Sowing depth: 1 inch (0.5 – 1 cm)
- Plant spacing: 1.5 feet (40-50 cm)
- Good neighbors: beans, dill, beetroot, endive salad, Swiss chard, leek, celery, radishes and radishes.
- Bad neighbors: other types of cabbage
You can either plant broccoli with seedlings or sow it directly. With early varieties, you can start pre-growing in February – either in the cold frame or on the windowsill.
How to grow broccoli from seed
Put the seeds about an inch deep in the soil, water them well and place the seed tray in a light place. Three seeds are used per planting hole. After germination, only the strongest seedling is left to stand.
Broccoli seed germinates at temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. After germination, the seedlings should be pricked out into individual pots five centimeters in size. From mid / end of May you can also sow directly into the bed. The planting date for winter broccoli is in August and September in the northern hemisphere. It is then ready for harvest in April to May.
Put the seedlings in small pots and plant them outdoors from April. Early varieties can be grown in seed boxes with humus-rich seed compost from January to March. The distance should be 50 centimeters apart. To protect the young plants from frost, you can grow them under covering. Depending on the weather, you can sow early varieties directly into the bed from the end of April. You sow winter broccoli from July to September.
Our tip: sow them tightly and separate the plants that have developed best. By the way: you don’t have to buy fresh broccoli seeds every time. The seeds can germinate for several years.
Location and care
The best place to grow broccoli is in a sheltered, sunny spot in the garden. It forms deep roots and therefore needs a loose soil. The earth should be loamy and rich in nutrients: like almost all cabbage plants, broccoli is also a heavily consuming plant. Ideally, prepare the bed with compost in autumn, add slow-release fertilizer to the planting hole and, if necessary, provide the plant with liquid fertilizer in summer so it grows up quickly.
A generous amount of compost (three to five liters per square meter) when preparing the bed ensures a good start. Algae lime (approx. 30 grams per square meter) covers the high demand for calcium and provides important trace elements such as magnesium.
Winter broccoli is an exception. Since it is supposed to grow slowly, you should sparingly give it fertilizer. A second fertilization should be postponed until spring, because nutrients administered in autumn affect the frost hardiness. With winter broccoli in particular, it is important that the plants grow slowly and form firm leaves, because only then will they survive a few freezing temperatures without damage.
Your broccoli should never suffer from a lack of water. So make sure that you water it regularly and sufficiently. A layer of mulch also protects the soil from drying out.
Diseases and pests to watch out for
Depending on the time of cultivation, fleas, cabbage fly, cabbage white and powdery mildew can cause problems. You can protect the plant from pests with a protective net. The carbon hernia can have serious consequences. Therefore, you should not grow any plants from the cruciferous family in the broccoli bed for at least three years.
The larvae of the cabbage-heart mosquito destroy the central buds and cause stunted growth, as their saliva contains substances that inhibit growth. A close-meshed vegetable net or fleece as well as cultivation in wind-open locations can help. The vegetable net also prevents damage from aphids and cabbage flies.
A mixed culture with nasturtiums (non-climbing varieties!) can prevent an infestation with the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly . A break in cultivation in the same bed of at least four years with all types of cabbage can prevent root diseases such as cabbage hernia. Tip: Put a portion of algae lime directly into the planting hole when you are planting; this is also a preventative measure.
Harvesting and trimming
Early varieties usually bloom in the first year. In winter broccoli, the yellow flowers do not appear until the following summer.
Broccoli is ready to harvest in around seven weeks, but varieties planted in autumn need at least ten weeks. With winter broccoli it takes almost six months to harvest, but you can cut sprouts continuously from March to May. You can harvest the first of non-winter broccoli from July.
It is ripe when the buds of the main flower are richly colored and swollen. If they shimmer slightly yellow, you’re too late: the flowers have already opened. In principle, this is not a problem – but the broccoli no longer tastes so good. Cut off the main flower with a piece of stem about the length of a finger and let the rest of the plant stand. In many varieties, the side shoots form new florets that you can harvest later!
Traditional varieties form new side shoots three to four weeks after harvesting the central bud. These include ‘Calabrese’, ‘Penta’ or ‘Summer Purple’. Professional varieties are only suitable for one-off pruning and rarely develop side shoots such as ‘Parthenon’.
In addition to the buds, you can also prepare the peeled stem as a side dish, use it for casseroles and soups, or bake it with gratin. You can prepare the young leaves as leafy vegetables. Broccoli wilts very quickly and then loses its healthy ingredients. You should therefore process it quickly after harvesting and only keep it in the refrigerator for a short time. It is better to freeze it.
By the way: you can not only grow broccoli in the garden, you can also grow it as fresh sprouts on the windowsill!
How to grow broccoli sprouts
- Soak the broccoli seeds in cold water. You should lie in the water for at least 6 hours. The easiest way is overnight.
- Put it in a germination tray. The seeds must not be too close together. 1.5 tbsp per germination tray is sufficient.
- Put the germination tray in a dark place. Broccoli seeds are dark germs. You mustn’t get any light.
- Water the broccoli sprouts at least twice a day and renew the water regularly. They prefer temperatures around 20 °.
- When the first cotyledons appear, this should be the case from about day 4, place them in a light but not too warm place. Please do not put in the sun!
- After 4 days your project “Growing broccoli sprouts” will be completed. enjoy the meal! 🙂
If you let them grow further, that’s called microgreen. From the 6th to 12th day they look a little like cress. Spray the seedlings with cold water twice a day.
Grow broccoli sprouts in the germinating jar
This is a normal jar with a special lid. The lid is usually made of plastic and has small holes. This will allow you to drain off any excess water.
- Soak the seeds in the jar for 6 hours.
- Pour off the water and let the sprouts stand in the dark.
- At least twice a day you have to fill up with new water, water the sprouts for 2-3 minutes and then pour the water off again. After 2 days, the sprouts can handle a little light. But no sun!
- Repeat the process with pouring away the water twice a day for 4 days, then your sprouts are ready for harvest.
Broccoli sprouts grow in a normal glass
You don’t need to get a jar or a germinator to get started. Even a normal glass does its job. But you have to take special care here that your seedlings do not drown in water.
That means: water twice a day and rinse well with. Discharging the water is a bit more complicated but easy to do.