Interested in learning how to grow broccoli? Broccoli is an edible form of cabbage that has been around for over 2,000 years. Native to Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean, it was introduced to America and England just a few hundred years ago. This quick-growing annual plant sprouts up to 35 inches tall, branching off with leathery leaves and dense buds.
The word broccoli means “the flowering crest of a cabbage” and resembles cauliflower, a different group of the same plant species. Broccoli thrives in cool or moderate climates and can be sown in the field directly or grown with transplants. Depending on the type of broccoli and weather, the florets typically reach harvest in 150 days or less.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
When it comes to nutritious and delicious veggies, it’s hard to beat broccoli. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and rich in minerals and essential vitamins. It may even have cancer-fighting properties. Researchers are currently studying sulforaphane, found in broccoli, to discover the extent of this. As you can see, learning how to grow broccoli is a valuable way to spend your time.
Nutrients in broccoli
While citrus takes credit as the top of the line for vitamin C, one cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange. This vegetable is also full of vitamin K, beta-carotene, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, and B vitamins. Let’s look at what some of these vitamins can do for you.
This essential nutrient helps your body respond to injuries by regulating normal blood clotting. It also helps to transport calcium through the system and may help with reducing bone loss and preventing calcification of arteries.
Builds collagen, which helps wounds and cuts heal and forms bone and body tissues. Vitamin C also boosts immunity and protects you from damaging free radicals.
Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A is essential for good vision, immunity, and healthy mucous membranes and skin.
Zinc helps your body fight off viruses and bacteria. Your body needs zinc to make DNA and proteins, and to help your body recover from injuries.
Potassium is an essential mineral that helps your body maintain several functions, including the contracting of your heart and blood pressure regulation.
Responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium aids in protein and energy production, regulates heartbeat, supports immunity, and helps with muscle and nerve function.
Iron helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Without enough iron, your body isn’t able to make enough red blood cells.
This vitamin is needed to make blood cells and enables you to convert food into energy. Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, helps with converting fats, carbs, and proteins so that your body can use them efficiently.
Types of Broccoli
There are many types of broccoli to choose from.
[amazon link=”B01AVQ4T04″ title=”Imperial Broccoli” /]
Large-headed varieties of broccoli, like Imperial broccoli, create numerous clusters of florets with a dome shape. Many of these plants will grow small side shoots after harvesting the main head.
[amazon link=”B01LVVC9BB” title=”Romanesco Broccoli” /]
This type of broccoli grows in elegant swirls with symmetrically pointed spirals, creating a fractal pattern. Growing Romanesco broccoli plants requires excellent conditions including top-notch soil and plenty of space.
[amazon link=”B077RM6GRC” title=”Sprouting Broccoli” /]
These varieties will grow into bushy plants with multiple small heads. Sprouting broccoli does best in mild Winter climates from Fall to Spring.
[amazon link=”B00E3JU09K” title=”Broccoli Raab” /]
This type of broccoli has a stronger taste than large-headed broccoli and is related to turnips. You might recognize broccoli raab, as it's used often in Italian and Asian cooking.
Why You Should Grow Your Own Food
There are a number of benefits to learning how to grow broccoli and other vegetables at home. Here are a few:
When you grow veggies in a garden, you’re choosing to focus on health. In fact, studies show that gardening has a positive impact on your mentality and outlook. Not to mention you’ll be out in the sunlight which is crucial for feeling your best.
Home-grown veggies are more nutritious since produce from the grocery store has been sitting out for a while. Once you pick a fruit or vegetable, it begins losing nutrients and moisture. The sooner you eat your harvested vegetables, the better.
When you learn how to grow broccoli and other crops at home, you’re the one in control of what’s on your table. You’ll choose when to harvest your crops and what type of fertilizer and water to use.
Growing your own vegetables can add some color and visual beauty to your yard. A lot of veggie plants have beautiful, colorful flowers that can add to your garden and help the bee population.
Fun for the family
Gardening is a family-friendly hobby and can allow you to teach your kids valuable skills that will serve them for life. Since being in nature comes with a bunch of health benefits, so you’ll be doing not only yourself but your family a huge favor.
Another major advantage of learning how to grow broccoli and other edible plants at home is that you’ll save money on grocery shopping. A pack of seeds is a very cheap investment, especially when you compare it to what you’d pay for organic vegetables.
Steps for How to Grow Broccoli
The first step in learning how to grow broccoli is purchasing seeds. Broccoli grows fairly slow, so most choose to grow it from seedlings. You can start the seeds inside for a few weeks before you transplant. Make sure to transplant very carefully as young broccoli plants are very vulnerable at this stage.
Next, you'll prepare your garden for your new plants. For broccoli to do well, it will need a spot in full sunlight and phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Choose a good spot in the garden and then use a garden fork to add some manure and compost into the ground and plant your broccoli.
The Spring or Fall is the best time to plant your broccoli. Place the seedlings into the earth up to the same level they were at previously. They should be at least 18 inches apart with each row at least two to three feet apart.
Keep your plants adequately moisturized throughout the season, feeding them every two weeks with fertilizer. Also, don’t forget to weed your garden and keep a lookout for pests, so your plants stay healthy. Next, it's time to harvest the plants.
Your broccoli will mature about 60 to 70 days after you transplant it. You should harvest the florets before the buds open, using a sharp knife to separate the head just beneath the floret heads. Leave the plant where it is, as it will grow new florets along the stalk.
Tips to Keep in Mind for Successful Planting
Broccoli does well with moist soil that is fertile and slightly acidic and can grow in cool soil as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re planting in the spring, set or seed transplants two or three weeks before the last frost. If you’re planting in fall, seed between 85 and 100 days before the first frost. The seeds will sprout best in soil between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit
Tricks for Caring for Your Broccoli Plants
Wait three weeks until you fertilize after transplanting. While some types of broccoli can handle the heat, all of them need consistent and regular watering, but make sure you water the roots instead of the heads for the best results. Use mulch to keep the temperature of the soil low and remember that most broccoli will only flower heavily after a winter chill but that single-digit temperatures are too low for the plants
Pointers for Harvesting and Storage
The best time to harvest your broccoli is when the buds are tight and firm before they flower, but if you notice yellow petals on your plant, harvest right away. Harvest the plant in the morning before the sun heats the soil to get the best tasting broccoli.
When you cut the stalk of the main head, do so at a slant about five to six inches under the head. You can store the broccoli for up to five days in the fridge but make sure you dry it off after washing.
Tips for Properly Saving Broccoli Seeds
You will get the most seed from broccoli in mild Winter areas. Make sure to keep your broccoli plants isolated from other cousins such as kale or cabbage. Seeds are ready when the slender pods get dry and tan, and the seeds are black or dark brown. When you’re choosing seeds for planting, try to pick the biggest and most perfect ones.
Your seeds will stay good for up to five years if you store them in dry, cool, and dark conditions. If your seeds have been sitting for three years, test them on a wet paper towel to make sure they’ll sprout.
Preventing Pests from Destroying Your Broccoli
Pests love broccoli and can eat holes into the leaves and heads, potentially destroying your harvest. Certain broccoli pests will be hard to see because they’re tiny and green. A few signs of an infestation are multiple holes in the foliage, green-brown excrement on the broccoli heads, and stunted plant growth. Here are some protective measures against these pests.
Leaf-eating caterpillars like cabbage worms and armyworms love to eat broccoli leaves. You may want to use row covers to prevent these creatures from devastating your young plants.
Removing by hand
When there aren’t many pests in your garden, you can keep them under control by picking them off by hand. Some may want to spray weekly to keep their garden protected, though.
Covering the ground
If you have plants that are collapsing suddenly, you might be dealing with cabbage root maggots. If you’ve seen these before, plant your seedlings deep in the ground, pressing the soil down firmly, then cover the ground with some garden cloth.
When learning how to grow broccoli, you also need to learn how to protect it! Keep in mind that if your broccoli gets infested by cabbage worms or similar pests, you can save them with a naturally occurring bacteria known as Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural microbe found in soil. That is the best pesticide to use because there are no toxic chemicals involved and it’s very effective for stopping pests from chewing the plants.
Nourishing Your Plants
Broccoli is a fairly heavy-feeding plant, so use up to four inches of well-aged manure or quality compost before you plant it. Once you’ve already harvested the main head of the plant, you can add some fish meal or other nitrogen-rich fertilizer to its base to encourage side-shoots to grow.
Protecting Your Broccoli from the Cold
An important aspect of learning how to grow broccoli at home is protecting your plants from freezing temperatures. This can cause chilling injury to the plants, softening the heads and turning buds purple. While the plant will still be edible afterward, you shouldn’t allow this to happen repeatedly, or it will take away from the quality.
Ready to Start Growing?
Broccoli is a super nutritious plant that can increase your immunity, strengthen your bones, and protect your body from free radical damage. You can eat it either steamed, raw, or baked. Keep in mind that broccoli fresh from the garden may be more tender than the type from the grocery store and overcooks very easily.
Now that you know how to grow broccoli, you can look into some delicious broccoli recipes to cook at home. Consider making some sweet and savory broccoli salad or cheddar broccoli soup with your new harvest and don’t forget to enjoy!