- Exposure: Full sun
- When to plant: Mid-spring, about two to three weeks before the last frost date in your area.
- Recommended varieties: Arcadia, Belstar, Piracicaba
- Pests and diseases to watch out for: Cabbage worm
How to Plant Broccoli
Broccoli are nutrient pigs, so you need fertile soil. Work compost into the garden before setting out transplants. Space about 18 inches apart, placing in the ground about an inch deeper than they are in the pot. Press soil in place. Water deeply and mulch to preserve moisture and keep down weeds.
How to Care for Broccoli
Once your plants start to form tiny heads, feed with a . Water deeply every week if there's no rain because broccoli prefers steady moisture. The most important tip is to drape , which are made from light, gauzy fabric, over new plantings immediately. Row covers allow light and water to permeate but protect broccoli from destructive cabbage worms. Because broccoli doesn't have to be pollinated like some other crops (such as squash), you can leave the covers on the whole season until harvest. You'll find these at any garden supply store or on .
Can you grow broccoli from seed?
Sure! If you want to grow your own transplants, start indoors about six weeks before the last frost date. Transplant outside when seedlings are at least three inches tall and a few weeks before the last frost date. Or you can direct seed in late spring in cool regions and summer in warm areas to grow a fall crop.
How long does it take to grow broccoli?
It depends on the variety, but many grow fast and are ready to pick in about 55 to 65 days.
Can you grow broccoli in containers?
Yes, but size matters! Choose a very large pot about 10 to 12 inches deep, fertilize every month, and keep the water coming. Heads typically will be smaller than in the garden.
How do you know when broccoli is ready to harvest?
Use a sharp knife to cut the head when it's a tight little dome. Some varieties have looser heads or yield additional side shoots that also are edible (save the plant tag or seed package so you know what kind you planted). Don't wait too long to pick your heads; once the heat of summer arrives, broccoli will “bolt” and little yellow flowers will begin to open. When preparing, rinse well to dislodge any cabbage worms that may have hitched a ride indoors, or you may find a not-so-nice surprise at the dinner table!
"Cabbage worms can devastate your crop if you're not paying attention," says Niki Jabbour, author of and . "If you don't use row covers, hand-pick worms and squish any yellow oval eggs you find on the underside of leaves."