If you live in a suitable climate, growing broccoli in your garden is super easy, fun and rewarding.
Broccoli is a cold season crop that grows well in cool and temperate climates such as USDA zones 3-5. If you live in a warmer climate, I still say “go for it!” – but you may not have such a good crop.
There are several varieties of broccoli available, with “Calabrese” being the most popular. This is the type that produces large green heads – and is the type I’ll focus on here.
Growing Broccoli (Calabrese) from Seed
Growing broccoli from seed isn’t difficult, although I personally prefer to purchase starts. Calabrese does not appreciate being moved as a seedling so it is better to plant seeds directly into your vegetable beds or use a biodegradable container that they can stay in until they are well established.
Site Considerations for Growing Broccoli
Broccoli plants can reach up to 3 feet tall, so choose a site for growing broccoli plants where they will not invade or shade other plants. They like sun, but don’t need to be in full sun all day.
Crop rotation is very important to avoid disease, and you should go 3 seasons before growing broccoli or another crop of the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) again on the same site.
You can plant broccoli seeds directly in the garden around 4-6 weeks before the usual last frost date. In cold climates, cover the area for 2 weeks before planting, as well as after. If you are in a warmer climate, plant around March. When the seedlings appear, thin them to 9 inches apart.
Growing Broccoli And Harvesting
Once the seedlings are thinned and established, you can add compost to the surrounding soil from time to time. Water it in but do not let it touch the plants.
Weed around the growing broccoli plants frequently or cover the soil with a weed deterrent, such as mulch or fabric.
Combat Common Pests While Growing Broccoli
Like all of the brassica family, broccoli can be attacked by pests including aphids, caterpillars, mildew, clubroot and cabbage root fly. If you identify any of these on your plants, take action immediately. Some can be treated with products from the nursery, others are more serious and you must remove them from your garden immediately. Caterpillars can be picked off and squished or, if you’re a softie like me, released far enough away that they won’t crawl back.
Harvest when the flowers are budding and green, but before they turn yellow or open. You can either snap or cut the stalks.
Freezing is a great way to make the most out of growing broccoli in your garden. Simply cut the head into spears and blanch them by boiling for 2-3 minutes in salted water, then dropping into cold water to stop the cooking process.
Then, let them cool for 5-10 minutes, patting them dry with absorbent paper and freeze right away.