Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow in your backyard or garden. It can be enjoyed raw in salads, steamed as a side dish, or cooked in various ways. And while it takes a lot of time to grow, it’s well worth the effort. Learn how to produce the most nutritious, delicious, and healthy vegetable in your garden!

What is Broccoli?

Broccoli, Brassica oleracea italica, is a vegetable from the family Brassicaceae, including cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, and broccoli rabe. It is grown for its edible green flower heads, also known as buds or florets. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that produces a thick underground stem called a rhizome. The leaves are rounded and alternate with coarse teeth.

The plant is covered in a dense mat of florets and, after bolting, produces yellow flowers, which are followed by green seed pods. The seed pods are flat and elongated and contain between 3 and 10 seeds. Broccoli is biennial plant that is mostly grown as an annual.

Where did Broccoli Come From?

Broccoli is native to the Mediterranean area and cultivated for food since ancient Rome. The Romans called it Broccolo Calabrese. Still, the earliest record comes from Etruscans, who spread it to the whole Mediterranean. 

It is believed that Italian farmers initially bred broccoli to be known as we have it today. Because broccoli was naturally a wild cabbage, farmers crossbreed the plant with several varieties of cabbage through generations, and today, it is considered a genetically modified culture.

broccoli soup

Why Should You Grow Broccoli in Your Garden?

Broccoli is healthy food to grow in your garden. It’s a delicious veggie that provides varieties of health benefits and is easy to grow. It also helps reduce cancer risk, lowers cholesterol levels, and improves eye health. It has vitamins A, B6, C, K1, folate B9, and minerals like manganese, potassium, and iron.

You don’t have to have a big garden to enjoy this fantastic vegetable. A few plants will give you plenty of leaves to make delicious side dishes. It is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables available, significantly when grown organically.

How to grow?

Growing broccoli is one of the easiest crops to cultivate in your garden. You can plant seeds directly in the ground or a container and grow them in pots, baskets, and even hanging baskets. Depending on the variety and conditions on various broccoli growth stages heads are ready to harvest about 50 to 100 days after sowing.

Grow them in full sun for 6 to 8 hours for best results. Once you have them in your garden, you can enjoy fresh, tender vegetables all season long. If you want bigger central heads, give plantings enough space between, but give them closer spacing if you wish for smaller but tastier buds. Closer spacing will also reward you with a higher yield on secondary harvesting.

When to plant?

In general, seeds should be planted in spring or early fall. Make spring plantings 6–8 weeks before the last frost, and fall plantings should be made approximately 100 days before the first frost. Spring planting will ensure a long growing season, and planting in the summer means you’ll be harvesting in the fall when the weather is cooler.

It is very forgiving plant, however, and will tolerate some cold weather. It is often recommended that you plant your seedlings in a rigid frame during the winter. When you do this, you’ll be able to bring the seedlings outside as soon as the soil warms up.

broccoli seedlings

Sow Seeds

Broccoli is often direct-seeded, although it can be started indoors from seedlings. To grow direct-seeded plantings, prepare the soil, plant 2–3 seeds 0,5 inches deep and then thin them once they get to about 3 inches tall.

Allow them 12 inches between seedlings to a final spacing of 24 in between rows. If starting seedlings indoors, plant them in peat pots to reduce disturbance to the roots when transplanted.

Soil and Watering 

Broccoli likes to be planted in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. The ideal temperature is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.2

When growing, ensure that the soil is well-drained and regularly moist.

When watering, use a soaker hose to spread the water out, rather than a sprinkler, which would water too profoundly.

It is essential to water consistently to keep steady moisture. If the weather is hot, water it more frequently than this, while if it is wet, water less often. On average, the plant needs around 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.

Fertilizing

Broccoli plants can be fed with nitrogen-based fertilizer, such as 21-0-0. The plant needs both nitrogen and phosphorus to develop good foliage.

  • Nitrogen promotes the formation of new leaves and leaves that stay green longer.
  • Phosphorus encourages root growth.

Broccoli plants are also heavy feeders so they will do well with a dose of fertilizer every couple of weeks. Instead of inorganic, you should go with some organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, such as urea and feathers for nitrogen and bone meal for phosphorus. After harvesting the main central head, you can add additional nitrogen to encourage side shoot development. For best results, use an organic fertilizer labelled explicitly for broccoli. Apply it every three weeks to ensure healthy growth.

broccoli buds

When and How to Harvest

Harvesting broccoli just before small yellow flowers appear gives the best flavor. You can start harvesting when the buds are 4 to 6 inches tall and when they are firm but still slightly tender. You can expect to see buds appearing in late summer, continuing into the fall and early winter.

Avoid picking heads when they become soft, as they have become over-ripened. Harvest them by pulling the outer leaves back to reveal the plant’s central head. Then cut with a knife, scissors, or garden shears the central bud from the plant’s stem. Cut the most significant head just above smaller heads are forming. That way, you can harvest your broccoli 2 to 3 times in a season.

broccoli in garden

Companion plants

Shallots, nasturtiums, spinach, lettuce, garlic, swiss chard, potatoes, and rhubarb all work well planted alongside broccoli. Beets, radishes, and potatoes have different nutrients requirements. Onions, marjoram, celery, and chamomile will give a better flavor. Herbs like dill, fennel, basil, mint, sage, and thyme are excellent companions helping repel slugs and other pests.

Avoid planting next to other heavy feeders like tomatoes, asparagus, eggplants, melons, squash, or peppers. They will compete for nutrients and water, resulting in poor growth.

broccoli leaves

Common pests problems 

Cabbageworms

Cabbageworms are common in most areas of the world. Cabbageworms are small, flat, white grubs that feed on the roots of the plants they live on. They are common in gardens and lawns where they provide on weeds and are considered pests.

Root-knot nematodes

Root-knot nematodes, also known as root-knot worms or simply knots, are microscopic roundworms that cause extensive damage to plants. These pests are spread by soil-dwelling insects and can survive for years in the soil without feeding on a host plant.

Root-knot nematodes are a group of plant-parasitic that attack the host plant’s root. They are considered the most destructive pests in agriculture because their infection is challenging to detect and often leads to crop loss and yield reductions. 

Thrips

 Thrips are small, dark insects that feed on plant leaves and fruits. They are not harmful to humans or animals but can cause significant damage to plants. They have a concise life cycle and often grow and reproduce faster than the host plant can kill them. Avoid planting broccoli next to garlic, onion and cereals, and you can get rid of thrips by wiping the leaves down with soapy water.

Cutworms

Cutworms are worms that eat the roots of plants, making it hard for the plant to grow. They are commonly found in gardens and can be introduced into lawns through grass seed or even by planting vegetables. Cutworms are typically harmless but can be hazardous to the health of plants if left unchecked.

Slugs and Garden Snails

When growing broccoli, many gardeners experience slug and garden snail problems, especially in young plants and seedlings. These creatures can destroy seedlings in just one night, and in the case of their vast population, they can devastate entire crops.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you can grow broccoli in your garden for many reasons:

  1. It’s a nutritious vegetable that can be used in various dishes.
  2. It’s a relatively low-maintenance crop.
  3. It’s a vegetable that can be harvested throughout the growing season.
  4. It can be grown in a container or on the ground.

It’s essential to choose a variety best suited for your growing conditions.

broccoli ready to harvest

Frequently asked questions

When is broccoli bad?

Consuming broccoli on a daily basis can make you feel sluggish and tired. Additionally, it is loaded with fiber and nutrients, which can help keep you full and energized. That doesn’t mean broccoli is bad for you but be aware of its nutritional benefits. But too much may cause flatulence, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. It’s best to eat them once a week, or enjoy them as a side dish to meals, not as a daily snack.

Is broccoli a flower?

Yes, broccoli is a vegetable and a flowering plant. The plant has a large head of leafy greens, stems and a stalk with mostly green flowers. During the flowering period florets will open and the flowers will become yellow.
Broccoli is botanically classified as a vegetable, also known as a vegetable flower or flower bud.

What is broccolini?

Broccolini is a mild, crunchy vegetable hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale. It is best grown in cool weather, so look for it in the fall. Broccolini tastes like broccoli with a slightly nutty flavor and is sweeter. It’s best sautéed in a bit of olive oil.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/broccoli#bottom-line

https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1273&context=extension_curall