Green, crunchy, and delicious, broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable full of vitamins and minerals. This well-known vegetable is a member of the cabbage family and comes in several different varieties.
Growing your own broccoli is an affordable way to get more of this tasty vegetable into your diet. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve put together a complete guide on how to plant broccoli.
Whether you want to plant seedlings from a store or start broccoli seeds indoors, this guide has everything you need to know to get started growing broccoli. Keep reading to learn how to plant broccoli!
What Broccoli Needs to Grow
The first step for how to plant broccoli is to provide the right growing conditions. All plants have their own preferences for how and where they like to grow. Providing the right conditions sets your broccoli plants up for success right from the start.
Broccoli grows well in a variety of growing locations. You can plant it in the ground, in raised garden beds, or in patio containers.
Containers should be at least eight inches deep and 18 inches in diameter so your broccoli has plenty of room to grow.
Like many garden plants, broccoli does best in rich, fertile soil. Add compost when planting to increase the organic matter in the soil.
Broccoli needs well-draining soil. If you have heavy clay soil, it should be amended to improve drainage. Add a soil conditioner or organic matter like composted wood chips to loosen the soil and improve drainage.
Broccoli likes neutral soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Soil test kits are an easy way to check the pH of your soil.
Checking your soil before planting broccoli is a good way to make sure you’re providing the optimum conditions for the plants to thrive. If the pH is too high or too low, it can be adjusted by amending the soil before planting.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop. The plants can handle a light frost but they’re very sensitive to hot temperatures. Too much heat can damage broccoli flowers and cause bolting or poor head development.
Starting broccoli seeds indoors is a good way to avoid the hot summer weather. Starting broccoli indoors in late winter to early spring gives your plants plenty of time to produce before summer arrives.
In late summer to early fall, starting broccoli indoors allows the plants time to grow in a protected environment while the temperatures are still too high to plant outside. Once the weather cools down and you move the plants outdoors, your broccoli will still have time to produce before the cold weather of winter arrives.
Broccoli grows best in full sun to partial shade. Aim for at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
If the weather is cool enough, full sun is best. On warm days, shade is beneficial for keeping broccoli plants cool.
How to Plant Broccoli
There are several different ways to plant broccoli. You can start seeds indoors, direct sow them into the garden, or purchase starter plants from a garden center or nursery. Here’s a guide for how to do each one.
Starting Broccoli Seeds Indoors
Starting seeds indoors is one of the best ways to plant broccoli.
Broccoli needs time to grow and develop at the right temperature. There often just isn’t enough time with the right weather to plant broccoli directly in the ground. Starting broccoli seeds indoors gives them plenty of time to develop and produce beautiful heads.
Starting broccoli from seed is also affordable. You can buy a whole packet of seeds for less than the price of one starter plant from a nursery.
Seed Starting Equipment
To start seeds indoors, you’ll need some equipment. Having the right tools makes the seed starting process easy and saves you money in the long run.
Good equipment lasts for years and can be used over and over again. If you’re planning on starting more plants from seed, some basic equipment is well worth the investment! I’ve used all of these products myself with great results.
How to Plant Broccoli Seeds
Fill your seed trays with seed starting mix, leaving a small amount of space at the top of the tray. Sprinkle a few broccoli seeds on top of the mix in each cell. Cover the seeds with more seed starting mix to about 1/4 inch deep. Gently press the mix down and water with a spray bottle.
Spray bottles are perfect for watering freshly planted seeds because the fine spray is gentle and doesn’t disturb the mix or the seeds. Broccoli seeds are tiny and easily displaced by large droplets of water, especially in the fine and loose texture of seed starting mix.
Once seedlings grow a bit, you can use a regular watering can to water them.
The time it takes for broccoli to sprout depends on which variety you choose but generally, it takes about a week to ten days.
Direct Sowing Broccoli
If the weather is right, you can plant broccoli seeds directly in the garden. Wait until about two weeks before the last expected frost but don’t wait too long. Broccoli needs about two or three months of moderate temperatures to grow. If you plant broccoli too late, it won’t have time to mature before the heat of summer arrives.
Poke a small hole in the soil and plant two broccoli seeds per hole. Holes should be 18-24 inches apart. Gently cover the seeds to a depth of 1/4 inch. Water with a spray bottle to avoid displacing the seeds.
Keep the soil moist until sprouts emerge.
Transplanting Broccoli Seedlings
Broccoli can be transplanted outdoors about two weeks before the last frost. If you started broccoli from seed, wait until the plants have at least two sets of true leaves before transplanting.
The first leaves that emerge are called cotyledon leaves and actually look a lot different from the true leaves of the plant.
Harden Off First
Harden off seedlings for a few days before you plant them outdoors. Your plants need time to get adjusted to the conditions outside.
How to Plant Broccoli Seedlings
Starter plants purchased from a nursery or garden center are ready to plant right away; there’s usually no need to harden them off.
Loosen the soil to a depth and width that’s about twice the size of the container your broccoli seedling is in. Dig a hole for the seedling.
Gently remove your seedling from the container being careful not to disturb the roots. Set the plant down in the hole and fill in around it with soil. Water thoroughly and add a natural mulch like straw or woodchips around the base of the plant.
Space broccoli plants 18-24 inches apart.
Caring for Broccoli Plants
Providing the right care for your plants as they grow keeps broccoli healthy and ensures you’ll have a delicious harvest.
Adequate water is necessary for broccoli to produce good-sized heads. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly.
If you’re not getting much rain, give your plants 1-2 inches of water per week.
Water at the base of the plant and try to avoid getting water on the foliage. Wet leaves can lead to disease.
Use a nitrogen-based fertilizer like Hi-Yield Bone and Blood Meal to feed broccoli plants. Follow the instructions on the bag to apply fertilizer about four weeks after transplanting to the garden.
Adding a few inches of mulch around the base of your broccoli plants helps keep the soil cool and moist. As it breaks down, mulch also adds organic matter to the soil creating richer soil to feed your plants.
Use a natural mulch like straw, fallen leaves, or arborist wood chips.
Pests and Disease
Worms, maggots, and caterpillars are the biggest broccoli pests. A good way to keep pests from laying eggs around your plants is to use a row cover.
Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants is also a good pest deterrent.
Common diseases in broccoli include downy mildew, powdery mildew, and Alternaria leaf spot. Good gardening practices like crop rotation and careful watering are effective at reducing the risk of disease. To water carefully, apply water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves, and water in the morning rather than at night.
To maintain healthy plants, check on them regularly and treat problems as soon as you see them.
Whether you like to eat it raw or cooked, broccoli is full of nutrients like fiber, folate, and vitamin C.
Fresh broccoli is delicious in green salads, pasta salads, or when dipped in things like hummus or salad dressing.
If you have kids, who knows? You might even get them interested in eating more broccoli if they help grow it!
Wrapping up How to Plant Broccoli
With these tips on how to plant broccoli, you’re sure to have a tasty harvest. Once you taste homegrown broccoli you’ll have a hard time going back to store-bought!
To get more information on growing healthy seedlings, make sure to visit the Seed Starting page on our website. We have tons of resources on everything you need to grow plants from seed including planting guides, product recommendations, and plenty of tips and tricks to help you along the way.