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How to Grow Broccoli

How to Grow Broccoli

Broccoli near harvest

Broccoli is a cool-season crop. Grow broccoli so that it comes to harvest when temperatures average no more than 75°F (23°C) each day.

You can plant a spring and early summer crop in late winter or early spring. Plant a fall or winter crop in mid to late or summer or early fall.

  • Start broccoli seed indoors 5 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring for spring planting.
  • Start broccoli in the garden in mid to late summer to grow a late fall or early winter crop. In mild winter regions, plant in fall for winter harvest.
  • Transplant broccoli seedlings to the garden when they are 4 to 6 weeks old, as early as the last frost in spring, after hardening off the seedlings for 4 days.
  • In mild-winter regions, start seeds indoors in late summer and set them in the garden in autumn for winter harvest.
  • Broccoli will come to harvest in 55 to 85 days when grown from transplants and 70 to 100 days when grown from seed.

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About Broccoli. Broccoli is a hardy biennial grown as a cool-season annual. It grows 18 to 36 inches (45-91cm) tall and has broad, thick leaves and a thick main stalk. Broccoli forms single or multiple flower “heads ” of tiny blue-green flower buds. The flower heads are eaten before they bloom; buds open to tiny yellow flowers. Broccoli will bolt and go to seed in warm temperatures or when daylight hours lengthen.

Broccoli Yield. Plant 2 to 4 broccoli plants for each household member.

Broccoli in planting bed

Planting Broccoli

Site. Broccoli grows best in compost-rich, well-drained soil with a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Broccoli grows best where air temperatures range between 45° and 75°F (7.2-24°C). Broccoli is frost hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F (-6.7°C). In regions where there is heavy rain or sandy soil, aged-compost should be added to the soil to supplement soil nitrogen.

Broccoli Planting Time. Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that must come to harvest before temperatures rise consistently above 75°F (24°C). Start broccoli seed indoors 5 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring. Transplant broccoli seedlings to the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost in spring after hardening seedlings off for 4 days. In mild-winter regions, start seeds indoors in late summer and set them in the garden in autumn for winter harvest. Whether that is too cold or too warm will cause broccoli to go to seed without forming heads. In cold-winter, short-season regions start broccoli in summer for fall harvest.

More tips: Broccoli for Cool Weather Harvest.

Planting and Spacing Broccoli. Plant transplants that are 4 to 6 weeks old with four or five true leaves. Leggy transplants or transplants with crooked stems can be planted up to their first leaves so that they will not grow top-heavy. Plant seedlings 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart in rows 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) apart. Plant seeds and transplants at the same time for succession crops or plant early and midseason varieties at the same time. Sow seed ½ inch deep and 3 inches (7.6cm) apart. Transplant thinned seedlings to another part of the garden.

More tips: Broccoli Seed Starting Tips.

Companion plants. Beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes. Avoid planting broccoli near pole beans, strawberries, or tomatoes.

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Container Growing Broccoli. Single broccoli will grow in an 8-inch (20cm) container. Grow multiple plants in larger containers set 18 inches (45cm) apart. Broccoli is very sensitive to heat so be sure to move plants into the shade on hot days.

Broccoli growing in raised bed

Caring for Broccoli

Water and Feeding Broccoli. Keep soil moist during the growing season. Decrease watering when plants approach maturity. Water broccoli at the base of the plant. Side dress plants with well-aged compost at planting time and again at midseason,

Broccoli Care. Keep broccoli planting beds weed-free.

Broccoli Pests. Broccoli can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), and imported cabbage worms. Control these pests by handpicking them off of plants or by spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis.

Broccoli Diseases. Broccoli is susceptible to cabbage family diseases including yellows, clubroot, and downy mildew. Plant disease-resistant varieties, rotate crops each year, and keep the garden free of debris to cut back the incidence of disease. Remove and destroy infected plants immediately.

More on broccoli pests and diseases: Broccoli Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Romanesco broccoli
Romanesco broccoli

Harvesting and Storing Broccoli

Broccoli Harvest. Broccoli grown from seed will come to harvest in 100 to 150 days. Grown from transplants broccoli will come to harvest in 55 to 80 days. Cut buds when they are still green and tight. Cut the central head with five to six inches of stem. Leave the base of the plant and some outer leaves to encourage new heads on secondary shoots. Heads that have begun to open showing small yellow flowers are past the eating stage.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Broccoli.

Storing and Preserving Broccoli. Broccoli will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen after blanching for up to 3 months.

Broccoli Varieties to Grow

Broccoli Varieties. ‘Arcadia’ (63 days), ‘Bonanza’ (55 days), ‘Citation, DeCicco’ (48 days), ‘Early Dividend’, ‘Emperor’ (80 days), ‘Eureka’ (87 days), ‘Green Comet’ (78 days), ‘Green Goliath’ (75 days), ‘Green Jewel’, ‘Green Valiant’ (70 days), ‘Gypsy’ (58 days), ‘Happy Rich’ (55 days), ‘Italian Sprouting’ (80 days), ‘Land Mark,’ ‘Legend’ (86 days), ‘Love Me Tender’, ‘Marathon’, ‘Minaret’, ‘Packman’ (80 days), ‘Paragon’ (75 days), ‘Pinnacle Premium Crop’ (58 days), ‘Late Purple Sprouting’ (220 days), ‘Raab Spring, Rapine’ (70 days), ‘Romanesco’ (70 days), ‘Saga’ (57 days),’ Salad’, ‘ShoGun’ (93 days), ‘Small Miracle’, ‘Sprinter, Super Blend’, ‘Super Dome’, ‘Thompson’, ‘Violet Queen’ (70 days), ‘Waltham'(95 days).

Common name. Broccoli, Italian broccoli, Calabrese, brocks.

Botanical name. Brassica oleracea italica

Origin. Mediterranean

More tips: Planting Broccoli.

Learn to grow 80 tasty vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

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81 Comments

  1. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and enjoyable, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is a thing that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I happened across this in my search for some thing relating to this.

  2. Two questions for you:

    One. I had a volunteer come out of last years crop and since we had such a mild winter, I didn’t even realize I had it before it was too late and the summer heat has kicked in and buds have been forming. At this point late in the game, is there anything redeemable of broccoli other than the nice pretty (visual) flowers that come from it?

    Two: I went ahead and planted the garden this year and moved some places around, what are the causes of having tomato plants close by to broccoli? Is it more of a insect or flowering/propagating issue?

    Thank you for this very informative site/blog!

    -John

    • If your broccoli has flowered you can use the flowers in salads or steam them; they are edible and tasty. You can also allow bees to visit your plants and pollinate the flowers producing seed for next year.

      In regards to planting broccoli and tomatoes near each other, some gardeners say that cabbage family plant cause tomatoes be less flavorful, perhaps that has to do with the high sulfur content of cabbage family plants including broccoli. Both broccoli and tomatoes require calcium for optimal growth; if the two plants are grown close together they will be competing for the calcium available. Both tomatoes and broccoli require a bit of room to grow–so it is best to plant them at least four feet apart.

  3. I was planning on planting my seedlings of broccoli into a vertical PVC pipe container. The pipe is 6 inches diameter and I was going to drill 2 inch holes 12 inches apart.

    Would 6 inch diameter PVC pipe suffice?

    What size holes would you suggest and how far apart should each hole be?

    If I decide to use pots, what depth and diameter should the pot be for 1 plant?

    Thank you for your great site.

    • You can grow broccoli in a vertical PVC pipe or any other container as long as there is sufficient soil for root growth. What is sufficient? Vegetable crops depend upon soil for life-giving moisture nutrients. A container just 6 inches across may work if it is deep enough–that is there is plenty of room for roots tor grow down and to take-up the moisture and nutrients they plant needs. You may want to give your crops a feeding of compost tea every couple of weeks to make sure both moisture and nutrients are reaching the roots. The holes you drill into the pipe will help prevent the roots from rotting–PVC will not breath or allow for moisture evaporation as would other containers (wood or clay). (Several 2-inch holes, 12 inches apart, down the length of the pipe–should work.) Like all container growing, avoiding over or under watering will be essential to success. If I were growing a broccoli in a container I would choose a container akin to a 7 gallon nursery pot–about 10 inches across and 12 to 18 inches deep. I would encourage you to try the 6-inch PVC pipe AND also grow a second plant in a more traditional container; see how the plants grow and how the harvest goes then you can continue on next season.

  4. I was looking for information on “sunchokes” and came accross your article. I saw that you also wrote on growing other vegatables, I like the way you write about growingd and harvesting vegatables. You make it easy to understand and very informative. I appreciate that you are willing to share your knowledge.

    • Romanesco broccoli seeds are easily found from seed growers such as Baker Heirloom Seeds, Johnny’s Select Seeds, and Sustainable Seed Company–all of these and others can be found on the internet and will ship seeds to you.

    • Broccoli that has yellow flowers will not produce heads that you will want to eat–they will be bitter. When broccoli flowers, it is a sign that the weather is now too warm and the plant is ready to produce seed and die. Time your planting so that the flower heads appear in cool weather, not in warm weather–that is when temperatures are warmer than 70-75F.

    • Broccoli will produce side shoots that produce new, but smaller flower heads, once the main flower head has bee harvested. When temperatures rise to 75F or greater, broccoli should be removed from the garden.

  5. We bought broccoli plants in the spring, & planted them, (not knowing they were cool weather plants) (temps were in the 80’s a few times)they have grown into big bunches of broccoli, lighter green color….. Are these good to eat? One is still growing…

    • Your broccoli is edible as long as the buds (flower buds) have not opened. The plant is likely struggling in the heat, so the flavor may be compromised.

  6. I am a progressive farmer having 35 hector of land and can have more. I am planning to cultivate in control shed to have non season vegetable or very early season. Can you suggest the time and vegetables round the year. I am in sindh Pakistan 120 Km away from Karachi

    • If you are propagating or growing vegetables in a greenhouse or large plastic tunnel or grow house and you can regulate the indoor temperature then you can grow any warm weather crops out of season if you can keep temperatures between 65F (18C) and 90F (32C). Cool-weather crops will be more problematic year round unless you can keep temperatures between 50F (10C) and 65F (18C)–which may be difficult or not cost effective in summer months. To see temperature requirements for seed starting and growing go to the Seed Starting Specific Crops category in the Index on this site or to the How to Grow category also in the Index; then look up the specific crop you want to grow.

  7. Hi, I am a new subscriber to this site (which I thing is brilliant by the way) and also new to growing my own vegetables (which I am loving) so I will probably be on here quite often asking questions and looking for advice, hope that’s okay 😌
    For now though I only have 2 questions.
    1) I have been reading about companion planting and read that nasturtiums are good to plant in between vegetables, is this true for all vegetables?
    2) I am growing 4 different varieties of tomatoes in my greenhouse one of which is a tumbling tom in a hanging basket, do in need to pinch out like other tomatoe plants or should it be left to grow as it pleases. I am also growing a beef tomatoe plant for the first time so any advice on this would be much appreciated.
    Thank you 😊

    • Nasturtiums are a good companion to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, pumpkins, radish, squash, tomatoes, and potatoes. Nasturtiums repel squash bugs and stripped beetles. They can also be used as a trap plant for aphids. And nasturtiums have edible leaves and flowers which you can add to salads. Plant them at the edge of the garden to repel squash bugs and beetles or as a trap crop. This may keep these pests from getting to the center or your garden.
      Tumbling Tom is a determinate tomato. Determinate tomatoes (as opposed to indeterminate tomatoes) flower and produce fruit at the end of the growing stem. If you pinch out or prune away the ends of stems you will be limiting the number of fruits the plant will produce. If the plant is too aggressive for the space it is growing in pruning may be the only way to control its spread. But keep in mind you will be pruning away potential flowers and fruits. Beefstake tomatoes are indetermine plants; they will produce along the length of the stems over the course of the season. Caging or staking beefsteak tomatoes is a good way to control the plant. You can prune as you like a beefsteak; there will be plenty of blossoms and fruits over the course of the season. Welcome to Harvest to Table! Thanks for reading.

  8. I’m new to this 12 x 12 plot I have in a community garden and I’m from Vegas so you didn’t grow very much. I’m in Utah now and I planted 2 different types. Well we had bad weather during the planting season that I prayed that I would get anything to grow. But low and behold I have an amazing garden and I’m harvesting to yield a larger crop. However I have learned a very valuable lesson, never plant melons in the middle of the garden and planting corn is a waste of time.
    I planted some veggies but they did not sprout. So will my broccoli still grow even though the squash grew to big and gave it shade, Now it’s been exposed to the sun and it started growing but got a little dry and wilted so there is some green still trying to fight and survive is it worth it to leave or pull it? Thank you for this website it is very helpful to us city folk trying to live in the simi country. Keep up the good work..

    • Check with a local garden center or your cooperative extension to learn the average date of the first fall frost where you live. When you know that date you can count the number of days left in your growing season. Broccoli requires about 100 days to reach harvest, but it can withstand frost. So you may have time to plant broccoli now and harvest it after the first frosts. Check with the nearby garden center, they may have broccoli seedlings in stock and ready for planting in your garden now. Broccoli is a cool-season crop so it will not do much better as the weather cools towards autumn. As for the squash, it’s always best to give squash plenty of room to roam–so pick a spot where it can grow, grow, grow without impeding on the space other crops need.

    • Yes, the key to growing broccoli in any growing system (including vertical) is providing enough nutrients, water, and sunlight to sustain growth. Choose a smaller growing variety to plant–look for the words “compact” or “mini” to describe the variety you choose. Allow enough headroom for the plant to grow up 24 inches or so; make sure your growing system delivers nutrients through soil (about 12 to 18 inches is ideal) or hydroponically.

  9. Hello Mr. Albert! I am using this website for a Biology project. What date was this published? I can’t seem to find it here, and I need to cite it correctly. Thank you!

  10. My garden bed only gets around 3 hours of direct sunlight now (autumn in Australia) and may be even less in winter. Although it’s the right season to plant broccoli, will 3 hours of direct sunlight and possibly less in the coming months sufficient to grow broccoli? Will the impact be longer time to mature or smaller heads or both? Is it worth trying in this condition? Many thanks!

    • Three hours or less of direct sunlight will likely not be enough to grow broccoli to maturity. The plants are likely to be thin and may stretch for light. That said, you should give it a try. Rather than invest a lot of time and effort, you could plant two or three plants and see how they do. You may have better success with leafy crops–lettuce and spinach–which mature more quickly and do grow in some shade.

      • Thank you for your prompt reply. I will pick the best spot in my garden to give it a try. I will let you know how it goes in 3 months time. I am already growing lettuce, spinach and bok choy, but like to grow something more than leafy vegetables.

        • Leafy and root crops grow best in shady locations. Most fruiting vegetables need sun. However, if you want to give fruiting crops a try choose bush beans or a determinate tomato: try Bush Early Girl, Stupice, or Oregon Spring. It’s worth a try. Maybe you will have success.

          • Hi Steve, I am keeping 3 seedlings for an experiment. Two remain in the raised bed where the sunlight is around 3-3.5 hours a day, sometimes through tall trees. I have transplanted the most advanced seedling to a pot which I try to follow the sun. The pot gets 5 hours of direct sunlight without much shading. I’m growing broccoli variety: Marathon F1 in a container of 14-litre capacity. The soil depth is 9 inches. The outer diameter of the pot is 310 mm and the height is 270 mm. Is the pot big enough? Do you foresee the need to up size the pot? Of course a bigger and heavier pot will be harder for me to move every day to follow the sun. If at a later stage I do need to transplant it to a larger pot, will it be detrimental to the plant? Thanks!

          • A pot about twice the size your plant is in would be best to ensure full growth to maturity. The plant is dependent on the nutrients in the pot. You could place the pot and plant in a small wagon to move it around each day. If you leave the plant in its current pot, feed it a dilute solution of fish emulsion every two weeks to be sure it gets sufficient nutrients to reach mature size.

          • Hi Steve, I am pleased to let you know that my experiment of growing 3 broccoli plants went quite well. All of them formed main heads of 13-14 cm in diameter. I upsized the pot to 40 L capavity, 50 cm in diameter and soil depth of 30 cm based on your advice. Even though the pot plant received more direct sunlight than the 2 left in the raised bed, the result actually surprised me. I gave all 3 plants the same amount of liquid fertilizer regularly and top-dressed compost/soil improver and fertilizer midseason, however the one in the pot didn’t grow as vigorously as the two in the raised bed despite of the fact that it received more sunlight. Some stems and leaves turned purple, then brown and fell off. The green colour of the plant in the pot seemed to have a darker hue than the two in the bed. My analysis was that the soil nutrients were insufficient in the pot, so I didn’t let the side shoots to grow further. Instead, I harvested all the leaves for dinner. They were delicious and tasted a lot like kale. The two in the raised bed delivered a good supply of side heads with a time lag between them because one received a bit more sunlight then the other. In the end, I let the one that received the least sunlight live the longest because by that stage it was well into the spring and the weather was getting quite warm. After I removed the neighbouring plant, it expanded towards the sun and almost took over the area that the other broccoli used to grow. Among all the side heads it produced, 2 were as large as the main head. I think the plant still wanted to grow but the weather was getting too warm. Next time I will sow the seeds 2 months earlier to extend the harvest period. Thank you so much for your guidance along the way. Your website is now one of my favourite vegetable-growing resources that I refer to frequently. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    • Check the seed packet or plant label for the days to germination and days to maturity from germination. Some varieties will be ready for harvest in 55 days, others need 120 days to reach harvest.

  11. I have been growing a scrap piece of broccoli in shallow water on our kitchen window sill for about 10 days and the florets have really started to grow. However, it’s started to show some yellow flowers today and it’s only over the last day or two that the roots have started to come through. Can this be transplanted to a pot at all or is it now too late or not even possible to do from scraps in the first place?

    • When broccoli blooms, it is preparing to drop seeds, get the next generation of broccoli started, and peacefully pass away. You can allow the plant to bloom, let the flowers dry, and collect the seed for replanting. Your window sill broccoli will have left a legacy of new plants for next season.

  12. Hi, im currently growing some broccoli but the tenderstem type. How far will i need to plant them? Will they need as much space as the normal varities?
    I know broccoli leaves are edible but im not sure how its usually used? Would you usually use it like kale?

    • Broccolini can be thinned from 6 to 8 inches apart. Grow and harvest it like kale. You can cook it like kale or look for broccolini recipes. Tenderstem is a trademarked name for broccolini.

  13. What is the best way to prepare soil for planting any type of vegetable. I want to start my own vegetable garden and any input at this moment will do me good.

  14. Broccoli is one of the nutrient-dense foods reputed to benefit the immune system, cardiovascular system, and also has cancer-preventing and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a fat-free leafy vegetable. We feature broccoli on this list of superfoods, but really any cruciferous vegetable—Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, or kale—is a worthy dietary addition. What makes these vegetables such potent disease fighters are natural compounds such as sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, which are believed to have cancer-fighting capabilities. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and folate. I considered growing broccoli in my home lawn and i would like to thank you for this amazing post.

  15. Came here to say this, I did it this year and while the new shoots were smaller in diameter I still got enough to cook with a couple times off of a few plants. My problem is letting them go too long until they start to bolt! Any recommendations to know the perfect time to cut? I check them daily, so when I see the first signs of bolting I cut them and bring them in.

    • It’s best to monitor the air temperature; once the air temperature averages are greater than 65F, you need to be very observant and not let your broccoli linger in the garden. Bolting is directly related to temperature.

  16. Steve, I decided this year to take the heat off myself (literally!) by planting as much as I can in the fall rather than in spring. Our springs have gotten shorter, our winters milder, and our summers intolerable; I don’t do well when temps are in the 90s. Plus I can use the gardens for other crops in the spring.

    I planted a plug tray of Waltham 29s on Sept. 13, and by afternoon’s end on Sept. 15 nine of them had sprouted! The others quickly followed suit. Now (Sept. 28) the seedlings are 4 inches tall, and most of them have their first “true” leaves; the few laggards have one true leaf. Looks to me as though I’ll have to transplant these babies to bigger digs before they will need to be transplanted outside. If you agree with me on that, how big should I let them grow in the plug tray? This is the first year I’ve used plug trays. I think they’ll be fine for the leeks (I have Blue Solaise seedlings growing inside), but I suspect a plug with two plants in it will suffice for leeks until planting time. Broccoli roots are likely to need more space, or that is my reasoning. Any tips on when to get them into regular trays? Should I let them get root-bound in the plug tray? If not, any ideas on timing?

    Thanks so much! I trust your judgment.

    • Seedlings 4 to 6 inches tall should be able to withstand transplanting and have root systems developed enough to continue strong growth. Sow seed so that transplants go into the garden when temperatures are in the low 70s or high 60sF; they should put on enough growth in a few weeks to withstand cooler temperatures.

  17. Greetings-
    Thank you for a great article. I have planted broccoli for the first time this year and I am very excited as it is starting to mature. I live on Long Island, NY. I planted transplants on August 18th. It is now Halloween, the heads are about the size of a golf ball or larger. Last night the temp got below 36 degrees for the first time.
    My question is how much longer can i keep them in the ground before harvesting ?? I would like them to get a bit bigger obviously. Thank you in advance and sorry for the long ramble !!

    • Broccoli heads will suffer if the temperature dips to 26F; you should plan to harvest the heads when temperatures are near or just below freezing. Small heads are edible.

  18. I live in Kashmir our temperature drops after 15 August and remains below 25C and continue decreasing. Our winterfell starts at 21 december when it starts lowing to -7C. and temp remains between 3C to -8C till 15 feb then it starts increasing and remains from -3C to 12C. From 21 march temp starts increasing and maimum temperature is 35 C after 21st June.
    Please tell me the dates when should i plant our broccoli?
    And this year i planted my seeds after 15th August when we sow turnip and black carrot. How should i take care of those plants?

    • Note the average date of the first and last frost in your region; mark these dates on your calendar. Set out broccoli transplants two weeks before the average last frost date; for a fall crop set out transplants 10 weeks before the average first fall frost. For information on growing turnips and carrots go to the Index at this site and then go to Turnip and Carrot for our recommendations.

  19. Hello, I started Romanesco broccoli very early and have needed to up-pot a couple times. Since the roots are so fine, does this damage the plant if a few roots were lost in the process of up-potting? Thank you!

  20. It is April in south Ga and my broccoli plants have been harvested and are now very tall stalks (3-4 feet) with yellow flowers. Do I need to just cut these down and compost or can I use them to produce seeds for next fall?

    • If the variety you grew is open-pollinated, not a hybrid, you can save the seeds and replant them next cool season. Otherwise, it is time to remove and compost them.

    • Broccoli is a cool-season crop. What you describe could be the plant bolting–sending up shoots to flower and set seed. That is broccoli’s natural reaction to warm temperatures; it wants to sow seed to ensure that there is a next generation. You may want to replant broccoli in mid to late summer for an autumn harvest–a cool-weather harvest.

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