Learning how to grow broccoli can be fun and exciting. It’s a healthy, green vegetable, and you can grow it yourself easily. Though you need the right amount of space to do it in the garden, you can have this delicious green veggie on the table every day.
However, before you start growing broccoli, it’s important to find out how long it takes to grow. That way, you can figure out when to plant it and when you can consume it. On top of that, we are also going to explain how to grow broccoli and care for it.
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Broccoli is part of the cabbage family, and it has tons of minerals and vitamins. That’s why many vegetable gardeners want to include it in their patches. This cool-season vegetable grows best when the daytime temperature is in the 60s. Ultimately, you should plant it in fall or spring.
How Long Does It Take to Grow?
The broccoli growing process is quite quick. However, it can vary depending on which variety you use.
If you have a short growing season, you can get two harvests every year. This is also why it’s called the biennial plant.
When you grow broccoli from a seed, it should take 70 to 100 days to mature once it’s planted. If you grow it from a starter or transplant, you can harvest it in about 55 to 85 days.
How Many Broccoli Heads Can You Get From One Broccoli Plant?
One broccoli plant yields one large head. Once you harvest it, though, it can produce several side flower heads within the next few weeks.
How Big Does a Broccoli Plant Get?
Typically, a broccoli plant grows to be about 2 to 3 feet tall and about the same width. The size depends on the spacing between the plants. As with most vegetable plants, they get bigger if you give them more room to grow.
How Does a Broccoli Plant Grow?
Broccoli plants aren’t like root vegetables. They grow above ground and upright.
They often have medium-green leaves, but some varieties have a blue cast to them. You can use them as edible landscaping. The Romanesco version is highly popular as an ornamental plant, too.
There are also yellow flowers that pop up on the plant. You may gather them and eat them before they bloom if you want.
The broccoli root system doesn’t grow deep into the ground. Therefore, you shouldn’t disturb the plant’s base or soil around it.
Gardeners know broccoli as a cool-season crop. This means that mid-summer temperature could stunt its growth. Therefore, you are better off planting your broccoli after or before the hottest time of year in your area.
When to Plant
Since broccoli is a biennial plant, you can grow it two times per year. Before you plant anything, add some organic matter and compost with plenty of nutrients. You want about 2 to 4 inches of organic matter to feed the soil.
Often, broccoli thrives in rich, well-draining soil. You should consider a pH of about 7, which is neutral on the scale. It’s also essential to plant it at the right time, depending on harvest needs:
If you want to have broccoli in the summer, you should start the seeds inside about six weeks before your last spring frost. However, if you’re sowing them outside, do that about two or three weeks before your last frost.
Broccoli seeds can germinate in low temperatures (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). However, they thrive more in warm soil.
Sometimes, you might think the soil is too cold. If so, you should consider starting the seeds inside.
You can plant transplants from a garden center immediately. Typically, garden centers grow it at the best time and sell them when you’re ready to plant them.
For a winter harvest, you should start the seeds later in summer so that they’re ready to plant in autumn. If you’ve got a short season, start the seeds in summer about 85 to 100 days before the first winter frost. In a cold climate, this is often early or mid-fall.
Where to Grow
Broccoli prefers full sunlight for about six to eight hours each day. If there’s less sunlight, then the broccoli might be thinner and taller than normal. Plus, you may have smaller heads.
It thrives best in fertile, moist, well-draining soil. Ideally, the soil should be slightly acidic but more on the neutral side. Aim for a pH of 6 or 7. You should be aware that most broccoli varieties can handle slightly alkaline soils.
The goal is to avoid disease in the broccoli plants. Therefore, you shouldn’t plant broccoli in the same place each year. Aim for a different location each time, and then don’t plant it again for three to four years.
Spacing ultimately depends on whether you want many small heads or one big one. For a large central head, make sure there are 3 feet between every row and plant the seedlings about 18 to 24 inches apart. If you want smaller heads, they can be planted closer (12 inches apart).
Gardeners who sow the seeds directly into the ground should plant them 3 inches apart. As they start to grow, you can thin them by pulling smaller plants.
You should plant the seeds about ¼ to ½ inch deep into your soil. However, transplants can be put just a bit deeper than they were found.
If you’ve got a “leggy” transplant, consider planting it up to the first set of leaves. When you plant them deeper, they can grow stronger. Plus, they’re going to support the broccoli head’s weight as it comes out.
Broccoli thrives in moist soil. There’s no set watering schedule. Instead, you should check the earth each day and make sure it isn’t dry.
Typically, broccoli plants require 1.5 inches of water a week. When you do water them, make sure it goes around the base and not on the plant. That’s especially important as the heads develop because they can rot with moisture.
If you’ve got nutrient-rich soil, you may not have to use fertilizer. When you do feed the plants, make sure the fertilizer is low in nitrogen. Do that about three weeks after you transplant them.
Sometimes, the broccoli plant turns yellow. If that happens, consider adding blood meal to that area.
Whenever you notice weeds, pull them immediately. Since broccoli plants have a short root system, they don’t fare well with established weeds. You can try mulching around the plant base to prevent weeds.
Pests love broccoli, so you should watch out for them. Row covers can help, but you can’t use them when it’s hot. Some common pests include:
- Cabbage worms
- Cabbage loopers
- Cabbage root maggot
- Cabbage aphids
You can harvest the broccoli heads when they’re tight and green, as long as they have a 5-6 inch stalk. Cut at an angle, leaving the rest of the plant to encourage side growth.
We recommend picking the broccoli when the main heads are 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
Now that you know how long broccoli takes to grow, you can plan to have it in your garden. We talked about winter and summer harvests, so you can, in a sense, have broccoli all year long. Since it is so nutritious and delicious, it’s possible to enjoy this cabbage-family vegetable whenever you want it.