Growing broccoli matures in 65 to 110 days and needs cool nights with a good supply of moisture.
This means that for most areas of the country the best time to grow broccoli is in the fall.
If your springs are long and cool broccoli can be grown if you start your plants early indoors.
Broccoli came from the wild cabbage in Europe. This vegetable has been used as far back as the Roman Empire.
Considered a valuable food in Italy broccoli was introduced to the United States in the 1900’s by immigrants.
The edible portions of the broccoli plant are the tender leaves, the large stalks and the compact flower heads.
The stalks are peeled and used in salads and soups. The leaves and flower heads can be steamed or used in stir fries.
Cooked broccoli is rich in vitamin A and minerals.
Nutrients in a 3/4 cup of broccoli flowerets contain the following:
Vitamin A 6000 units
Vitamin B1 .120 mg
Vitamin B2 .250 mg
Vitamin C 65 mg
Phosphorus 105 mg
Calcium 64 mg
Iron 1.3 mg
Protein 2 gm
Varieties for growing Broccoli
There are 3 common types of broccoli available now for the backyard gardener.
Large Head Broccoli
Varieties mature in 50 to 70 days in the spring and 65 to 90 days in the fall.
Varieties mature in 75 to 90 days in the spring and 85 to 100 days in the fall.
Purple Sprouting broccoli
Early purple sprouting
Santee Hybrid Sprouting Broccoli
Varieties mature 85 to 100 days in the fall.
Soil Preparation for Growing Broccoli
Broccoli plants like cool nights and moist soil for steady growth. Hot weather can cause the flowers to spread out. In the warmer areas of the country Broccoli is grown in the winter months. In colder areas it can be grown in the fall.
Spring crops can be started if the springs stay cool. Plant outside two months before the weather gets hot.
For planting in the fall plant in late summer around August.
Till in good organic compost into the soil in the spring or in the fall where you will be planting broccoli.
Growing Broccoli Plants
It is hard to find broccoli plants at the right time of year for early planting in the spring. Plants are not for sale in the fall.
Starting your own broccoli plants makes sense and will assure you have your plants ready at the proper planting time in your area.
Start spring broccoli plants indoors 5 to 6 weeks before you plant to set your plants in the garden.
For fall planting start your seeds indoors around July and plant in the garden in August.
Start in flats or cups. I like to start my seeds in a cup and then transplant the seedlings into plastic seed insert trays. If you have planted your seeds in a single cup; transplant the plants when they reach 1 to 1 ½ inches tall into individual containers.
Use a sterile potting mix for soil. Moisten potting mix in a bucket or bowl. Fill cups or seed trays with potting mix within ¾ of an inch from top of container. Label cups or trays with seed variety.
Sprinkle a few broccoli seeds on top of the soil and cover with ¼ inch of potting mix and water. Set pots in a sunny window or under your indoor grow lights. Seeds will germinate in 7 to 10 days. The best germination temperature for broccoli seed is between 68 to 77 degrees F.
Before planting your broccoli plants into the garden they need to be hardened off to reduce transplant shock. Gradually introduce then to the outside over a period of a few weeks. If you have a cold frame you can us it to introduce your young broccoli plants to the outside.
Planting and Harvesting Growing Broccoli
In the spring, plant broccoli plants as soon as the soil can be worked around April here in northern Utah. Protect the plants with row covers until the night temperatures warm up.
Plant the young plants 15 to 18 inches apart in single rows or staggered in wide rows. Have 15 to 18 inches of row space between rows.
Plant your broccoli plant slightly deeper than in their growing pots. If you have trouble with cut worms in your area, place paper collars around plant stems to protect them.
For fall plantings transplant your broccoli plants around August into the garden. Side dress around your rows with mulch to help keep the soil moist.
Two weeks after setting out your growing broccoli plants, side dress around them with a good vegetable fertilizer high in nitrogen. Fertilize your broccoli plants again when the flower heads start to form.
Harvest your broccoli flowers before the flowers open while the clusters are still firm. The stalks will be about 4 to 6 inches long.
After the first flower cluster is harvested the broccoli plant will send out side shoots with smaller flower clusters.