Growing Broccoli:
How to Grow Broccoli Organically

Growing broccoli can be easy even for novice gardeners. It is a cool weather vegetable and grows best in the spring and fall of the year, with the fall harvest especially sweet and delicious as the broccoli has fully matured.

A member of the cabbage family, broccoli needs full sun and loose, well-drained soil. Broccoli plants do not like heat, so if you live in a tropical climate, growing this vegetable can be tricky, but not impossible.

Growing Broccoli: Plant Snapshot (Brassica oleracea italica)

Growing Broccoli
  • Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – Ready for harvest about 70 days after planting
  • Recommended varieties: Premium Crop F1, Bonanza, Super Dome, Dia Green
  • Cold tolerance: Hardy - Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Brassica: cabbage, turnip
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Celery ,beets, potatoes, onions, rosemary, sage, dill, mint
    • Avoid: Tomatoes, pole beans, strawberries
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Growing Broccoli: Planting the Seed

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Many people prefer to buy flats of broccoli seedlings to transplant after the last expected date of frost.

Broccoli seeds are small and round, so they tend to get lost when planted directly in the ground. Instead, plant broccoli seeds in seed trays about an inch deep. Space the seeds about 3 inches apart, and be sure to water them daily. Leaving the trays on a table will keep away the slugs and snails that love to munch on them.

Snapshot: Planting Broccoli

  • Planting depth: about ¼ to 1/2 inch (0.62 to 1.27 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 3 inches (7.62 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 65 to 80 degrees F (18.3 to 26.7 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 4 to 10 days
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Growing Broccoli: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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It will take the seedlings 4 to 6 weeks to be large enough to transplant into the garden, and they need to go into the ground in either late summer or early fall to mid-winter. No matter what time of the year they are planted, broccoli plants need 4 hours of sun per day.

Transplant the broccoli seedling into your garden when they have reached a height of about 4 inches, or when you just start to see leaves developing. Plan for rows about two and a half feet apart.

Spacing is important if you want to produce broccoli with larger heads... the plants should be anywhere from 18 inches to two feet apart.

Assuming your soil is nutrient-rich, you most likely will not need to fertilize broccoli further.

Snapshot: Growing Broccoli

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 60 to 70 degrees F (16 to 21.1 degrees C)
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Growing Broccoli: Harvesting Time

Broccoli are very amicable when it comes to harvest, as they continue to produce more tiny heads when the main head is cut right above where the plant’s main leaves connect with the stem.

Don’t wait too long to harvest broccoli. You’ll know it’s time when the heads are compact and dark green. If you wait too long, your broccoli will have developed yellow flowers and a much stronger taste.

Use a sharp knife to cut the broccoli head off the stem. Cut at an angle to allow water to roll off, which prevents the stem from rotting. Continue to water the stems, as they will produce tiny florets for up to 2 months.

Snapshot: Harvesting Broccoli

  • Time to harvest: About 11 to 15 weeks for seeds, 8 to 12 weeks for seedlings
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Storing Broccoli and Freezing Broccoli

Fresh broccoli heads will stay fresh for about a week when refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag.

To prepare broccoli for the freezer, cut off the leaves and any woody stems. Separate the heads into florets and chop any remaining stem into small pieces.

Prepare a salt bath with a gallon of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to remove any insects that may be lurking in the broccoli, and soak for 30 minutes.

Drain the broccoli, then split the florets so that they are about 1 to 1 ½ inches across. Blanch in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. Cool, drain, place into bags or containers, and freeze.

Broccoli seeds are viable for up to 5 years.

Snapshot: Storing Broccoli & Freezing Broccoli

  • Storage temperature: 32 to 40 degrees F (89.6 to 104 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 90 to 95% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 3 to 5 days
  • Storage life (frozen): 9 to 14 months
  • Seed longevity: About 5 years
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Growing Broccoli: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Broccoli. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Beet armyworm
  • Cabbage aphid
  • Cabbage maggot
  • Crickets
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Diamondback moth
  • Earwigs
  • Flea beetles
  • Garden symphylans
  • Harlequin bug
  • Imported cabbageworm
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Snails/slugs
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bacterial leafspot
  • Bacterial soft rot
  • Clubroot
  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Phytophthora root rot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Ringspot (Black blight)
  • Verticillium wilt
  • White mold
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