Did you know that a vegetable can be both a superfood—and a scandal?
Even when farmers sent 10 tons of broccoli to The White House, along with recipes to encourage President Bush to pardon broccoli’s banning, he held firm in his stance that broccoli would not become part of his presidential diet.
Plus, with a few helpful tips and tricks, it’s an easy-to-grow veggie in home gardens.
5 Reasons to Grow Broccoli
You’ll be glad you did because growing broccoli provides many benefits:
1. Harvest a Superfood in your Backyard
Not only is broccoli high in antioxidants, amino acids, folate, and vitamin C, but it also boosts immunity with its content of zinc and vitamins E and K. Plus, the stalk provides a great source of fiber in your diet.
2. Savor All Parts of Broccoli
While most cooks focus on the florets, the entire broccoli plant is edible—including the stems and leaves. By growing your own broccoli, you’ll reap the healthy benefits of using the entire plant—not just the head, as you typically find for sale at the grocery store.
3. Extend the Growing Season
As a cool season crop, broccoli proves the perfect veggie to grow in the spring and fall. In fact, broccoli even tolerates a light frost—which can make the veggie taste sweeter. As part of the brassica family, these cool-season plants keep your garden productive both before and after the summer stars—like tomatoes and peppers—fill your plate.
4. Keep It Clean.
When you grow broccoli in your garden, you can choose how to grow it—using organic methods to prevent pests, like Neem oil to reduce cabbage worms or row covers to deter cabbage moths.
5. Easy-to-Grow Seeds Make for a Budget-Friendly Crop.
Unlike peppers, which need bottom heat to germinate, or other temperamental seeds that require scarification, stratification, or long germination periods, low-maintenance broccoli seeds can be easily started indoors or direct-sown in the garden.
Types of Broccoli to Grow at Home
Whether you prefer traditional heading broccoli, with a large crown and sturdy stalks, baby broccoli (sometimes called stem or sprouting broccoli), with small heads and long, tender stalks, or broccoli raab, with long, slender stems, profuse leaves, and small heads, you’ll discover many options. These options are available as transplants at your local garden center—and an even wider array of broccoli varieties is available to start from seed.
Antioxidants may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and neurological conditions. In a study published by Oxford University Press, raw purple sprouting broccoli was found to contain six times the anthocyanin content compared to green broccoli. Pretty food can be pretty good for you, too!
Did you know there are dozens of varieties of broccoli—with many bred specifically for different growing conditions?
You’ll find varieties suited for the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Northern California, and desert Southwest, among others. If you’re unsure which variety grows best in your climate, make sure to read the descriptions in seed catalogs, or choose a variety that’s noted for being “highly adaptable” to many climates. Find seeds and plants from our Shop Our Members Page.
Pick the Perfect Broccoli Variety for Your Garden
For hot climates, it is best to choose varieties that can tolerate high temperatures. If you live in a moderate climate, you may find that some broccoli types can survive the winter season.
Do you know that National Garden Bureau members include the most innovative breeders and distributors of broccoli cultivars?
Whether you want a fast-producing variety for a short-season climate, a bolt-resistant variety for hot zones, a pretty purple broccoli to add interest to your plate, or a long-producing baby broccoli for healthy, tasty meals, you’ll find the latest, greatest broccoli varieties from National Garden Bureau members.
How to Grow Broccoli in Your Home Garden
When to plant Broccoli in Spring
As a cool weather crop, broccoli seedlings can withstand cold temperatures. (Make sure to harden off seedlings for 7 to 10 days prior to planting in the garden.)
When to plant Broccoli in the Fall
How to Grow Broccoli from Seeds Indoors:
- Fill a seed-starting tray or container with a moistened, sterile seed-starting mix.
- Sow one to two seeds per cell on top of the mix or space seeds an inch apart in a container.
- Cover seeds with a thin layer of seed-starting mix.
- Lightly spray the soil with water, and cover the container to keep the soil moist.
- Once the seedlings germinate, remove the cover.
- Thin seedlings to one plant per cell or one plant per 2 inches.
- Place the seedlings under a grow light. Keep the light about two to three inches above the seedlings to reduce legginess and raise the light as they grow.
- When the seedlings produce two sets of true leaves, pot up the plants into larger containers filled with potting soil.
- Place the plants back under the grow light, and continue to water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
- About 10 days prior to your projected garden planting date (based on the calculator), begin hardening off the plants. Place them outdoors in a protected, partly-sunny space. Gradually increase the amount of sun exposure each day. Bring the plants inside at night if severe cold is forecasted.
Direct Sow Broccoli:
Tips on Growing Broccoli in your Garden:
- Choose a site that hasn’t grown broccoli or other brassicas before to reduce the chance of pests or diseases.
- Make sure the space offers good drainage and air circulation.
- Pick a spot with full sun for the best growth. Partial afternoon shade, particularly in hot climates, also works well for broccoli.
- Amend the soil if needed. Broccoli prefers soil rich in nitrogen, so add compost or a balanced fertilizer to promote good growth.
- Space plants well, as broccoli grows quite large. Six plants fit beautifully in a 4 x 6-foot garden bed.
- Dig a hole about the same size as the broccoli root ball.
- Remove plants from containers. If you’ve grown broccoli in biodegradable containers, you can plant the entire pot.
- Place the plant in the hole, with the top of the root ball even with the soil line.
- Fill soil around the root ball, firming the soil to eliminate air pockets.
- Water well. Avoid wetting the leaves, if possible.
- Add a layer of organic mulch around the plants to help retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps prevent soil splashing on the plants’ leaves during watering, which can spread disease.
- Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
- Inspect plants regularly for pests, looking underneath the leaves for eggs or insects. Handpick caterpillars or use Neem oil to deter pests. A row cover placed over the young plants helps prevent cabbage moths from laying eggs on the plants.
Homegrown broccoli tastes delicious—and pests think so, too.
Vigilance is important to save your harvest from becoming a feast for cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, flea beetles, thrips, and other pesky pests.
- Check your plants regularly for eggs or insects. Handpick caterpillars and squish eggs. Use Neem oil for a serious infestation.
- Deter pests by placing a row cover over the plants when young, ensuring that cabbage moths can’t access the plants.
- Avoid planting brassicas in the same beds each year—crop rotation helps combat pests and diseases.
- Weed regularly to eliminate hiding places for pests
- Encourage beneficial insects to visit the garden to feast on the uninvited guests.
How to Harvest Broccoli
- If growing a heading variety, remove the central head. Broccoli is ready to harvest when the head reaches a desired size—which may be slightly smaller than commercial broccoli found at the grocery store. The head should be deep green (or purple, depending on the variety), firm, with tightly clustered florets.
- Harvest in the morning, before temperatures rise.
- Use a sharp knife, and cut just above where the stalk joins the leaves, keeping about five inches of the stem.
- Once the primary head is harvested, the plant sends side shoots with smaller heads for ongoing harvests.
- For baby broccoli, harvest when the heads begin forming and the leaves turn deep green. Stem broccoli will continue producing throughout the season.
- For broccoli raab, harvest when the florets begin forming and the leaves are deep green. The top 6 to 8 inches of the stem is typically harvested for use. The plant will continue producing for another two or three harvests throughout the season.
Savor Garden-to-Table Broccoli Deliciousness
Garlicky Caramelized Broccoli
3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heads broccoli, stems peeled, heads cut lengthwise
½ cup water
5 garlic cloves, diced
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
- In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and heat on medium. Add broccoli to skillet with cut side down, cover, and cook until browned on the bottom, about 7-8 minutes.
- Add water, cover, and cook until water evaporates and broccoli is tender, about 7 minutes.
- Add remaining olive oil, garlic, and red pepper. Cook uncovered until garlic is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drizzle broccoli with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Whether you’re looking to improve your health, try unique varieties, or convert a broccoli skeptic into a fan, you’ll love growing broccoli in your garden. After all, it’s the Year of the Broccoli—give it a try!
Founded more than 100 years ago, the National Garden Bureau educates, inspires, and motivates people to grow home gardens. National Garden Bureau members are horticultural experts, and the information shared with you comes directly from these experts to ensure your gardening success.
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”