If you have a home garden and have grown broccoli before, you know the importance of caring for your crops to help them develop a healthy central head. While they are considered a fall crop, you want to ensure that they have plenty of time to grow. Knowing when to plant broccoli is the key to your gardening success this broccoli growing season.
Broccoli plants are veggies belonging to the Brassica or cabbage family. Their scientific name is Brassica oleracea var. Italica. They are closely related to Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, and other cole crops.
While they are hardy in USDA hardiness zones two through 11, it’s important to remember that these plants thrive in a bit of cool weather. Knowing when to plant broccoli seeds gets your vegetable garden off to the best start. If you’re sincerely curious about the best time to plant broccoli, you’re in the right place.
The History of the Broccoli Growing Season
Figuring out when the plant broccoli starts by understanding the history of the plant and the basic needs to form a healthy main head. Broccoli is grown for its green flower heads, also referred to as florets. Before they bloom, we harvest the flower buds and eat the tender broccoli heads, leaves, and stems.
Many of the most common broccoli varieties are hybridized and grow up to 24 inches tall and wide. Today, these crops are fast growers with excellent resistance to pests and diseases such as cabbage loopers, aphids, cabbage worms, and clubroot.
However, if you have aphids in broccoli or other pests, a DIY neem oil spray usually does the trick to eliminate them.
There is a lot more success when growing fall crops because there are fewer hot spells and pests during the broccoli growing season. Therefore, knowing when to plant broccoli in zone 5 could mean that your timeframe to sow seeds is different than in other areas.
This information is applicable for each growing zone. For example, figuring out when to plant broccoli in zone 6 isn’t always the same as when to plant broccoli in zone 7. So, how do we know when to plant broccoli seeds?
When to Plant Broccoli
Timing is everything for crops. Plant them too early, and they might not survive the freezing temperatures. Plant them too late, and the broccoli might start bolting in the hot weather.
When to Plant Broccoli Seeds
Many gardeners prefer using broccoli as a fall crop. If you desire to do the same, it is best to plant broccoli in mid-summer. Check your seed or transplanting information to find the minimum number of days to maturity. Ensure they have enough time to grow before the first frost of the season.
When is the best time to plant carrots? You can plant carrots with your broccoli in spring or summer. They make good companions.
If you prefer to plant broccoli in the early spring, make sure you start a few weeks before the last frost date, which typically happens between mid-April and May, depending on where you live. If you are in a higher hardiness zone like 8-11, broccoli is one of the veggies to grow in February.
If you are sowing seeds instead of using transplants, know that germination takes place when soil temperatures are at least 70°F.
How to Grow Broccoli
Start the broccoli growing process by selecting an outdoor site that receives full sun and a neutral soil pH. Perform an annual soil test to check that the ground is rich in calcium and potassium.
If sowing seeds directly outdoors, starting broccoli from seed includes keeping the spacing 12 to 20 inches apart. Cover the broccoli seeds with dirt and keep the soil moist. Once they start sprouting true leaves, thin the plants back and provide one to one and a half inches of water every week.
Mulch around your garden beds to help the earth stay moist and warm. Once smaller side shoots start to appear, you may side-dress your plants with fertilizer around the base of the plant. Pull any weeds that appear in your garden to keep them from competing for resources with the broccoli.
Ideal temperatures for broccoli heads are between 60°F and 75°F during the day and 30°F during the night. If you have to protect them from colder temperatures, use a glass cloche as the growing season passes.
Broccoli benefits from a light frost but might not survive below freezing temperatures. If you don’t have one of these glass cloches, a floating row cover is another means to keep plants warm during a cold spell.
Companion Planting with Broccoli
Companion planting is an excellent way to ensure that all the crops surrounding your broccoli are beneficial and not doing any harm.
The perfect time to plant celery or the other companions listed above is at the same time as your broccoli, whether using seedlings or seeds.
There is always an overwhelming amount of cultivars to choose from when you make a trip to the nursery. As you browse for types of broccoli, think about when you want to plant them, the number of days it takes to mature, and their other basic needs.
Calabrese broccoli is one of our favorite heirloom varieties of broccoli. These plants have been around since the early 1900s. They have dark, bluish-green florets that are five inches across. The entire plant stands 36 inches tall and has many different side shoots. Calabrese broccoli matures in 60 to 90 days.
Packman broccoli is another suitable cultivar. They have a milder flavor but are one of the best options if you plan to freeze a good portion of your harvest.
The Marathon Hybrid is also very popular. It has an appealing dome shape and a strong root system. They are extra-large crops and take about 75 days to mature.
Harvesting Broccoli Heads
Harvest time is confusing for a lot of first-timers who have never raised broccoli crops before. They don’t have a noticeable color shift like other veggies. What are you supposed to look for?
Broccoli is ready for harvest after the average number of days to maturity for that specific cultivar. When the broccoli florets on the outer edge of the central stem are large, it’s a good sign they are ready for picking. Once the flower buds start turning from green to yellow, the time to harvest them has passed.
Cooking with Broccoli
Many people use broccoli as a side dish by roasting or steaming it and serving it with butter. There are better ways to utilize the florets and stems. Instead of cooking them, use them raw and turn them into a unique salad.
Put your florets, cheddar, cranberries, bacon, seeds, and onion into a large serving bowl. In a separate, smaller kitchen bowl, whisk the mayo, sour cream, wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad pieces and toss to combine everything. Refrigerate for one hour before serving for the best flavor.
Broccoli is a veggie loved by many individuals and families around the world. If you want the most tender heads, stems, and leaves, then knowing when to plant broccoli seeds is your best chance of having the tastiest crops.
If learning when to plant broccoli has helped your cole crops thrive, share this guide for the broccoli growing season on Facebook and Pinterest.