Broccoli is something we grow a large amount of every year and is a plant we all enjoy eating. Broccoli is a fairly easy vegetable to grow, however it can be quite prone to pest like slugs, snails and caterpillars. We have tried growing various varieties over the years but our go to varieties are di ciccio, waltham and baby bunting.
There is a variety of broccoli called purple sprouting broccoli, we have tried growing several times with no luck. The last plant we grew over 2 metres tall and was a year old before it produced its first little head of broccoli. In a small space garden having a plant take up all that room, while not producing to me seems like a waste, we could have had multiple crops of broccoli or other plants in the meantime.
When To Plant Broccoli
Broccoli loves the cooler weather and grows best from March through to October. We start our seeds in March in seedling trays and then transplant them in early April.
How To Plant Broccoli Seeds
Broccoli can either be direct sown or sown into seedling trays, germinates in 3 to 7 days and when soil temperatures are between 8- 30 degrees Celsius. We start are seeds off in seedling trays in a greenhouse as its easier to protect your seedling from pests, keeps them watered and out of the weather.
Where To Plant Your Broccoli
Broccoli requires full sun, which is between 6-8 hours of sunlight, however in early autumn your seedlings may need shading to protect them for the harsh heat and sunlight.
How To Transplant Broccoli
We transplant our broccoli once they have formed there first true leaves and are between 5-10cm in height. Monitor the weather when transplanting as there can be still very warm weather which could kill or cause your seedling to bolt.
We plant our broccoli with spacing of 50cm apart. A few years ago, we seen a few people recommending in trying planting plants closer together and receiving the same yields. We tried this method of planting our broccoli at 30cm apart but found the pest damage, head size and overall plant growth was restricted.
Caring For Broccoli
After broccoli have been transplanted, you will need to keep a close eye on them for pest damages and hot weather. We recommend for the first few nights after dark just going out and checking on them to make sure slugs and snails are not snacking on your new seedlings.
Once your seedlings are established you will need to monitor for pests and diseases, then sit back and watch them grow.
How Long Does Broccoli Take Until Its Ready To Harvest
Broccoli can take depending on the variety between 75-100 days until they are ready for harvest. You want to pick your broccoli head once they are fully grown just before they flower. Sometimes working out when they are ready can be a bit tricky but here are few tips. The head should be firm and tight, when florets are of equal size, and they should be a deep green colour.
We harvest our broccoli by cutting the heads off of stem as your broccoli plant will produce side shoots for the next couple of weeks. Side shoots are little broccoli heads which are like broccolini which come out of the stem below the head after its harvested.
Broccoli Diseases, Pests and Other Problems
While broccoli is a good producer and relatively easy to grow, like all plants broccoli can get diseases, pests and problems in general. Here is list of a range of diseases, pests and problems you may meet when growing broccoli.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and Snails have always been a problem at our house, and they love broccoli. Slugs especially can be very annoying on broccoli as they get up inside the head, it’s not until you harvest it and go to cut it open that you notice that its loaded with slugs. Here is how we control our slugs and snails.
Caterpillars just love broccoli. Moths and butterfly lay their eggs on the broccoli leaves. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars will begin eating the leaves and you will begin to notice holes in the leaves.
To control caterpillars there are a couple of things you can do, use exclusion netting to prevent the moths or butterflies laying eggs in the first place, using a bacterial spray such as dipel (bacillus thuringienses) or yates ultra success (spinetoram).
Our preferred method is to remove the caterpillars and dispose of them humanely. We only spray if we are overrun with caterpillars
Cabbage Moth is a very common problem, but it isn’t the moth which eats the broccoli, its the caterpillars. See the paragraph above on how to control caterpillars
Whitefly are a small sap sucking insect found on the underside of the leave. Whitefly can turn from a couple of whitefly to a infestation in a matter of days. Here is how we control whitefly
Aphids are a small sap sucking insect which are found on the underside of the leaves or new shoots. Once found we recommend in just squishing them, but if your plants are infested with them, you can spray them with a horticultural oil. The oil covers the aphids and kills them by smothering them.
This is something that in the past 2 years has become a major problem. Rodents will eat your broccoli heads just as they are ripening. We are finding the only way to control them is a multi-level approach by using live traps, snap traps and baits.
Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease and is always present in the air around us. The spores love humidity, so to help prevent powdery mildew plant your broccoli with correct spacings, plant them in full sun, prune off any leaves touching the ground and make sure the area you plant them in has adequate air flow.
We have not had this issue with broccoli, however in a more humid climate I can see this being a issue. Once you have powdery mildew it can be fairly hard to get rid of, however you can use product like eco fungicide and wettable sulphur to help control it.
Bolting is when a plant prematurely goes to seed, usually through stress. To prevent you plants from bolting, make sure you prepare the soil well, check the weather before transplanting to make sure there isn’t a hot spell, make sure they are watered well and if you have planted them early like we like to do, cover them with shade cloth to protect them until the cooler weather comes.
If your broccoli has a bitter taste, it’s because your broccoli took too long to grow or was harvested too late. To prevent your broccoli from being bitter follow our above guide on how to grow broccoli.