How to Grow Broccoli

homegrown organic broccoli ediblebackyard nz

Broccoli is the easiest, quickest and most productive brassica to grow. Easier than cabbage, heaps faster than cauliflower, and waaaaay more productive than both on account of all the side shoots that come after the main head is cut.

In order to grow lots of broccoli shoots, you first need to first grow a good sized broccoli head. And in order to grow a good sized broccoli head, you need to first grow a good sized broccoli plant.

Achieve this in the simplest of ways, by growing in homemade compost. If you’ve haven’t yet grown a decent broccoli, lets pause and reflect a mo.

  • Huge, leafy plants + tiny wee heads = too much goodness, you went a bit nuts on the nitrogen or other amendments. Artificial fert will also tips things over.
  • Tiny plants + even tinier heads = too little goodness, compact soil, too squashed together, too dry or too wet.

Keep trying! Broccoli are well worth it. One plant will shoot and shoot and shoot for months, and even in some cases, years.

Soil Preps

Trenching finished bokashi up the centre of the brassica bed
Trenching bokashi direct in the garden, up the centre of the broccolli bed.

Homemade compost plus a rotten manure sidedress is all you need on good soil. Extend not so great soil by adding vermicastings at planting or trenching bokashi up the middle of the bed.

  • On heavy clay and/or poor drainage, aerae the soil first to open to air. Then make mounds of compost so the plants can establish their roots above the clay.
  • On sandy soil, scoop out a handful, lay wet newspaper and fill with home madecheatsbought compost/ vermicastings or a mixture.

Charge things up by soaking the ground with a biological feed or activated compost tea or liquid seaweed pre planting.

Living mulch

phacelia and marigold greencrop
Plant seedlings into a mixed living mulch/ greencrop – its the best

Living mulch brings it altogether. Either plant seedlings into an existing living mulch/ greencrop, or sow/ plant a living mulch around the new seedlings.

At this time of year that might mean phacelia, calendula, crimson clover, lupin or nasturtium plus a tap root like daikon, parsnip, borage or parsley.

Side Dress

broccoli harvest

Broccoli are heavy feeders. If your plants are growing with good vigor, then your soils got it going on. Check your soil. If it looks good, smells good and feels good, then leave it be. Your monthly biological feed, in this instance, will be enough. Too much is as deleterious as too little.

If not, it pays to top up their feed when they hit the teenage years – the time between being a baby and starting to grow a head. Dolloping compost or well rotten (as in, not fresh!) manure or vermicastings alongside will tickle up the soil life and produce a flush of growth. Liquid feed with a biological brew if you don’t have anything to hand for side dressing.

Make Space

broccoli bed

As well as a hearty growing medium, the other thing that makes all the difference is to give each broccoli seedling due space. Generally speaking, 30 – 40cm depending on variety. If I’m confident in my soil, I push the plants closer together and if not spread them further apart. Its a juggle between space used versus resulting head size.

  • The main head is ready to harvest about 12 weeks after transplant.
  • A bunch of quick leafy greens planted at the same time as the broccoli, will fill the harvest gap while you wait.