We love growing broccoli. There's nothing better than harvesting a big green broccoli crown fresh out of the garden or snapping off the plant's abundant side shoots throughout the season. We also like adding the stems and greens to stir fries.
Getting Your Broccoli Transplants in the Ground
We have two chances to grow broccoli in Central Texas, and timing is important. For a fall harvest, you'll want to get your transplants in the ground in September or October. Or for a spring harvest, plant them in January or February. If growing from seeds, just be sure to start them early enough that you have sizeable transplants by this time and harden them off properly to get them acclimated to life outdoors. We like growing cold-weather plants in the fall best because we find it easier to protect plants from freezes than to deal with the added pest pressure that comes with the heat. But every year is different, so just plant broccoli whenever you can. You'll be glad you did! You can also stagger your plantings by a few weeks so you're not harvesting all your broccoli heads at one time.
Fertilizing Your Broccoli Plants
Space your broccoli plants about 10-12 inches apart so they have ample time to grow and develop. To keep your plants happy, start with healthy, well-draining soil. Broccoli plants are heavier feeders than leafy greens like kale and arugula. Consider mixing some organic granular fertilizer into your soil prior to planting, top dress with compost and organic matter throughout the growing season, and/or apply an organic liquid fertilizer. Many gardeners recommend starting with a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer to get your plants growing big and strong, then switching to a fertilizer that is focused more on fruit production so the plants can form nice big heads. You can go down a rabbit hole on all of this, but don't overthink it and get into analysis paralysis. Just feed your plants in some way and they'll feed you.
Protecting Broccoli from the Elements
Of the brassica-family plants, broccoli is more sensitive to freezes than say kale or cabbage. It also has a tendency to bolt (start going to flower) if the weather is unseasonably warm, as is often the case these days in September/October. For this reason, we like planting our broccoli in an area where we can protect it from either extreme heat or extreme cold. Having hoops of some kind that you can drape over with netting is great for pest issues like cabbage worms too.
Ideally you'd harvest your broccoli before it goes to flower. But as in the photo below where you can see that the broccoli flowers have started to open up, the plants are perfectly edible in this stage too. Broccoli plants can go to flower quickly if the weather is unseasonably warm (as has been the case for us lately). And even if your broccoli heads aren't fully formed, you'll still get plenty of tasty food from your plants and be grateful you have them in your garden. Did we already mention how much we love growing broccoli?
Consider not eating all the broccoli you plant and letting some of your broccoli plants flower. The bees love them!