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Grow Great Broccoli in Your Back Yard Garden

Updated on February 26, 2017
Nancy Owens profile image

Nancy grew up on a farm and has been growing fruit, vegetables, and ornamental landscape plants for many years.

Happy Broccoli

A little shade during the late afternoon sun
A little shade during the late afternoon sun | Source

How I Grow My Broccoli

People often tell me they have a hard time growing broccoli. They ask me to reveal my secrets for growing it. I have even had complete strangers stop their cars and ask me what exotic plant I am growing and where I found it because it is so beautiful. They seem completely astonished when I tell them the exotic plant is nothing more than ordinary broccoli!

I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have no special secret or technique. However, all the questions about what I do to my broccoli to get it to grow so well has led me to think about why it grows and produces so well for me.

Young plants after a good rain.
Young plants after a good rain. | Source

Planting and Growing Techniques

Planting

I plant my broccoli very early in the spring. This vegetable seems to love the cooler weather. I use both bedding plants, and seed. When working with seed, I usually scatter the seed and then cover it to the depth recommended on the seed package. I pack it down a little with my hands, and keep the soil moist. When the seeds germinate, I thin them out. However, I have been told I do not follow the spacing rules for my plants. My neighbor says I plant them too close together. However, she also said she had never seen broccoli get so big! I do not know if broccoli just likes company or what the deal is, but my broccoli seems to get pretty big.

Location

I think this may have something to do with it. I usually plant my broccoli in spots where it gets the morning sun as well as some of the afternoon sun. However, it gets shade in the late afternoon. Some of that shade is a filtered shade from the willow tree, so it is dappled. During the hot summer months, the heat is broken by the shade. I think getting late afternoon shade allows the roots to cool, and encourages plant growth.

Water

I try to give the broccoli lots of water—especially during the hot months. At times, I will even flood it, and then use my cultivating tool to loosen the soil between the plants while the ground is soft. This way, the air circulates and the roots can spread out more easily. At least that is my theory.

Fertilizer

I do not use fertilizer with my broccoli. But I do try to plant in areas where there is a good population of earthworms. When I was a little girl, my father told me that many earthworms are a sign of fertile soil.

Pest Control

I plant marigolds in and around the broccoli to keep ants and other critters away. When I see little white bugs starting to collect on my broccoli (and roses, too), I mix up some dish washing liquid with water in about a 1 to 3 ratio. One part dish washing liquid, to three parts water. Then I go around and spray my broccoli leaves, both the top and bottom of the leaves, with the mixture. I leave it on for about 24 hours and then spray it off. I usually have to do this periodically throughout the summer.

Plants planted too close together.
Plants planted too close together. | Source

Harvesting Broccoli

I try to keep up with harvesting the broccoli as soon as it is ready. You know it is ready when it develops the tight, green seed buds. If left to continue growing, the plant will produce pale yellow flowers in a shape and size similar to sage brush. I cut the stem as low as possible, leaving two to four nubs, and on an angle because it just seems like this is healthier for the plant. I find that my broccoli plants keep producing into the fall if I keep up on the harvesting. Usually, I have plenty for myself and plenty to give away with about eight plants.

In Conclusion

I hope this helps others to have more success with their broccoli. Again, I am embarrassed to say how little thought I put into this process before now. Even after thinking about it, I am still not quite sure why my broccoli gets so big. I have even used it as landscaping fillers! The plants seem to always get between 2 and 2 ½ feet tall, and about as wide. Sometimes the leaves are around 8 10 inches wide and I have had years where the leaves get quite long, but I haven’t measured them, so I can’t say how long. Unfortunately, I have not taken pictures of the mature plants yet, but I will do that next summer and post them here. The pictures shown above are of plants that are not yet mature.

Happy gardening, everyone!

© 2011 Nancy Owens

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  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 2 years ago from USA

    Thank you for stopping by! It seems like they should do well into fall. They seem to like the cold weather in the spring so it stands to reason....

  • CherylsArt profile image

    Cheryl Paton 2 years ago from West Virginia

    Thanks for the tips. I planted some seeds in the garden for an autumn crop. I'll remember to cut them on a diagonal. I might go out and add some more seeds. : )

  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 2 years ago from USA

    Hello! Sorry for the late reply. It seems to like a little shade from the afternoon sun. And I plant it early in the spring when it is still pretty cold. Hope that helps!

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

    Your broccoli is amazing to me. Thanks for the tips here. I sometimes wonder if what I get out of the effort is worth it!

  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 3 years ago from USA

    Hmmm... What will keep the deer away? The only thing I can think of right now is a tall fence made out of chicken wire. I apologize for taking so long to reply. I have been tied up with another endeavor for a couple of months. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday season.

  • lindajot profile image

    lindajot 3 years ago from Willamette Valley - Oregon

    Great information - I finally tried growing broccoli this year (I admit I don't have much of a green thumb), and it was actually doing pretty good, til the deer munched them right down to a nub!

    I'm determined to give it another go next year.

    Thank you for the helpful ideas!

  • Indian Chef profile image

    Indian Chef 3 years ago from New Delhi India

    Nancy I live in an apartment so can not try to grow anything but I really liked to read your this hub. Thanks for sharing

  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

    It does seem pretty easy. I live in an area with 4 distinct seasons, with winter temps that hover below freezing, around 20 degrees for extended periods. Sometimes we have temperatures as low as 18 or 20 below in the winter, but that hasn't happened in a couple years now. In the summer it isn't unusual to have stretches in which the heat stays above 100 in the day and gets down to 80 at night.

    For this reason, if I'm planting broccoli seed, I throw it up during the first thaw while the ground is somewhere between freezing and mud. Like a mud frappe. Just press it in and when it is ready, it comes up. I like to scatter a whole pack of seed and see where it takes hold. Then thin.

    Hope this helps in your broccoli growing adventure. :)

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

    This is one of the plants that I keep thinking about growing--and you make it look easy!

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Thelma! Good luck with your own adventure with broccoli. Thank you for taking the time to read and for stopping by. :)

  • Thelma Alberts profile image

    Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

    I´m planning to plant broccoli in my garden and I hope it will grow like yours. Thanks for sharing this information.

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

    This year, I had broccoli plants that survived the winter and came back super big! Just from those plants I have gotten enough broccoli already to freeze and eat broccoli until it runs out my ears!

  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 5 years ago from USA

    Thank you, Jesimpke! Around this time every year I start getting the gardening bug!

  • jesimpki profile image

    jesimpki 5 years ago from Radford, VA

    Nice gardening hub! Makes me want to try growing my own broccoli now. Thanks Nancy.

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 5 years ago from USA

    Thanks, cclitgirl! I love gardening, but have never really studied it. That probably explains why my success rate is so hit-and-miss! :)

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

    I love this hub! I, too, have tried to grow broccoli. My problem is that I have critters that get to it before I do. I love gardening, but it seems like all those "brassicas" don't like my soil or something - cauliflower or broccoli don't always seem so happy in my garden. But, perhaps I'll try again and really try to keep it all in the "cool" season.