How to Grow Broccoli in Your Home Garden

Judy Schumer
by Judy Schumer

By Judy Schumer

Broccoli is one of the most versatile superfoods that’s easy to grow in the garden. Plant this vegetable, and you’ll be creating delicious meals with it as a superstar ingredient. Try fresh broccoli in broccoli salad—it beats supermarket broccoli, hands down!

Growing broccoli in your own backyard is possible by following the right planting and care instructions. Follow the tips and advice in our guide to find out how to grow broccoli, from starting seeds and planting to caring for and harvesting the cool-weather veggie.

broccoli head and leaves

Photo via Vidura Randeepa

When to Plant Broccoli 

Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable when it comes to planting and growing. For a late spring harvest, broccoli seeds do best when started indoors in late winter, six to eight weeks before your climate zone’s last frost date. Plant broccoli seeds in starter trays, about ¼ to ½ inch deep, then transplant them to the garden after the last frost date.


You can also plant broccoli seeds directly in the ground outdoors right after your last frost date as long as the ground is warm enough to be worked. The soil temperature should be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


In warm climates when a fall harvest is best, or if you don't want to grow seedlings and transplant them, you can plant broccoli seeds directly in your garden in mid-summer, 12 to 14 weeks before the first predicted frost.

Where to Plant Broccoli

Broccoli likes cool weather, lots of sun, and rich, moist soil. Follow these tips to find the perfect home for your broccoli plants.


Broccoli thrives in cool weather and, if left to grow in the summer, will get tough and lose flavor. Planting broccoli seeds in the ground two to three weeks before your zone’s last frost date (in cooler climates) will help to avoid this happening. No worries if you live in a warmer climate; just wait until 12 to 14 weeks before your zone’s first frost to plant.

Sun Exposure

Broccoli loves full sun and needs six to eight hours of it daily. Avoid shady areas, which will cause the broccoli plants to become leggy with thin heads.

Soil Type 

Broccoli needs rich, well-drained, well-watered soil. It’s a good idea to prep your soil before planting by turning over the existing soil and adding four inches of high-quality compost. 


The pH scale of the soil must be between 6.0 and 7.0. You can buy a soil test kit to ensure you’ve got the right soil conditions for broccoli and adjust the pH if needed.

How to Plant Broccoli from Seeds

The timing is right, and you've got your gardening gloves, tools, and broccoli seeds in hand. Before you get ready for the blue ribbon at the county fair, you’ll need to learn how to plant your broccoli right to ensure a bountiful return on your time and labor investment.


Follow the steps below for planting broccoli seeds directly in the ground.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Garden trowel
  • Broccoli seeds
  • Rich compost
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Floating row covering
  • Large watering can
  • Clean, sharp scissors for thinning

Step 1: Prepare the Soil

When you're ready to plant your broccoli, whether it be seeds or transplants, take the time to enrich your soil first. You’ll give your plants the best growing environment by adding and turning over three to four inches of rich, organic compost.

Step 2: Sow the Seeds 

Dig a small hole ½ inch deep and drop three or four seeds into it. Continue down the row, spacing the plantings three inches apart. Space rows of broccoli about three feet apart.

Step 3: Water the Seeds

Water the freshly planted seeds with a watering can, making sure the soil is completely moist.

Step 4: Cover the Soil

Cover the newly planted seeds with a floating row cover for protection against aphids, heavy rain, and strong winds. You’ll keep the row covers on until your broccoli is ready to harvest, taking them off as needed to water and do a quick health check.

Step 5: Thin the Plants

Broccoli seeds will germinate in about four to seven days from planting in temperatures above 50 degrees F. Once your seeds grow to about three inches tall, you’ll need to thin them. Save the heartiest-looking seedlings and cut away the thinner sprouts with sharp scissors.

broccoli seedlings

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Start Broccoli Seeds Indoors

If your climate is too warm for spring planting or you want to give your plants a strong start, plant your seeds indoors first. You’ll end up with young plants called seedlings that will be transplanted in the garden after the last frost in your area. Begin this process six to eight weeks before your last frost date.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Biodegradable seed starter trays
  • Seed starter potting mix
  • Broccoli seeds
  • Small squirt bottle
  • Clean, sharp scissors
  • Garden trowel
  • Large watering can 

Step 1: Prepare the Pots

Fill each biodegradable seed starter pot with the seed starter potting mix. Using biodegradable pots makes transplanting easier because you don’t have to remove your tender plant from the pot to transplant it.

Step 2: Add Seeds

Make a small indentation in the soil with your finger. Drop two to three seeds into each pot, then cover with the potting mix. Using your squirt bottle, water until the soil is moist.

Step 3: Place Trays in Sunlight 

Place the filled trays in an area indoors where they will be exposed to direct sunlight. Water daily, keeping the soil moist but not soaked.

Step 4: Thin the Seedlings

Once your seeds grow to about three inches tall, thin them by identifying the heartiest-looking seedlings and cutting away the thinner seedlings with sharp scissors.

Step 5: Prepare the Seedlings

Once your seedlings are about six weeks old and have a few leaves, prepare them for outdoor life by placing the trays outside in the sunlight for an hour or so daily when temperatures are about 50 degrees F.

Step 6: Prepare the Garden

Prepare your garden for planting by enriching your soil. Add three to four inches of rich, organic compost. Turn it over well with a spade or hand garden tiller.

Step 7: Plant Seedlings

Plant your seedlings carefully in the prepared soil using a garden trowel. For each plant, dig a hole slightly deeper than the starter pot. Set the individual pot inside the hole and cover the edges with soil. Space them 18 to 20 inches apart in rows three feet apart.

Step 8: Water the Transplants

Using your watering can, moisten the soil around each plant, wetting the soil without over-soaking it.

young broccoli head and leaves

Photo via Laura.YSG

How to Care for Broccoli 

Once you've planted your broccoli, it's time to care for it so it rewards you with a bountiful, delicious harvest. Read on to find out what you need to provide for your broccoli plants in the form of food, water, and protection.


Broccoli needs to be watered regularly as it thrives in moist soil. Soak the soil with about an inch of water each week so the water reaches down into the roots. Do not get the heads of the broccoli wet when watering—you’ll want to concentrate on just the roots. A drip irrigation system is a perfect way to do this.


Cover the ground in your garden with mulch to control weeds and to keep the soil moist.


You should fertilize broccoli either three weeks after transplanting your seedlings, or three weeks after your seeds become young plants. 


Broccoli plants need a low-nitrogen fertilizer to avoid excessive leafiness. A fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorus will help broccoli heads grow healthy and strong. When applying fertilizer, spread it evenly around each plant using a small garden trowel.

Pests and Diseases

Broccoli isn’t susceptible to many diseases and isn’t bothered by too many pests. For the few issues that can plague your plants, follow our advice to avoid or get rid of the problems.


The most common broccoli pests—and how to get rid of them—are:

  • Aphids - Aphids are tiny white dots on the leaves of your broccoli plants. To get rid of them, mix a cup of warm water with two tablespoons of liquid dish soap in a small bowl. Apply the mixture to the tops and bottoms of the leaves using a sponge or soft cloth.
  • Cabbage Loopers and Cabbage Worms - If you begin to see small holes in the leaves of your broccoli plants, check for tiny green caterpillars. Remove them by hand or treat the plant with Bacillus thuringiensis

Install Row Covers

Install floating row covers right after you plant to discourage bugs and pests from making their home in your garden.


The most common diseases that attack broccoli are:

  • Black Leg - Black leg is a fungus that appears on the leaves and stalks of broccoli as whitish-gray spots that are irregular in shape and composition. Remove any infected plants immediately to avoid the spread of the disease to other plants.
  • Black Rot - Black rot is characterized by yellow spots that spread on the leaves, eventually turning brown. It is best to remove the diseased plants from the garden immediately because black rot is extremely contagious.
  • Clubroot - Clubroot is a fungus that develops and lives in your garden soil. Remove any affected plants that have the telltale heavy wilting. Raising the soil pH above 7.2 can help eradicate the fungus in your soil.
knife harvesting broccoli plant with knife

Photo via Vidura Randeepa

How to Harvest and Store Broccoli

Broccoli plants need to be picked at the right time so they don’t grow flowers, which means it’s too late to harvest. Harvesting broccoli at the right time and storing it correctly will ensure that the vegetable will be at its edible peak.

When to Harvest Broccoli

If you’ve planted broccoli from seeds, it takes about three to four months for the broccoli to be ready to harvest. If you’ve planted from nursery stock or transplants/seedlings, it’s about two to three months until harvest time.

When the large part of the plant (the broccoli head) is four to six inches in diameter it’s time to harvest your broccoli. The “tree” portion, or head, should be a deep, rich green (like the color of an oak leaf in summer) and tight. 

How to Harvest Broccoli 

The time of day you harvest is as important as how to harvest your broccoli. Cut your broccoli in the morning when it’s nice and cool out, so the heads will be firm and tightly packed.


Use a very sharp knife to cut the broccoli from the stalk. Holding your knife at a slant, cut the heads (also called the flowers) off the stalk, six inches below the flower stem. You want an angled cut to allow water to run off from the cut, avoiding rot to develop on the stalk. Your plant will continue to produce flowers for weeks after the first harvest.

How to Store Broccoli

Immediately after harvesting, refrigerate your broccoli, and don’t wash it until you’re able to use it. You can keep broccoli in the fridge for up to five days.


If you’d like to freeze your broccoli, cut the flower heads into smaller pieces and blanch them by placing them in boiling water for about a minute. Remove quickly then submerge into ice water. Drain the broccoli, dry thoroughly, then pack in freezer bags. You can store frozen, blanched broccoli for up to a year.


Do you have any tips for growing broccoli? Please share them in the comments!

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