Broccoli cultivation

Broccoli growing tips?

Broccoli is probably one of the most consumed vegetables in the diet.

Eating it regularly, besides being delicious, has demonstrated many benefits in our health. For example, because of its glucosinolate content, it has anti-cancer properties.

Broccoli, like cabbage, can be grown throughout the year as there are varieties for each season.

Types and varieties of broccoli

Among the varieties of broccoli we should especially consider the Calabrian, also called Italian or American broccoli.

The Calabrian broccolis have a height smaller around the 45 cm and extend less (40 cm). Unlike common broccolis , they are crops of fresh climates, so they should not be cultivated in places where temperatures exceed 15 ºC.

There are varieties for the decoration of flower beds, which often have different colors and small size. Broccolis are classified in different varieties according to their general appearance, the color of the floral heads or the date of production or planting.

* See: Types of Broccoli

brocoli cultivo de brecoles

Broccoli or purple broccoli photo in a family vegetable garden

The main difference of broccoli and cauliflower is that broccoli flower heads are usually green, the stems of the inflorescences have a loose texture and the inflorescences more often acquire a conical shape. Cauliflower only forms a central inflorescence, while broccoli develops a central inflorescence surrounded by other ones.

Broccolis characteristics

Broccoli is a biennial plant from Brassicaceae family (Cruciferae). The name of the family alludes to its flowers with four petals in the shape of a cross. Other edible plants, like cabbage, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower also belong to this family.

From broccoli, like form cauliflower, we eat mostly the immature flowers and thick stems that precedes them.

Broccoli reaches between 60 and 90 cm high and 60 cm wide. The stem goes up from the roots and it is surrounded by the leaves.

The name “broccoli” comes from the Latin “brachium”, which means “branch” and refers to the branched form their flower heads

Broccoli flowers, when mature, are small, with four yellow petals. Fruits in siliqua with rounded pink seeds.

Broccoli leaves have petioles elongated limbs with leaves lobed gray-green, very wavy deep lobes.

What are the differences between broccoli and cauliflower?


Glucosinolates are the anticancer components of broccoli

Broccoli differs fundamentally from cauliflower in which its flower heads are generally green. The stems of the inflorescences (pellets) have a less compact texture and the inflorescences often acquire a conical shape.

Cauliflower only forms a central inflorescence, whereas broccoli develops a central inflorescence surrounded by smaller ones.

The leaves of the broccoli have long petioles, limbs with lobulated greyish green leaves, very wavy and with deep lobes. Broccoli flowers, when they mature, are small, with four yellow petals. Fruits in siliqua with rounded seeds of pink color.

watering Broccoli irrigation

The soil must always maintain a certain humidity. Broccolis need a special watering after transplanting the seedlings and by the time they develop the green part of the plant.

Watering should be reduced at the time the flower heads have formed , before they mature. However, as mentioned, the soil will never be left to dry.

The best way to check the soil humidity is to see that it does not stay engaged with the tools, but it still retains some moisture when it is caught between the fingers.

flower-pot Broccolis – uses

They are grown for the production of edible flower heads. (More information in the listing below)

sun Broccolis – exposure

Broccoli is a temperate plant that needs to be protected from strong winds. The ideal growing temperature is between 20 and 24 º C, while for flower formation temperature should be between 10 and 15 º C.

Inflorescences during the growing season are affected by direct sun in hot weather and frost in cold climates. During the summer it requires moderate shade.

Similarly, when mature, it should be harvested soon as they can be affected by numerous factors (frost, wind, heat, etc) and rot easily or turn brown, making it impossible to sell.

In colder places. we will require the use of varieties suited to the low temperatures, that’s to say, those that are harvested in early spring or late winter, as Nine Star Perennial varieties, Extra Early Purple Sprouting Rudolph or White sprouting.

The use of varieties adapted to cold weather allows planting in extreme temperatures, as in the British Isles, where it is grown at temperatures up to -12 º C.

soil Broccolis planting and reproduction


Picture of seedlings in an orchard

Broccoli are reproduced from seeds in a seedling bed. Seeds are drilled to a depth of 1 cm and transplanted after 7 weeks. Once seedlings start to grow, thinning should be done, leaving enough space for them to grow well.

Planting time depends on the variety chosen, but it takes place for most of the varieties between the months of May to June and they can be transplanted from July to August. The very early varieties are planted in winter and transplanted in spring. In either case it is convenient to do the transplantation when the seedlings have reached about a foot high.To transplant them, they should be introduced into the ridge at a distance of 60 cm between a plant and another, and at 80 cm or 1 meter from the opposite ridge.

Keep in mind that broccolis mature very slowly, requiring approximately one year from the time of planting to the harvest. This means that the soil where this plant grows will not be available for planting other vegetables during this time.

Calabrese varieties are best seeded directly on the ground than in the nursery to avoid damaging the roots during transplantation. Be sure to leave about 22 cm space between plants separated about 30 cm between ridges. Unlike broccoli, Calabrese are varieties that ripen very quickly. They are sown from spring or early summer and harvested after about 14 or 16 weeks.

soilBroccolis – Type of soil: preparation and fertilization

plantas cultivadas en huerto

It is recommended to prepare the soil in advance with natural fertilizer to improve soil nutrients

Broccoli thrives in neutral or slightly acidic sites, rather than alkaline with a pH between 6 and 7.5. When planting in acidic acid, limestone should be added to the soil to reduce acidity. It does not like deep, sandy or saline soils or places where strong winds blow in winter.

They prefer well-worked soil, that has been hoed deep to 35 or 40 cm. During labor tasks, before planting, it may be desirable to add some manure or mature compost because it is a type of crop that needs nitrogen. In case of using 21% nitrogen fertilizer, it is estimated that either broccoli or Calabrese will need 45 to 55 g per square meter.

Besides nitrogen, broccoli usually needs potassium and boron. Magnesium may also be necessary for certain soils that are deficient in this mineral.

Although it prefers rich soils, broccoli is very useful for planting in poor soils where other vegetables or vegetables can not grow. In this case, the plot should be amended to make it productive.

soilBroccolis – Maintenance

Among the major maintenance tasks, we should include superficial weeding to remove weeds, much greener and healthier than using herbicides.

It will be necessary a shallow dig to provide the necessary oxygen to the ground.

In drier areas, the use of dry matter can provide the necessary mulching to prevent moisture loss.

Broccolis – Harvesting and preservation

brocoli cultivo de brecoles

Immature growing broccoli that should grow more before harvesting

When and how to collect broccolis?

The central main flower head should be collected first, cutting the flower stem to about 13 or 15 cm from the top of the head. This will be done when the shoots reach 15 to 20 cm in diameter, during the beginning or end of spring.

The heads should be firm, however we should not expect them to begin to open, which would indicate that they will begin producing flowers. In this case, they would not be so appropriate because these broccolis will disaggregate more during cooking. If they are left to excessive maturation, the heads may become yellow.

When cutting the terminal bud, we stimulate the production of lateral heads. Thus, we can achieve a progressive performance of the plant for a couple of months.

Rotation and intercropping with broccoli or cabbages

According to crop rotation, it is recommended to plant the broccoli in places where there were previously solanaceae (potatoes, tomatoes, …) and the following year to grow legumes in that field. Do not grow cabbages on places where other crucifers have been planted in the past year to reduce the risk of pests and diseases.

Close to broccoli we can plant beets, peas, beans, tomatoes or eggplants (in summer), garlic or onions, these last four will also help prevent plants from becoming infected with insects that usually attack them (crop association).

Merging mint, sage, rosemary, tansy or other herbs is another way to help control pests with other plants.

How to preserve broccolis?

Broccolis can be kept very well by the freezing method.

Calabrian types must be collected when the main head reaches a diameter of about 7 to 10 cm. For subsequent lateral heads, we must wait to pick them up when they reach 10 cm in diameter. Calabrian types, like the rest of broccolis, are well preserved when frozen.


It is important to consider the rotations with other crops to prevent infection caused by previous crops. In this case you should not plant broccoli in places where you had previously planted other plants of the same family, that’s to say, the cabbage family (Cruciferae = Brassicaceae).

Among the not suitable vegetables for crop rotation, we could mention the following cruciferous: cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Calabria, rutabagas, radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, Chinese broccoli, pak choi or komatsuna.

It is advisable to plant broccoli after solanaceous crops or tuberous roots, such as celery, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, etc.

Combining broccoli with other herbs such as sage or rosemary, can prevent infection.

Broccolis pests

brocoli cultivo de brecoles

Immature growing broccoli that should grow more before harvesting

The main pests that affect them are:

  • The cabbage fly (Chortophila brassicae): A type of fly, much like the common fly, whose larvae feed on roots. This results in the rotting of the plant or its weakening.

The main and more environmentally friendly treatment is to associate this crop with the tomato crop. It may also be effective to remove the ground, so the the larvae will be more exposed to be eaten by birds.

It will be also necessary to use disinfected soils or choose those places where cabbages had not previously been planted in. Sometimes, the magnitude of the disease forces to eliminate this crop completely. Another approach is to protect the base of the plant with a system that prevents the larva to go into the ground. Chemical treatment offers no effective solution.

  • The cabbage butterfly, Small White or Cabbage White (Pieris brassicae) The larvae of this butterfly eat the broccoli leaves. In addition to the chemical treatment, with chemicals such as Permethrin, you can use other, more organic solutions, such as spraying with soapy water or water resulting from the decoction of tansy.

The use of a disinfected soil or that one where cabbages had not previously been planted is necessary to avoid infection.

  • Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae) is a type of butterfly whose larvae feed on the inflorescences of broccolis and other brassicaceae.
  • Doves (Columbidae) When winter comes, many plantations are attacked by pigeons. The best way to protect them is to use mesh covers.
  • Snails, slugs other molluscs or other insects can also eat broccoli leaves and flowers.

Broccolis diseases

esprai rociar plantas

Natural and ecological insecticide for pests

The acidification of the soil is one of the factors that predispose to the emergence of many broccoli diseases, so it should be avoided or the soil acidity should be neutralized. The main diseases affecting them are:

  • Powdery Mildew (Peronospora parasitica f.sp. brassicae) It is a disease caused by fungi during wetter times that makes the leaves to turn yellow. Although it can be treated with a specific product, it is better to choose grown seedlings that are free of this disease.
  • Botrytis (Botrytis cinerea) Also known as gray mold, it occurs when the environment is too wet, causing plant rotting. Dark or gray spots appear on it in the form of mold. It also produces blackening of the head.

The traditional treatment uses a systemic insecticide combined with the elimination of the affected plants. To prevent further infections it is recommended to stop growing plants of this genus for 4 or 5 years, to select disinfected seeds or sterilize them with water at 45 ° C for half an hour.

  • Cabbage Hernia (Plasmodiophora brassicae): It is a fungal disease that leads to the destruction of the broccoli roots. It is characterized by the presence of yellow bumps on the roots and stems. The roots grow excessively and the plant dies.

Once infection occurs, it is very difficult to eradicate it, so it is advisable to take preventive methods, such as the need to stop growing brassicas for about 6 or 7 years in areas with possible infection, to remove the infected material and to select resistant seeds..

More information on the properties of broccolis

Related information: Cultivation of thistles

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

31 October, 2022

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