With each satisfying crunch, broccoli delivers great-tasting nutrition and a slew of health-promoting benefits. It is low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. Broccoli also contains fiber, which is vital to your digestive health. As one of the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is a close relative of Brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
Broccoli has twice the vitamin C of an orange and nearly as much calcium as whole milk, with a better rate of absorption. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and K. It contains several B vitamins, as well as iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc. Furthermore, broccoli is an excellent source of phytonutrient glucosinolates, flavonoids and other health-boosting antioxidant and anti-cancer compounds.
According to Mother Earth News,1 “Broccoli is a nutritional superfood that will strengthen your immune system, help maintain strong bones, and help protect you from cancer and heart disease.” Learn more about why broccoli is good for you in the video above. While broccoli requires certain growing conditions to thrive, it is a great choice for a home vegetable garden. Here’s what you need to know to successfully grow broccoli.
Eight Steps to Successfully Cultivate Broccoli
While you may be able to buy broccoli seedlings from a local nursery, I recommend starting your own plants from organic seeds. It’s easy to do, and you will enjoy the process of seeing tiny seeds transformed into hearty plants. In my opinion, nothing tastes better than homegrown vegetables! Rodale’s Organic Life2 provides the following tips, which will enable you to successfully cultivate broccoli in your garden or on your patio.
- Start by sowing broccoli seeds indoors seven to nine weeks before the date of the last expected frost
- After germination, which is usually four to five days, maintain your plants under lights or place them in a sunny area with a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees F (16 to 18 degrees C)
- Keep the soil moist but not wet
- To avoid premature heading, seedlings must be about 6 inches, or 15.24 centimeters (cm) tall, with two to four true leaves, before they can be transplanted into your garden
- You must harden the plants for at least one week prior to transplanting
- When transplanting the broccoli seedlings into your garden, be sure to set the plants 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) deeper in the garden than they grew in the indoor containers
- Space them 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) apart in rows that are roughly 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) apart; proper spacing is important since crowding will result in smaller heads
- Gently pat the soil around each plant
Ideal Growing Conditions for Broccoli
As you make plans to grow your own broccoli, Mother Earth News presents four important aspects that must be considered to create the ideal growing conditions.3
• Season: Broccoli is a cool weather crop, so you’ll achieve the best results by growing it in spring or fall. Cool days and nights are essential once broccoli flower heads begin to form. Broccoli grows best when soil temperatures range between 60 to 70 F (16 to 21 C).
• Soil: Broccoli seedlings will thrive when they are planted in compost-rich, well-drained soil. A soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0 is optimal. If using an existing garden bed, be sure to loosen up the top layer of soil, mixing in about 1 inch of mature compost prior to planting.
• Sun: Keep in mind that broccoli prefers full sun. If you live in an area prone to warmer temperatures, a little bit of shade will prevent your broccoli plants from going to seed, also known as bolting.m
• Supplements: To give your broccoli plants an added boost, you may consider supplementing your soil with a high-nitrogen, organic fertilizer like alfalfa meal. If you have access to composted poultry manure, that also works well. Water the soil thoroughly before transplanting seedlings.