Updated: Aug 3
Have you been dreaming about starting your own broccoli? Don't worry, I dream about my vegetables too! ;) Well, if so... then you'll probably enjoy these tips for how best to get your broccoli started!
Before I dive in, it's helpful to know that for best results you may want to take the time to sow your seeds indoors and then transplant them outside later. Broccoli is usually more successful when transplanted as seedlings, rather than being directly sown. So, to start, sow seeds indoors and then move them outside later. :)
Broccoli seeds germinate in darkness, and their ideal soil temperature for germination is between 60-85°F (16-30°C). Germination is possible in soils with temperatures as low as 40°F, but you might have lower success rates this way. Just something to be mindful of!
A general rule for planting broccoli in Texas is that if you haven’t had frost for 2 weeks, you’re pretty safe to plant your broccoli seeds or transplant broccoli seedlings. Although first Fall frost date and last spring frost date estimates are not guaranteed, hopefully the below will help.
Growing season dates for growing broccoli in Texas
Last Frost Date
First Frost Date
Knowing that occasionally frost can sneak up on you even though you followed the patter (nature is full of surprises!), lets make sure you’re prepared to protect your young broccoli plants. If frost sneaks up on you and your broccoli seedlings are in a container, life is easy. Just bring them inside until the threat of frost passes.
If your broccoli plants are already in the ground, cover them in mulch or a burlap, then hope for the best. You never know, they can be pretty hardy and a nice cover can really do wonders. Don’t give up hope!
In addition to weather, you’ll want to think about their fertile soil. Broccoli plants grow best when their soil has a pH between 6.0-6.8... so you may need to amend your soil's pH to make it more suitable for your broccoli plants. This crop also tends to like soils that are rich in organic matter, so just add some into your soil before you plant any broccoli seeds and enjoy the day.
Keep in mind that adding organic matter to your garden can often change the soil pH, so it’s advisable to test it again. Oh the dance! Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so don’t be surprised if you need to top up your soil with fresh amendment.
A question I often hear is when. Aim to start your broccoli seeds indoors about 8 weeks prior transplanting them out into your vegetable garden or container. Also, you’ll want to aim for about 60-80 days before the last fall frost date in your area. Keep in mind that this can also vary between different varieties of broccoli. You can learn more about the different varieties of broccoli [HERE] To get them started, simply sow 3-4 seeds per pot, or 2 seeds per cell (for a tray) about a quarter-inch deep.
Then, once your seedlings pop their pretty leafy greens about 4 inches above the surface of the soil, place your pots/trays in a window that gets a lot of full sun. This is usually about 4 weeks after your true leaves are seed.
As your seedlings grow, thin them so that only the strongest young plant is left in each pot/cell. This thinning process keeps seedlings strong and healthy with lots of air circulation in between the plants!
The nice thing about growing broccoli in Texas is that you could, if you want, do it twice! The growing season in Texas is a couple times a year. Fall season starts in October and usually then gets harvested in winter or as a late fall crop. Then, your second broccoli party could take place in January for the winter season and an early spring or late summer harvest.
If you started your broccoli seeds indoors, you’ll want to take care when transplanting them outside to ensure they don’t go into shock. Keep in mind your little seedlings have been growing in a very protected environment – you’re a good plant parent! That means that they haven’t had to deal with wind, full sun, fluctuating temperatures, and all the other fun that comes with being in nature.
That’s why it’s important to do what’s called “hardening off”. This increases its chances of your broccoli plants being strong enough to fight off diseases, insects, wind, droughts, and all the other fun stuff.
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3 easy steps to hardening off broccoli transplants
Bringing young broccoli plants outside for an hour, starting two weeks before you think they’ll be moving out there permanently.
Each following day, increase the time they’re outside by a half hour to an hour.
Once you’re up to 8 hours, repeat this for 2-3 days and see how they hold up. If they’re still looking happy, you should be ok to move them into their new home. Easy.
5 tips for transplanting broccoli seedlings
Give your growing broccoli plants space! Your young plants are going to get big, so make sure to give each plant at least a square foot of surface space to expand. 18 “ would be even better. This way they also don’t need to fight one another for sun and nutrients.
When transplanting, plant them deep enough that the soil is about an inch below the lowest leaves of the broccoli plant
Although Broccoli likes cooler temperatures and can handle some shade, it needs about six hours of direct sun every day. Direct sunlight makes them very happy although they can handle a little bit of shade. Try to make sure there’s at least 6 hours of full sun for each broccoli plant.
Make sure that the soil below your plant offers at least a foot of loose and friendly soil for it’s roots to expand into. They grow big above and below the soil.
As your young plants grow, ensure you amend your soil to keep it fertile by adding some compost to the soil. Broccoli plants need rich soil to thrive. Along the way make sure to keep the plant’s soil well watered and avoid letting it dry out completely.
Quick note about watering broccoli:
If you can, try watering in the morning so the leaves can dry before the sun goes down. Aim for enough cold water (or warm water) to create moist soil that’s damp to at least 6 inches of depth. If you only sprinkle your plants lightly, your broccoli will likely have shallow roots and not miss out on some of the nutrients it needs for a bigger yield.
Along your journey, three common pests that you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
Cabbage Root Maggot: They tend to lay eggs on the lower parts of broccoli plants and then once born, the larvae then tunnel their way into the broccoli plants’ root system. Sadly, cabbage root maggots ends up stunting the growth of your broccoli plant.
Flea Beetles: These are small black beetles that feed on seedlings and jump when they’re disturbed. Their feeding damage can potentially kill your young broccoli seedlings.
Cabbage Looper: Those caterpillars that can cause the most amount of damage to your broccoli? Those are likely cabbage loopers. They’re green with two white stripes running down their backs, and feed on your plant’s leaves.
How to Harvest and Store your Texas grown Broccoli
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of harvesting your own homegrown food, am I right? And broccoli is no exception – just think of all the dinner plate possibilities! Whether you have a fall harvest or spring harvest, the main points are the same. Here’s what you need to know:
Packed with ascorbic acid, vitamin A, riboflavin, calcium, thiamine, and iron, you’re going to want to grow and harvest a lot of these leafy cruciferous vegetables. Once the broccoli head has fully developed (when compact buds have formed, but before they have flowered), harvest the central head with at least 6 inches of stem attached to it.
You’ll want to use a tool with a sharp knife or scissors to do this. By removing the central main head, it encourages an additional smaller side shoots (or what many call smaller broccoli heads) to then grow, which can then also be harvested later on.
Storing homegrown broccoli
Broccoli can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. For fresh consumption, store your broccoli for 3-5 days unwashed, in a loose bag, in your fridge’s crisper. It’s important that your broccoli is dry when refrigerated because if it’s wet, it becomes soft and prone to mold.
Broccoli can also be stored in the freezer to be enjoyed later. A great way to do that is to cut your broccoli into florets, blanch them in hot water, then store them in airtight freezer bags. Although some small heads can be frozen whole, I find it’s helpful to chop large heads into smaller pieces. This also make defrosting quicker.
Keep in mind that broccoli is sensitive to ethylene, a ripening hormone/gas that’s produced by some fruits like apples and bananas – so it’s a good idea to store your broccoli away from these fruits.
After all, it’s not just about how to grow broccoli in Texas, but also how to enjoy it! Do you have a favorite broccoli recipe? If so, I’d love to hear about it, please message.
Simple, right?! Keeping broccoli dry before sticking it in the fridge was a huge game-changing tip for me – so I hope it can help you extend the storage life of your own!
Also, broccoli plants are an amazing food dense plant, next only to probably brussel sprouts. An as delicious as the broccoli head and broccoli sprouts are, don't let those big nutritious leaves go to waste. Think of them as massive leaves of cabbage, just chop and enjoy. Same with the stem that those tasty treats are growing off of – it’s all edible!
Please drop me a note if you have any other questions regarding growing broccoli in Texas, or checkout this [VIDEO & GUIDE] for more fun tips.