Grow broccoli in containers

17 crops to plant in North Texas right now to guarantee vegetable bounty

By mid-February, there’s no mistaking that spring is only four weeks away. I spend all winter holding out for warmer weather, so I welcome the subtle reddish hue of the sunlight and the slightly longer days.

I enjoy being outdoors, no matter what the weather is like. A few unseasonably warm days in the forecast only add to my eagerness to put the cold season behind me and get to work in the garden. Even though we are still likely to face frigid temperatures in the coming weeks, there’s plenty to do to get this year’s growing season started and tend the land where I live.

What to plant now
Despite my enthusiasm for growing crops indoors in a controlled climate, I’ll never give up on traditional gardening outdoors, in the dirt and among the grasshoppers and butterflies. For one thing, I’ll never have access to a greenhouse that’s large enough to grow everything I want to plant. And I also appreciate planting crops and tending them organically so that they’re a benefit to me and the wildlife that shares my space.

Although most garden crops can’t be planted until the threat of frost has passed, there are several that endure cold weather. In fact, many require a few weeks of chilling hours in order to develop their best flavor or produce a harvest at all.

In Central and North Texas, the list of crops to plant in February includes the following:

  • Asparagus. Planted as root crowns now, asparagus needs three years to become established enough for a few sprigs of it to be harvested each year afterward.
  • Beets. Successive plantings every two weeks for the next month ensures there will be plenty to pick at the perfect size when you want them.
  • Broccoli. Best as transplants of young plants.
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots. Like beets, carrots must be planted a little at a time, every two weeks for the next month or two, to keep the harvest going.
  • Cauliflower. Best as transplants.
  • Swiss chard. Soak the seed in water for 24 hours to speed germination; soaking washes off the natural growth inhibitor that forms on the seed.
  • Collard greens. Best as transplants but doable from seed too.
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens. I’ve learned that I like the mild punch of flavor in mustard greens. All the bitter experiences I’ve had with them were due to my picking them in warm weather when they’re acrid.
  • Onions. As bare-root bundles. Just poke them in the ground and wait until June.
  • Parsley. I will plant plenty for me and more for the swallowtail butterflies whose caterpillars need it for food.
  • Sweet peas
  • Potatoes. Until last year, I never had a harvest worth more than the seed it took to plant the crop in the first place. The method of digging trenches I tried last year seems to have done the trick and yielded several hundred dollars’ worth of spuds.
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips and turnip greens

Annual mowing
To anyone who’s committed to spending every Saturday morning keeping a lawn well-manicured, I’m sure my landscape is an abomination. Around the house, I do keep the greenery from growing too far above the height of the average shoe. But outside of that living area, I let the grass take over and the wildflowers show off their beauty, which creates insect and wildlife habitat while saving me from the endless work of pushing heavy equipment around like some sort of lawn-mowing Sisyphus.

But even wildlflowers need a clean slate and access to the open sky, so the sunlight can warm the ground and trigger their growth. I’ll mow the yard around my house, and my father will take his tractor to the land beyond that.

Bluebonnets that sprouted last December will be safe; they spend the winter growing a short rosette of leaves that spreads out at ground level before popping up with blooms in March.

Some islands of weeds I’ll leave unmowed to protect populations of bumblebees, praying mantises and other beneficial insects that are sure to be overwintering in the dead leaves and grasses.

Feed the birds
By mid-winter, all the wild seeds left over from native sunflowers and grasses from last year have been heavily tapped by the cardinals, black birds, mourning doves and other seed-eaters. For wild birds to stay healthy and make it through winter and into mating season, they need an ample supply of bird seed, at least until late spring when new growth has started to go to seed.

I cast about two cups of bird seed each day straight onto the ground in a clearing near several cedar trees to feed all the birds lucky enough to find it. The trees give them an escape if one of my cats appears on the scene or a hawk overhead.

I move the spot around each day to avoid a buildup of bird droppings that may harbor disease and spread it to other feathered diners.

In the years that my wife and I have made a reliable source of seed available, the birds have come to expect the daily feeding and wait in the branches until the seed is dispersed. If we’re late with the seed or forget it, a familiar male cardinal will fly around from tree to tree wherever we are and let out a mad, sharp, short chirp. As soon as we rectify the error and cast the seed, he stops scolding us and calls his family to dinner.

Growth in Gardening: Growing Broccoli

Fresh broccoli is one of the highlights of my fall and winter vegetable garden. Broccoli can be grown crisp and delicious in the chilly temperatures of very early spring but especially in the fall. Nowadays, I can’t remember why I disliked broccoli as a child, but I suspect it was its kinship to cabbage and mustards, and the distinctive sharp flavor of that family of vegetables, that was too much for a young veggie skeptic.

Thankfully, I overcame my broccoli boycott, because this is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet and as an adult, I am a broccoli enthusiast. It’s also easy to start from transplants or seed, easy to grow, and one of those cool-weather veggies that thrives when not much else does. I want to encourage you to give broccoli a try in your garden, so I thought I’d let you in on just what you need to know to be successful growing it in your garden.

Unlike its cabbage family cousins, broccoli is not grown for its leaves or stems or side shoots, it is grown for its immature flower head. That’s right, the part of the broccoli you eat is a flower bud, if you don’t believe me just leave one in the ground and the head will bloom with an array of little yellow flowers. The secret to growing broccoli is to encourage full, healthy flower heads but to harvest them before they mature (“bolt”) and lose flavor. So, keep that in mind as you work your garden, when you grow broccoli you want to treat it like a flower — except that you pick this flow before it blooms.

There are many varieties of broccoli to choose from, from the popular large-headed varieties, to spicy broccoli Raab, to Romanesco and sprouting varieties. I even grew purple broccoli for the firsttime last fall. Some types of broccoli focus on one main flower head, while others sprout smaller individual florets. Make sure you understand the growing habits of your variety of broccoli in order to harvest properly.

When planting broccoli, you must consider that it is a cool-season vegetable that likes daytime temperatures in the 60s and can tolerate light frost and temps down to the 20s, so a fall planting works best in our area. Many gardening books and websites recommend planting broccoli in early spring for the main harvest, then suggest you leave the plants growing over the summer for a second harvest in the fall. That may work well in a Yankee garden, but it won’t happen in a Texas garden where it will simply suffer from our heat no matter how much shade cloth you use.

In our Texas summers, broccoli will “bolt” (go to seed) in the hot weather, which results in a loss of flavor and toughening of texture, then it will just wilt and die. Some varieties are more heat-tolerant than others, but I do not know of any that can take triple digit heat day after day.

Broccoli needs full sun, at least 6 hours per day but the morning sun is far better than the heat of the afternoon sun. You will want to ensure your planting bed is ready with a rich, well-draining soil. Because of the short spring growing season, early broccoli is in a race against time and needs high-quality soil amended with plenty of rich compost. But your fall broccoli will want that same rich soil. To improve drainage, you can plant your broccoli in mounds. Broccoli benefits from regular applications of organic fertilizer — remember you are growing flowers here.

Most varieties of broccoli take 3-4 months from planting to harvest while transplants take 2-3 months. Unless you start seeds indoors over the winter, it may be difficult to grow a spring broccoli crop from seed, because the weather will warm too quickly. Fall crops are much easier to start from seed directly in the garden provided you can shade the little sprouts. Plant broccoli seeds about one-fourth to half an inch deep, and transplant to the garden in about 5 weeks.

Honestly though, I think that transplants are the way to go. Whether you start your own indoors or purchase some from your local nursery you should plant broccoli seedlings as soon as the days cool enough that the high temp don’t climb above 95 degrees — even then you need to protect the transplants with shade cloth or by planting them in an area of the garden that gets afternoon shade. If you’re planting broccoli transplants or seedlings, set them a little deeper in the soil than they were in the pot. Space your broccoli plants about 18 inches apart, they can get large and you want to ensure good airflow. Besides, crowding them in only stunts their development and opens a door to insects and disease and none of us want that in our garden. Since the fall/ winter growing season is rather long, I suggest you plant staggered successive plantings every 2-3 weeks for a longer harvest.

Broccoli grows in a hurry, and it needs a lot of nutrients. Rich compost will help feed your hungry broccoli, but it will also benefit from applications of compost tea or from monthly applications of a balanced organic fertilizer. Like other veggies, broccoli needs to be kept evenly moist. Give broccoli about an inch of water per week, and water deeply (rather than sprinkling) to encourage deep roots, but don’t let your broccoli plants become too dry between waterings.

One of the best things about growing broccoli is that it isn’t plagued by many diseases. The most common insect pests are aphids, cabbage worms and slugs.

If you do try to grow a spring crop, you’re in a race with the weather to keep your plants from going to seed. Hot soil is the culprit, so take steps to keep the soil cool for as long as possible. Mulch, regular water and shade covers can prolong your spring broccoli season, and as the weather warms you should harvest more frequently to keep your plants from shifting into seed mode.

When the main broccoli head is several inches in diameter, your broccoli is ready to harvest. The heads should be green, compact and firm. If your broccoli plant produces side shoots, those florets may be smaller (but just as yummy). If left unharvested, broccoli heads will loosen and open into yellow flowers — if this happens, it’s too late but leave the plants in the ground as the pollinators love them.

I have found that the best way to harvest my broccoli is by using a sharp knife. Simply cut the main stalk of the broccoli at an angle, several inches below the flower head. Continue caring for the broccoli plant — it will likely begin producing side shoots and more broccoli. Those side shoots will never be as large as the main head, but they will be just as delicious and nutritious.

Your fresh, dry broccoli will last in the fridge for about a week in a non-airtight container. Wash the broccoli immediately before use. Your homegrown broccoli freezes well too. Cut the florets into pieces, then blanch the fresh broccoli by submerging it in boiling water for one minute, then plunging it into ice water to cool. Drain, dry and pack the broccoli into airtight plastic bags that way you can enjoy it anytime.

The fall garden is my favorite. One of the wonderful things about living in Central Texas is that we can garden 12 months out of the year — don’t miss out on a fall garden.

Joe Urbach is the publisher of GardeningAustin.com and the Phytonutrient Blog. He has lived in the Central Texas area for over 30 years.

Safe Bets for September Vegetable Planting in Texas

September is just around the corner and it’s almost time for another round of vegetable planting. Texas is huge, it covers several different USDA planting zones so below you’ll find a couple of different plants you can start that should do just fine all the way up to harvest no matter what part of the state you live in. Fall is a fantastic time to start vegetables in Texas. The plants can start in nice hot soil and as the weather cools it doesn’t tax the plants and their bounty as they mature.

Broccoli

Broccoli matures to harvest in 60 days. This plant can be tolerant to both heat and frost so it’s a great option. There are broccoli plants that have more heat tolerance than others so try to seek those out. Some varieties are Packman, Marathon Hybrid, or Green Magic.

Carrots

Go ahead and plant those carrot seeds in September. Once the soil begins to cool in your area those seeds will sprout and grow! Carrots are a great root vegetable that can be harvested even into winter down here in Texas.

Beets

Beet seeds can go into the ground in spring and summer pretty much throughout Texas. A general rule of thumb for beets is to get them in the ground at least two months before your first frost. For many parts of the state early September should work just fine.

Turnips

Turnips mature to harvest in about 60 days and the fall crops are generally more tender and sweeter than ones planted earlier in the year. Perhaps it’s warm start and cooler finish. You may choose to grow turnips for the greens rather than the root. If you do grow turnips for the root consider planting a couple different varieties to stagger your harvest times.

Brussels Sprouts

If you’d like to grow Brussels sprouts, Texas A&M planting them between now and the beginning of October. You may want to start your seeds indoors to give them a head start and keep them out of the intense heat. Brussels Sprouts do well in raised garden beds.

Connect With Us

What do you like to grow in the fall? Have and tricks and tips we should know about? Share with us in the comments below!

How to grow broccoli in containers

Broccoli might seem an unusual choice for containers. It’s a comparatively large veggie and has a big appetite.

But I hope you’re reading this article because you haven’t been deterred from giving it a go. Growing broccoli in pots is a very rewarding experience.

A big plus is that you’ll be able to harvest the nutritionally dense parts of the plants, namely the leaves, stem and smaller florets, that usually get discarded.

You might also be surprised to learn there are a number of unusual types of broccoli, including purple, white and perennial varieties. The perennial variety is a great choice for container growers and I’ve dedicated a paragraph to it below.

Quick Navigation: Factsheet | Sowing/Harvesting Calendar | Potting Soil | Sowing & Planting |Growing Tips | Harvesting | Storage & Eating | Pests & Problems | Varieties for Pots | More Resources

Factsheet

Sprouting time: 1 to 2 Weeks
Time from sowing to harvest: 3 Months (For Most “Calabrese” Varieties)
9 Months (When Overwinterings)
Size of pot: Large
Difficulty of growing in pots? Medium

Sowing and harvesting calendar

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow (✓)
Harvest

Potting soil tips

  • Broccoli prefers a rich, somewhat firm but also well-draining potting soil. It will do well in a mix that’s reasonably loose, but not overly so. It will get very upset if you don’t provide adequate nutrition.
  • Go for a peat or coir-based potting mix that doesn’t include an excessive amount of drainage material. If you’re putting together your own mix, I’d recommend 35% peat or coir, 35% organic matter (like compost or well-composted manure) and 30% drainage material like grit or perlite.

Sowing and planting

  • There are two ways to sow broccoli, and you should adapt your approach depending on your climate. Green (Calabrese) varieties tend to be sown early in the year and harvested in autumn. Purple and white varieties are usually planted in early summer and overwintered, for a harvest in spring the following year.
  • If you live in a hot climate, opt for the latter, as the chances of your plants running to seed are likelier. If you live in a mild climate, you can choose either, but a same-year harvest is likely to be preferable. There is, of course, some overlap between varieties, so always check the specific growing advice.

  • Broccoli prefers lower temperatures, so with early varieties, it’s best to get started as soon as possible in the year. I would recommend sowing in peat pots in February, on a windowsill or in a greenhouse propagator.
  • Alternatively, if you intend to sow during summer, your plants will be ready to harvest early the next year. This is generally the best option for warm climates.
  • Sowing directly into pots outdoors increases the likelihood that seedlings will be eaten. Don’t move young plants outside until they’re at least three inches tall. It’s better to pick the strongest growers and put one to a pot (in the middle) rather than plant many and thin out later.

Always start broccoli seeds indoors to prevent them from being eaten.

  • Finally, use the biggest pot possible! Anything under 16 inches or so in height is an absolute no-no. Ideally, you’ll go for something double that size!

Growing tips

  • There are two absolutely necessary jobs when growing broccoli: feeding and watering.
  • I don’t recommend relying on slow-release granules. Once the plant gets established (a month or so after planting out), liquid feeding with both a balanced NPK feed and a micronutrient feed is the best strategy. If you absolutely have to use slow-release granular fertilizer, mix it in liberally when preparing your potting mix.
  • Water generously on hot dry days. Using a peat or coir-based potting mix will ensure good moisture retention.

  • Broccoli needs full sun to grow well, so reserve your best spot. Because it’s “greedy”, broccoli isn’t one of those plants that will do “okay” if it’s left in shade for a large portion of the day. If your growing space doesn’t receive direct sunlight, opt for something else.
  • Birds may be an issue, with pigeons a prime culprit for nibbled leaves in the city. Covering with some netting will keep your precious plants safe from these feathered pests.
  • If you’ve decided to overwinter your plants, stake them to prevent the wind from blowing them over. If stems become loose, firm up the potting mix around the base of the plant.

Harvesting

  • A broccoli head is a tightly-packed cluster of closed flower buds (florets). It’s time to harvest when the head is well-formed – as you would expect to find it in a supermarket – but before the florets have a chance to open.

A broccoli head is a tightly-packed cluster of unopened flower buds.

  • You can treat broccoli as a come-and-cut-again crop. After you have harvested the main head, smaller sprouts will start to appear until winter starts to set in. Don’t snip off all of the side-shoots at once. Let them grow to “maturity” (i.e. form fully) before harvesting. As with the main head, don’t let them flower!
  • You can also parsimoniously harvest leaves. Never take more than a third and allow the plant to replenish itself before picking again.

Storage & Eating

  • Straight out of the ground (or off the stem), fresh broccoli doesn’t have a long shelf-life and will need to be eaten within a few days.
  • If you want to freeze your broccoli heads, parboil in salted water for a few minutes before putting them in the freezer.
  • Please, please, please don’t throw away the stem. It’s tasty and jam-packed with nutrients.

Pests and problems

Broccoli can be prone to pests. Growing in pots will usually overcome the issue of soil-borne pests. City environments also tend to be unwelcoming for insects. That said, brassicas are a favourite of uninvited dinner-guests and you should watch out for the following:

  • Cabbage worms/caterpillars – There are a number of caterpillars that love the scrumptious taste of brassicas. Holes in leaves are the obvious sign. Prevention is a matter of checking the undersides of leaves and removing any eggs, which are usually white or yellow. If you find any caterpillars, pick them off. You can buy nematode-based insecticides (nematodes are microscopic threadworms that will get inside the caterpillars and kill them).

Caterpillar eggs are either white or yellow.

  • Mealy cabbage aphids – Blackish/grey aphids that look as though they’re covered with a white powder can amass on the undersides of leaves. They’re of particular concern in the early stages of a plant’s life. Pull off affected leaves.
  • (Cabbage) Whitefly – These white, winged insects feed on the phloem (living tissue) of the leaves and cause mould on feeding sites. Little colonies occupy the undersides of leaves. They’ll rarely cause significant damage and can be tolerated. Scrape off colonies if you see them.

  • Pigeons – Pigeons can be annoying pests, especially if you’re growing in the city. The droppings also have to be thoroughly removed when cooking. A good bird scarer will often keep the birds away. Netting is a foolproof counter-measure if you can be bothered to set it up.

Good broccoli varieties for pots

Good varieties for US growers include:

  • Nine Star Perennial – As long as you don’t let the florets open, you’ll get yields year after year. It looks a bit like a mix between cauliflower and broccoli (remember that broccoli and cauliflower are both descendants of wild cabbage).
  • Sun King Hybrid – A compact variety which will only grow to 35cm (14 in.) in height. Plants have pleasing blue-purple heads. Two and a half months to harvest.
  • Waltham 29 – A larger variety (though not as big as some) that will grow to around 65cm (25in.) in a pot. It’s very resistant to the cold, so is a good candidate for overwintering. It produces lots of side-shoots.

Good varieties for UK growers include:

  • Nine Star Perennial – See above.
  • Belstar – A compact F1 hybrid that, with a spread and height of no more than 45cm (17 in.), is ideal for container growers.
  • Ironman – Another relatively compact variety that’s quick-cropping and has good resistance to bolting.
  • Romanesco – This odd looking plant, called Romanesco Broccoli, is worth considering. It’s compact, with a spread of around 40cm (16 in.) and tastes midway between cauliflower and broccoli.

More Resources

  • I’m a big fan of steamed broccoli with garlic and rice (I ate it a lot in Asia). It’s a simple but very nutritious and tasty dish. Here’s a recipe to check out.
  • A wonderful article on Nine Star Perennial Broccoli by Alys Fowler (all her articles are wonderful).

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Have you tried growing broccoli in containers? Leave a comment below and let me know how it went!

Image credits: Gail Langellotto, mcav0y, woodleywonderworks, Coyau.

Learn About Growing Broccoli in Containers

Broccoli can grow well in a container or pot. You can grow a single broccoli plant in one five-gallon container or two or three plants in a 15-gallon container. Since the plant prefers cooler weather, it’s best to plant broccoli in containers in either the spring or fall, when temperatures won’t be above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant your broccoli too late and you might not get a harvest. Broccoli needs full sun, well-drained, fertile soil and plenty of water to thrive in a container.

Choosing Containers

You want to look for containers that meet two requirements. The containers need to be big enough for the broccoli plant and they need to have a drainage hole or holes in the bottom, so that your plants’ roots don’t rot.

Photo by nociveglia licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Container Size

How large your container is depends on the number of broccoli plants you want to grow. To grow a single plant, you’ll need a container that can hold at least 5 gallons of soil, according to Bonnie Plants.

If you plan on growing several plants in a single container, you’ll want to pick a bigger pot. To grow three plants for example, you’ll want a 15-gallon pot.

The width of the container is also an important thing to look at. Broccoli plants can have a spread of up to three feet across, according to Cornell University’s Growing Guide. To keep your plant from being too top heavy and potentially tipping over its pot, you’ll want to choose a container that’s at least 18 inches, if not 24 inches, in diameter.

Dealing with Drainage

Although plants need water to thrive, too much water trapped around the roots can cause them to rot. No matter how many broccoli plants you’re growing in a container, it’s essential that the container have an opening to let the excess water drain away.

The easiest way to make sure the container drains well is to choose a pot that already has a built-in drainage hole. You can also drill or nail a hole in the pot to improve drainage, if you can’t find a container you like with a hole in it.

If you’re going to make your own drainage hole, try to choose a pot that is made from a material that is easy to drill or push a nail through. For example, it is relatively easy to drill a hole into a wooden container or to create a hole using a nail in a plastic container.

Choosing A Location

Where you put the container will determine how much sun your broccoli plant gets. How much sun the plants receive determines when they reach maturity and are ready to harvest.

Broccoli plants can tolerate some shade, but for best results and the speediest harvest, you’ll want to pick a spot on your patio or in your yard that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Planting the Broccoli

You can grow broccoli in containers from either transplants or seeds. You can direct sow the seeds in the container or start them in small cells, indoors, then move the seedlings to the container later on. In a video created for Burpee Gardens, gardener Chelsea Fields shows you how to move your broccoli seedlings from the starter cells to the actual container. Check it out:

Soil Requirements

Since you’re growing your broccoli in containers, it’s essential that you use soil designed for use in containers. Look for a container soil or potting mix to use. A potting mix designed for growing vegetables is ideal, as it will have the added nutrients broccoli needs.

Container mixes are also designed to be light and to drain easily. If you use garden soil in a pot, it’s likely to clump together when wet and to choke the plant’s roots. Garden soil can also contain bacteria and weed seeds, which can harm your broccoli plants.

If you aren’t sure how fortified or nutritious the container soil you’re using is, you can boost its nutrition by mixing in a handful or two of compost when you plant the broccoli seeds or seedlings.

Broccoli is a cool weather crop that does best when temperatures are lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. For that reason, it’s often grown in the early spring and in the fall.

If you are growing broccoli for a fall harvest, Rodale Organic Life recommends direct sowing the seeds in the container no earlier than 100 days before your area’s first frost day and no later than 85 days before the first frost date.

In the springtime, it is safe to direct sow or to transplant your broccoli seedlings outside three weeks before the last frost date for your area, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Varieties for Growing in Containers

Some varieties of broccoli might be better suited for container life than others. Texas A&M Agrilife recommends Packman and Bonanza varieties, for example. The University of Maine also suggests Arcadia for growing in a container.

What the three varieties have in common is that they are all hybrids and they are all known for producing a number of side shoots, after they produce the main broccoli head. Plants that produce a number of side shoots, or smaller broccoli heads, have a longer harvest season. You can enjoy a higher yield without having to plant a lot of plants.

Feeding and Watering the Broccoli

As long as you use a nutritious container soil or mix in a bit of compost before you plant your broccoli, you most likely won’t have to fertilize the plant while it grows. What you will need to do is make sure it gets enough water. If the plant doesn’t get enough water, its stems will be tough, according to Rodale Organic Life.

Water the broccoli regularly and don’t let the soil in the container dry out between waterings. You can put a layer of mulch on top of the soil in the container to help to moisture in and to help keep the soil cool when the temperature starts to warm up.

With the right conditions, you can expect your broccoli plants to be ready to harvest anywhere from 45 to 60 days after you plant them. Once you cut off the main head, the plant isn’t necessarily done. Many varieties produce side shoots that will keep you in broccoli for weeks to come.

Growing Broccoli in Containers | 10 Tips You MUST Know

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The allure of container gardening has become a whimsical curiosity for many new gardeners. Growing Broccoli in a Container surprises many people when they hear about this possibility.

Growing broccoli in a container is certainly a welcoming delight that many beginners and even experienced gardeners did not know was even possible.

Broccoli is one of those vegetables that always tastes and looks better grown fresh in a raised garden or pot. You will learn 10 tips on the best ways, methods, and techniques on how to grow broccoli in a container.

We tried to cram as much broccoli growing information in these tips as possible without getting too technical.

We do have a much more detailed post about growing broccoli which can be found here.

1- Reasons to Grow Broccoli in Containers

Because you like Broccoli. Is that reason enough to start growing broccoli in containers?

This tip is here to just compel you to just shake off any reservations you may have about container gardening.

You might also be asking the following questions about growing broccoli in a container.

  • Can Broccoli be grown in a container?
  • Can Broccoli be grown in a small area on my patio?
  • I don’t have enough space, so where can I grow broccoli?

Growing Broccoli in a container or most other vegetables has many advantages than growing in a garden bed.

You don’t have to feel like growing broccoli will be difficult because it is fairly simple and easy to do.

Here are some of the 3 of the BEST reasons to grow broccoli in a container

  1. Ability to start indoors – You can start your broccoli seedlings indoors much earlier.You can either plant directly in your container if it is not too big to move or in seedling flats to get it started.
  2. Less Maintenance – You might be busy, so you may not have time to pick weeds or drag your hose down to a raised bed.Growing broccoli in a container will make these task much easier
  3. Small Spaces – You can place your container of broccoli pretty much anywhere that you get enough sunlight. This flexibility is perfect for those who don’t have large spaces or live in an apartment.

2- Best types of Broccoli to Grow in a container

Just think of broccoli as a flower that hasn’t bloomed. You plant the seed or transplant the seedling into your container and you are to the races with growing broccoli.

Most broccoli plants are pretty compact. Some types of broccoli can grow to be pretty massive.

You want to really size up the area that you will plant this in to get an idea of how much space you will need.

This will also give you an idea of the size of the container that you can plant in. More on that in tip #4.

In reality, you can grow pretty much any variety of broccoli in a container.

For intensive purposes, we will stick with a 3-5 gallon pot as that is the minimum size you want to get a good size broccoli plant.

The best type would be to stick with a smaller compact variety that will easily form a head. Growing these types of broccoli will enable you to have a better chance of the broccoli head forming.

  • Waltham 29 Broccoli – This is by far the best variety of broccoli to grow in a container. It is a staple in our container gardens. Check out the seeds below for a good choice for this type.
  • Broccoli Raab – This is actually a rabe style fo broccoli. Raab style is broccoli without the heads you will see in the markets. It has the flavor of broccoli and pairs well with many dishes. It is very easy to grow this type of broccoli in a container. Check out the seeds below for a flavorful broccoli raab type.
Image Title Price Prime Buy
Broccoli Rabe Seeds (CERTIFIED USDA ORGANIC) by Stonysoil Seed Company PrimeEligible Buy on Amazon
David’s Garden Seeds Broccoli Waltham 29 SL0338 (Green) 100 Non-GMO, Heirloom Seeds PrimeEligible Buy on Amazon

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

You might want to avoid planting the really large broccoli types such as Goliath or the Romanesco varieties if you are just getting started. Those types of broccoli require more maintenance and care than the smaller compact and raab types.

3- Best time to Grow Broccoli in a container

The most ideal times for growing broccoli in a container are usually during the spring, fall and even winter times. You can grow it indoors too, but we will stick with a container you place outdoors.

The best time to grow broccoli is definitely in the fall time. You might have some pests to deal with, but this is mostly taken care of once the cooler weather descends in your area.

We have also had much success growing during the wintertime. We even get some periodic snow and just cover the plants up with some plastic. you could go more elaborate and use a grow tunnel if you get more snow than we do in NC.

We rarely have to do much care during this period and have some broccoli florets ready in March.

Broccoli prefers cooler weather, so don’t try to grow it during the summertime. You will get a plant that will flower very quickly once it starts to form. The flavor will also be compromised since the broccoli plant will direct most of its energy to flower instead of the growth.

4- Ideal Size for a Broccoli Container

Go as large of a container as you can afford. Containers can get pretty expensive and there are so many options out to choose from. The most ideal and minimum size container that you want is probably about 3-5 gallon size.

Maybe something like this pack of 5-gallon pots found here would be ideal. This container is sturdy enough but doesn’t break the bank.

The larger varieties like Goliath Broccoli require a bigger container because the plant will suck up all the nutrients in your container as it gets larger. The more soil you have filled with compost and slow-release fertilizer, the better off you are.

Another garden hack is to go down to our local nursery and ask if they have any containers they want to get rid of. You can get these containers for free as they don’t know what to do with them all sometimes. The only drawback is they may not last for years like the ones you buy, but free is free.

5- Broccoli Needs How Much Room to Grow

Not sure if you have ever seen how big one broccoli plant will grow. Some of the broccoli plants will grow as large as 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The broccoli leaves will extend out far and wide for some of the larger types.

Keep this mind when planning the placement of your container of broccoli. You can get away with tucking it on a patio against a wall if it has plenty of sunlight. Broccoli will adapt to grow where it is placed.

6- Give it Time to Grow Broccoli

Your container full of broccoli will need some time before you can harvest it. The actual time it will take will depend on many factors. Generally, it will take about 12-16 weeks for you to be able to pick broccoli from your container.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind if you want to grow :

  • Sunlight – Broccoli needs a good amount of sunlight at least 6 hours. The less amount of sunlight the broccoli receives, the longer it will take to grow
  • Plant Food – Broccoli plants need a high amount of NPK. You can only pack in so much food in a container in the form of slow-release fertilizers, so you may also need to supplement with regular feedings to promote good growth. Check out our guide on fertilizers here if you want more info.

7- Best Time to Harvest Broccoli

Broccoli will need to be harvested before it starts to flower. You don’t want to pick the broccoli buds once they start to flower as the flavor of them will definitely change. Keep these tips in mind to help you remember when you do some surgery on your container broccoli plants.

  • Formation of yellow buds – You want to harvest the broccoli once you notice a slight yellow form on the bud. Don’t delay harvesting the broccoli once you spot this.
  • Side Shoot Bonus – You might want to cut the broccoli plant off at the main stem. More broccoli shoots will grow out of this and you will get an extra small batch of broccoli florets

8- Broccoli Drinking Needs

Growing broccoli in a container will require you to monitor the water supply just a bit more than if in a garden bed. The good thing is that it is typically cooler out since broccoli is best grown during these times of the year.

Keep these tips in mind to help you keep your broccoli watering needs in check:

  • Container Soil Mix– Good practice is to start with what the broccoli soil mix will compose of. It usually consists of peat moss, vermiculite (perlite), and compost. The vermiculite will help hold the water content of the container. This will mean less watering.
  • Moisture levels – Broccoli needs about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. You don’t want the soil too wet though, so avoid overwatering the broccoli. Make sure you have adequate drain holes in your container.
  • Mulch – You may think of mulching your garden beds, but it also helps in your container. Add a good amount of mulch to the top of your broccoli container to help retain the moisture levels.

9- Growing Broccoli Problems

Growing container vegetables will come will some problems that you must solve to help them grow.

Broccoli doesn’t get a pass with this. Fortunately, most cooler vegetables have fewer problems than the ones grown in the summer.

Here are some of the most common problems or pest to deal with:

  • Flea Beetles – Broccoli is a Brassica plant and these little menaces will feast on your plant if you let them. Most of the time, it will be harmless. Look for mini dotted holes on your leaves.
  • Aphids– You all and love these pesky little green workers. These guys will suck the life out of the broccoli plant. Most of the time you can hose the plants off with water to get rid of them
  • Black Rot– Most of the time this container broccoli problem forms at the beginning of spring because the weather is always cold and wet.The outer leaves of the broccoli will typically have this problem.It is mostly harmless until you notice it on the main stem of the broccoli plant. You may never see this issue if you plant later in the summer and fall timeframe as it is typically warmer.

Honestly, the other problem you may encounter is that you don’t actually form broccoli heads.

This is usually because you didn’t water or feed it properly. It may not have enough sunlight as well.

Make sure you do your best to provide your broccoli plants with the attention they need.

10- Storage of your Container Broccoli

You did it. Crushing it by growing some broccoli in your container following these tips.

You might have so much broccoli than you could possibly eat in 1 week. Don’t let it go to waste.

Follow these tips to help prolong your bounty of broccoli heads:

  • Fridge Guide– Broccoli only lasts 1-2 weeks if kept in your refrigerator. It is best to put your broccoli in a ziplock bag and use fairly quickly.You may notice that some of the florets will start to turn black the longer you keep it.
  • Freeze those Suckers – This is the best way to store broccoli and is a Green thumb preferred method to storing broccoli. Cut the florets up in small pieces and stick on a tray to freeze.Once the florets have frozen place the florets in a sealed bag and put back in the freezer. This extra step prevents the florets from clumping.

Keeping your broccoli covered and in the crisp drawer will help keep it stable. You may get some slight wilting on the florets. This can actually cut these off if you don’t want to waste your broccoli.

This enables you to quickly parboil the rest to get a few extra days out of it.

Check out these tips here if you want a few tips to make broccoli last.

More info

There you have it. 10 simple tips to help you grow broccoli in a container. Container gardening is really about making things simple and easy to do.

Don’t overcomplicate any of the processes that you find.

Growing Broccoli in a container is so rewarding because you will discover how simple it is. Start with 1 broccoli plant and then grow 2 or 3 the next time.

Don’t worry if you don’t start from seed.

Using the starter plants that you find at the local nursery is fine.

The best thing you can do is to just get out there and get your hands dirty. Playing in the dirt is the best way to learn.

You will make mistakes and that is ok. Experiment with all the techniques you learn to see what best fits your style.

Related Questions

  • Can you grow broccoli in a 5-gallon bucket? – Absolutely, a 5-gallon bucket is an ideal size to grow broccoli in a container.
  • How many heads of broccoli do you get from one plant? – You will get at least one head per plant. You may also cut off the main head and side shoots will form, so this may increase your yield.

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Need Information About Planting Broccoli?

When planting broccoli in your garden, it’s best to transplant seedlings that are a few inches tall. If you try to grow broccoli by sowing the seeds directly into your garden, the plants will have far less chance of growing large enough to produce decent sized heads.

You can either grow the seedlings yourself indoors or you can purchase seedlings at your local garden center. If you intend to grow a large broccoli crop, it will be far cheaper to buy the seeds and grow the seedlings yourself. You can buy a seed packet with 100 seeds for about $2. Small seedlings can be purchased at most garden centers for around $1 each, depending on where you live.

Broccoli plants do well when temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F. Cooler weather will force the plant to form heads too soon, making for mealy tasting broccoli. If the temperatures are too warm, the broccoli will flower too soon, leading to poorly formed heads. When planting broccoli in the spring, the key is to transplant the seedlings at the low end of the temperature range (65 degrees F) and harvest them before temperatures exceed the high end of the range (80 degrees F). If you want a fall crop, it’s just the opposite. You want to transplant the seedlings in the high range of ideal temperatures (80 degrees F) and harvest them before temperatures go below the low range (65 degrees F).

To grow the seedlings yourself, plant the seeds in flats or small containers about a month before the last expected spring frost in your area. If you want a fall broccoli crop, plant the seeds about 3 months before the first expected hard frost in the fall. If you don’t have any flats, small disposable cups with holes poked in the bottom work well as starter containers. When planting broccoli seeds, simply fill the flats or containers with a good quality topsoil or potting soil, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top. Put two seeds in each container. Add more soil on top of the seeds and water them in well. Place the containers inside in a spot that gets as much sun as possible. Water the seeds every other day to keep the soil moist but not water- logged.

When the seedlings emerge and are about an inch tall, you can thin them to one seedling per section or container. Carefully remove one seedling from each container by pinching it off at the base of the stem.. It’s usually best to keep the thickest seedling, not necessarily the tallest one.

In about a month, the seedlings should be a couple of inches tall and ready to be transplanted into your garden or larger, permanent container.

Before planting broccoli seedlings, make sure the soil in your garden is tilled to a depth of 6-8 inches. You should also be sure to choose a location that gets lots of sun – at least 6-8 hours a day. Even though it is a cooler season crop, broccoli still needs lots of sun to produce large, tightly formed heads. Broccoli thrives in loose, nutrient-rich soil that drains well. If the soil in your garden is more dense, you can mix in a layer of compost before tilling. This will add nutrients to the soil and also help with any drainage problems.

Your broccoli plants should be spaced 2 feet apart. If planting multiple rows, space the rows 2 feet apart as well. This will give you enough room to walk through your broccoli patch without damaging the plants. It will also allow each plant enough room to grow successfully without competing with other plants for nutrients and water.

When planting broccoli seedlings, use a trowel or your hands and dig a small hole slightly bigger than the size of the container that your broccoli seedling is growing in. Carefully remove the broccoli seedling from the container, trying not to damage the root system. Keep as much soil attached to the roots as possible. Place the seedling in the hole you dug so that the top of the root ball is slightly lower than the surface of the soil. Back fill any remaining empty spaces and the top of the root ball with loose soil and tamp it down lightly. After transplanting the broccoli seedlings, water them in well.

If you want to grow broccoli in containers, choose a container that’s at least 18 inches across and 10 inches deep. Make sure that your containers have adequate holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill the containers will good quality potting soil or topsoil. Using the same methods as described above, transplant your broccoli seedling into the container and water it in well. Make sure to place the container in a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of daily direct sunlight.

When the seedlings reach 6 inches tall, you can apply a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and help prevent weeds. Grass clippings, chopped up leaves and straw all work well as mulch. This organic matter can be tilled under at the end of the growing season to add nutrients to your soil.

Now that you’ve learned about planting broccoli, it’s time to water and fertilize your crop.

Container Growing Broccoli: Tips On Growing Broccoli In Pots

Container growing is a great way to get fresh vegetables even if your soil is poor in quality or downright nonexistent. Broccoli is very well suited to container life and is a cool weather crop that you can plant in late summer or autumn and still get to eat. Keep reading to learn how to grow broccoli in containers.

Can You Grow Broccoli in Pots?

Broccoli is perfectly happy to be grown in pots. It does get a very wide spread, however, so plant only one per 5-gallon container. You can fit two to three plants in a 15-gallon container.

If you’re planting in autumn, start your seeds about one month before the first average frost. Either plant them directly in your container or start them indoors – broccoli seeds germinate at 75-80 F. (23-27 C.) and may not sprout outdoors if temperatures are still too high. If you’ve started them indoors, harden off your seedlings by setting them outside a few hours per day for two weeks before moving them outside permanently.

Even after germination, growing broccoli in pots requires paying attention to temperature. Containers, especially black ones, can heat up a lot in the sun, and you don’t want your broccoli container to go past 80 F. (27 C.). Avoid black containers, if at all possible, and try to position your plants so the broccoli is in partial shade and the container is in full shade.

How to Grow Broccoli in Containers

Broccoli container care is a little intensive as vegetables go. Feed your plants frequently with nitrogen-rich fertilizer and water them regularly.

Pests can be a problem, such as:

  • Cutworms
  • Cabbage worms
  • Aphids
  • Armyworms

If you’re planting more than one container growing broccoli, space them 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 m) apart to prevent complete infestation. Cutworms can be deterred by wrapping the flower head in a cone of wax paper.

How to Grow Broccoli

Broccoli grows best in cool spring and fall temperatures. It is one of the cole crops, the family of Brassica oleracea that includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.

Warm climates may get three harvests of broccoli by planting fast-maturing types in spring, fall, and winter.

In regions with spring and fall frosts, time the plantings so you put broccoli plants in the ground in early spring and early fall. Some varieties have been bred for heat tolerance and grow through the summer, but most grow best when temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F.

If you plant too early in the spring and broccoli plants are exposed to 30-degree nights and 50-degree days, the broccoli may think it’s about to die and start prematurely producing tiny florets. This condition is called buttoning, which sounds cute, but the plants never produce larger heads.

Don’t be surprised if your broccoli heads don’t reach the same large size as the ones you buy in the supermarket. Because you’re picking the heads fresh and small, the broccoli should be very tender.

How to Plant Broccoli

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You can grow broccoli from seed by starting it inside about four or five weeks before your last expected spring frost. Check with your local Extension Service office for the date for your region. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep in a seed-starting mix. Keep the mix evenly moist and growing in bright light.

Broccoli is easier to grow from transplant seedlings. Whether they’ve been grown in your house or inside a greenhouse (find them at garden centers), broccoli seedlings need to be hardened off by gradually exposing them to longer periods of sunlight over several days. Start by bringing the seedlings outside to a shady spot for 30 minutes, and slowly increase the amount of exposure outside over a week or two. Don’t immediately put them in direct sun or they’ll burn.

You can direct-sow seeds 1/2 inch deep into the ground as soon as you can work the soil and are sure the temperatures won’t be too cold for growing.

At planting time, add compost to the soil or scratch in a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) according to label directions.

Space broccoli seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart. Place them in well-drained soil that receives at least eight hours of sun per day. If you live in a warm climate, consider spring-planting broccoli in partial shade to keep the broccoli from bolting, or going to seed when it gets warmer.

Broccoli plants need 1 to 1-1/2 inches of moisture each week. If you water, it’s better to water deeply less frequently. Light, frequent watering can lead to roots clustered near the soil’s surface, and broccoli’s root system is already very shallow. Too little water can result in tough stems.

A 1- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the plants helps conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Try several types of broccoli, and make note of how they taste. Some people believe the flavor is sweetest in the fall after a light frost.

Harvesting Broccoli

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Broccoli is ready to pick when the tops are dark green and full. Use a sharp knife to cut it straight across the stem. If you cut off the first large flower head that develops but leave the rest of the plant to grow, new side florets will grow. They’ll be smaller but still taste delicious.

If you wait too long to harvest broccoli, each individual green bud turns into a small yellow flower that forms seeds if left to grow.

Broccoli tastes great raw or cooked. Find recipes here.

  • By Deb Wiley

If you don’t like broccoli… well, firstly, why are you reading this? Secondly, you may have problems with your so-called “brussels sprout gene”; thirdly, you may simply be a big baby who needs to snap out of it; and fourthly, you should take it up with the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Except you can’t, because he died more than 200 years ago.

Scheemakers, who’s otherwise best known for Shakespeare’s monument in Westminster Abbey, is said to have introduced broccoli to Britain in the middle of the 18th century. A relative of cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale, this brassica is believed to have been cultivated around the Mediterranean since the sixth century BC. So why did it take so long to reach here? Perhaps we just didn’t fancy the idea of eating flowers.

Anyway. There’s still time to plant a crop for this year. The complicated way involves raising seedlings in modules, then moving them to their final positions; otherwise simply sow the seeds where you want the plants to mature, about 30-40cm apart, between early spring and early summer. To prevent gaps in your planting, sow seeds in groups of three, then thin to one once they emerge.

Alkaline soil is better than acid, which increases the risk of clubroot, an infection that leads to stunted growth; for advice on how to measure and modify your soil’s pH, go to rhs.org.uk/advice. Aiming for a figure between pH6.5 and 7.

Cover young plants with fleece to protect them from flea beetle and other pests, water well during dry spells, and check the underside of leaves for the pale yellow eggs of cabbage white butterflies. The caterpillars are voracious.

Most varieties of broccoli (often known as calabrese) can be harvested within four months; slice off the central head, leave the plant in the ground, and little side shoots will give you a second crop.

For the smaller, more tender shoots of purple or white sprouting broccoli, you may have to prepare yourself for a wait: most need a period of vernalisation (exposure to cold), so they won’t start cropping until late winter or spring. But a number of hybrids will give you something similar a lot more quickly. Bordeaux, for example, is a cross between calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli. Sown 60cm apart between February and June, it can be ready within four or five months.

Phil Daoust is a food writer based in England and France. Twitter: @philxdaoust

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