Broccoli is a hardy, annual vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. This cole crop is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts, and grows best during the fall.
Broccoli is widely cultivated and consumed everywhere, thanks to its nutritional content. This vegetable is incredibly good for you, being rich in iron, fiber, vitamins, folic acid, and potassium.
However, growing its nutrient-dense crowns requires your patience, as they take longer to mature than the leafy greens. The plants can also be a bit fussy when it comes to their growing conditions – they prefer a cooler climate and rich, moist soil to grow successfully.
As you might imagine, it is very helpful as a gardener to have a proper understanding of the broccoli plant’s different growing stages. With this knowledge, you can tend to the varying needs of your plants at each stage and successfully harvest its florets within a few months.
How long does it take broccoli to grow?
Broccoli is an annual vegetable that thrives in hardiness zones three to 10. Depending on the season and crop variety, these plants generally take 80 to 100 days before they are ready to harvest.
If you plant the seeds during the spring, it is best to choose a variety with a shorter growth cycle so that you can start the harvest 50 to 60 days after transplant. If grown during mid-summer, you should have the green buds ready to harvest between day 60 to day 85.
Four broccoli plant growing stages
Broccoli might seem an intimidating vegetable to grow at home, especially since it needs ample time and space in your garden. But the reality is that this is a relatively easy-to-grow vegetable, provided you understand the growing process. You also need to know the plant’s basic requirements when it comes to soil, temperature, watering, fertilizer, and sunlight.
Broccoli goes through four different stages of growth – seed germination, seedling stage, vegetative stage, and flowering stage. So, before you plant this cool-season crop in your backyard, make sure you understand this cycle in order to successfully grow your own farm-to-table vegetables.
The broccoli plant growing stages are as follows:
1. Germination of broccoli seeds
The beginning of the broccoli plant’s growth, from a seed into a seedling, is called germination. At this stage, your broccoli seeds will need sufficient nutrients, water, oxygen, and temperature in order to sprout.
During this developmental stage, plant your broccoli seeds indoors, in a seed-starting tray, about eight weeks prior to the date of the final frost. Make sure your precious seeds are kept at 75 degrees Fahrenheit until they begin to sprout. The soil mix must be moist at all times to ensure successful germination.
2. Sprouting of broccoli seedlings
Your broccoli seeds will begin to sprout within ten days. At this point, you should move the seedlings to a cooler environment and maintain the growing temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the seedlings indoors until they are about four weeks old.
Your plants should have grown about four or five mature leaves and some roots before you transplant them to garden soil or to a bigger container. The seedlings should be planted 12 to 20 inches apart in a row, with a space of three feet in between the rows.
Remember to keep the soil slightly moist but not waterlogged to encourage new growth. You may also feed your seedlings with a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer to give them a boost.
Keep in mind that, to succeed at this stage, the seedlings must be grown in a cool and moist medium or garden soil. Adding mulch over the soil can help to maintain the soil’s temperature and protect it from heat.
You should also keep an eye out for cabbage worms, as these pests can severely damage your broccoli plants. Row covers should do the trick to protect your seedlings from any pest infestation.
3. The vegetative phase
During the vegetative stage, your broccoli seedlings should start expanding and growing more stems, roots, and leaves. The plants are now more established and mature enough to generate their own food source through the process of photosynthesis. Make sure to water them well and provide enough sunlight to encourage proper growth of the heads.
You might be wondering how long it takes for broccoli to form a head. Well, depending on the variety, broccoli should start producing heads about 70 days after the seeds were planted.
Broccoli typically grows between two and three feet tall. Some popular varieties produce a single large head at the center, while the others can have several smaller heads on top of the main stem. This is the end goal for most growers – to produce lovely broccoli heads that can be served up in the kitchen. The broccoli florets are not only a delicious addition to any meal, but also very healthy as they contain high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants.
The best time to harvest broccoli is when the heads have stopped growing in size. The buds should look dense and deep green. Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut the main stem about five to six inches below the head. Do not saw at the stem, otherwise you may damage the plant and possibly ruin your next harvest.
If you see the broccoli buds turning yellow, it means that the florets are beginning to bloom, or bolt. At this point, you should harvest them immediately.
4. Flowering and maturation
Once the growing season is over, the remaining florets will open and bloom into edible, yellow flowers. Just like the broccoli heads, you can enjoy these flowers as well by adding them to your salads. The unharvested flowers will be pollinated and produce seeds which you can later use to plant another batch of vegetables.
This final growing stage starts anywhere between 45 to 65 days from the day you planted the seeds. If you are growing broccoli for the purpose of consuming the florets, make sure to harvest them before they begin to flower. Once the plant flowers and produces seeds, you can no longer harvest the florets. At this point, your broccoli plant has reached the end of its life cycle.
Growing your own broccoli at home can be a rewarding experience. By having these vegetables in your yard, you can harvest and consume them fresher than if you had bought them in a supermarket. You can cook them in many ways as well, as they are delicious and versatile greens.
But, before you get your hands dirty in the garden, keep in mind that understanding the growing stages of broccoli is important to successfully growing it from seed to large, beautiful florets. Hopefully, through this guide, you will have the requisite knowledge on hand to produce your own garden-to-plate vegetables!
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