Growing Broccoli In Containers – The Simple And Easy Way

Growing broccoli in containers will take a while before they are ready to harvest, but you’ll get at least 4 heads in a season. Worth it! So what are you waiting for? Grab your gardening kit, extra-large containers, more fertilizer, and let’s explore container gardening.

What you’ll need

  • Broccoli seeds
  • Seed trays
  • Soilless potting mix
  • Containers
  • Organic soil
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Water

Growing Broccoli In Containers: 10 Painless Steps For A Novice Gardener

Growing broccoli in pots is great because these plants only grow one tall stem. Plus, these vegetables are super hardy and love container life – they are a staple in many container gardens! Don’t worry about making a few mistakes your first time around. Give container gardening a shot. Here are 1o easy steps how to grow broccoli in containers:

10 steps to container broccoli planting graphic

1. Know your Broccoli Plants

Before you can grow broccoli in a container, you’ll need to have the right broccoli plant variety. Telling the varieties of broccoli apart is going to be the hardest Spot the Difference game ever. And yes, there are several kinds of broccoli out there. But let’s stick to the ones that you can harvest fast and for a longer time (1). These vegetables take a while to grow so you want to make the most out of the time you wait. 

Broccoli VarietyWhat it looks likeHow long it takes to harvestWhy plant this kind
Blue WindTight broccoli head with bluish-green leaves49-55 daysHarvest more with the side shoots; leaves are good eating too.
GypsyNicely-domed green heads with medium to small bead size58 daysGrows well even in poor soil, also grows side shoots for more yield.
ArcadiaUniform, small-beaded purplish-green heads63-68 daysCold hardy and pest hardy.
Waltham 29Multiple blue-green heads63-74 daysVery cold tolerant, longer harvesting with many heads and side shoots

Just keep in mind that broccoli generally grows well under cool temperatures. Luckily we’re growing them in containers!

2. Set Up The Cribs

Let’s start by prepping the seedling beds. You can use a seedling tray or old egg cartons. Fill each slot with soilless potting mix. When you grow broccoli in containers, you’ll need to use a well-draining medium. And for seedlings in general you want to make it easy for the roots to grow out. The soilless mix is light and keeps just the right amount of moisture to grow broccoli.

3. Grow The Seedlings

Now that you’ve prepped the seedling tray, time to plant and grow the broccoli seeds. A responsible gardener (like yourself) should make holes up to half an inch deep. Put one seed in each hole and lightly cover it with the potting soil mix. Don’t pack it down too much. Loose soil makes it easier for seeds to sprout.

Spray some water on each plot. Not too much so you don’t drown the seeds. Keep the seedling tray indoors spritzing it every day with water. Seeds germinate between 5-10 days. Keep them in their cribs for 2-3 weeks until they reach the 6-inch mark. 

This is the “You must be this tall to be transplanted” line. Plus they should have between 2-4 true leaves at that point (2). True leaves grow after the initial sprout. They continue to grow and don’t wilt, unlike the baby leaves. You can grow the seeds indoors.

4. Prepare The Big Broc Bed

The seedlings are growing fast and ready for their big kid beds.

First, when growing broccoli, choose the right soil – they prefer slightly acidic pH levels. They’re big plants that need a lot of nutrition. Compost or manure is the best plant food for these plants. Is it okay to use garden soil? Well, you can but you have to make sure that your garden soil is slightly acidic.

Since broccoli grows tall and wide, you will need to give them the right container size too. And you can’t let them share container beds either. A big container per plant should be your only option (3).

Choose a pot at least 12” wide and deep. The soil mix should be 1/3 planting compost and 2/3 potting soil.

When growing broccoli in a container, make sure that it has drain holes. Opt for clay containers whenever possible. Unlike plastic, clay pots actually provide benefits to your plants such as eliminating excess humidity from the soil and protecting them from abrupt changes in temperature (4).

When the containers are ready make two or three-inch deep holes into each container. Take out each seeding, potting mix and all, from the tray. Then move them into their own container, making sure the roots have enough room and aren’t sticking out on the surface.

5. Grow Broccoli In A Container

Transplanting takes its toll on young plants. They’re literally uprooted and placed in a very different place. Like a medical transplant, these broccoli seedlings need to be under critical care for the next week. You’ll be their nurse and doctor so monitor them closely. 

Drooping leaves is normal for the first few days as they adjust. But check to see that they perk up after a while and start to grow again.

tips on growing broccoli

If you’re growing broccoli in a container, you’ll need to place it in full, direct sunlight, but watch that the temperature doesn’t get too warm. These plants grow best in soil that is between 45 and 85 degrees. 

If the soil gets too warm, your broccoli heads can get deformed or start to bolt. Bolting is when the florets prematurely start to flower (5). When this happens, the entire head turns into a bush of flowery stems. There’s no going back from there. You can’t just give it a haircut. That broccoli head is gone.

6. Don’t Forget To Water Them

The best part? Growing broccoli in a container doesn’t need a lot of watering. So no matter how wilted the leaves of your broccoli plants get after transplanting, don’t add too much water. Otherwise, you’ll end up with hollow stems, rotten roots, and watery heads (6).

No more than two inches of water per plant container in a week is good enough to keep the soil moist but not too wet.

7. Give Food Too

Broccoli plants aren’t the thirstiest vegetables, but they sure are nutrient-hungry. They had their first dose of food when you prepared their main containers. But these stocky guys need more. Around the halfway mark, you need to give another fertilizer boost. 

Pour a 2” to 4” layer of organic fertilizer. Homemade compost or well-rotted manure on top of the soil works too. You can also add mulch to the top layer of the broccoli container.

8. Keep The Bugs Away

The heftier the plant, the more the bugs want to get at it. But how do you know which bug is the culprit?

  • Aphids are tiny little bugs that like to stay on the bottom side of the leaves. They make leaves crinkle or curl.
  • If you have holes in your broccoli leaves or heads, you have the case of caterpillars. 
  • Black sooty spots state a fungal problem (7).

How do you protect these green heads that you’re waiting so long to harvest?

Choose an organic insecticide or cover the plants with fabric to keep the bugs at bay.

You will have less of a problem with these little guys in an urban setting with your broccoli plants in their own pots. But, it’s better to prevent than be sorry later. 

9. Harvesting Tips

Here comes the exciting part, harvesting! But how do you know when it’s time?

Your broccoli heads are ready to harvest when they are at least 4 inches across. The broccoli florets are tight, firm, and deep green. If you see yellow flowers, you’re cutting it close (pun intended). Harvest these blooming buds right away!

Harvesting a broccoli plant is easier than it looks. First, check for the main head and then look for the side shoots. 

Make sure you cut a few inches below the head, trite before the side shoots. Take as much stem as possible. You can eat broccoli stems too, you know?

10. Make Your Broccoli Last Longer

You can keep growing broccoli in containers after the first harvest. Leave the rest of the stem planted. A broccoli plant is like a Hydra from Hercules. You cut off the main head and 2 more grow back. These are side shoots. 

It takes another month or so to grow out. But that’s enough time to finish off your initial supply and wait a while before you want to eat some more. 

how to look after planted broccoli

Broccoli stays fresh for up to two weeks in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Or in any place that has high humidity and low temperature.

Commercially, they chill the broccoli down to almost freezing and this lasts on supermarket shelves for almost a month!

For a home setting, the best way to preserve your broccoli grown in a container is to chop it up and freeze it. The fleshy florets don’t get mushy when you’re ready to cook them.

Final Thoughts

Broccoli plants may look weird and intimidating to grow from seeds. But they grow just like any plant or vegetable. They’re even hardier than the leafy greens and you get more out of one plant than others. Container gardening is perfect for this plant and for the inexperienced gardener to experiment with.

So stop buying from the stores and give growing your own broccoli a try. Who knows, your kids might come to love it if they planted it themselves.

FAQs

Broccoli takes between 60 to 90 days to grow in containers. But it will depend on the variety. There are early and mid-season broccoli plants that mature as early as 58 days after transplanting. They usually have smaller heads and a higher tolerance for the cold.

Mid-season broccoli plants mature within 75 days after transplanting into containers. They have bigger heads reaching up to 8 inches in diameter. 

Temperature plays a big role in how fast broccoli grows. At their ideal cool temperatures, they grow faster and bigger. If it gets too hot, the buds can start to flower before the head reaches its optimum size. If you are keeping your broccoli container in your garden, make sure that it is under a shaded area. Move it indoors when the temperature gets too hot.

Yes, broccoli grows back after cutting. Depending on the variety, you can get at least 4 more heads of broccoli from a single plant. 

After cutting the main head, the stems produce side shoots. They usually grow at least two at a time over some weeks. These are smaller than the main head of broccoli plants but just as healthy and tasty. When the season is over, you have to replant for the next season.

You can harvest broccoli up to 3 times in one season. The main head is the first harvest and then smaller side shoots will be the next harvests. 

Growing broccoli, no matter which variety, yields side shoots. But some grow more shoots than others. For example, the Fiesta variety is a mid-season plant that produces limited side shoots. While the Amadeus variety is an early-season broccoli plant that grows a lot of side shoots. 

For broccoli growing in a container, it’s best to choose the varieties where you can get more harvests. Or you can set up a container garden where you have several containers of broccoli plants!

Yes, you can trim your broccoli leaves when they grow more than 6 inches. Trim the oldest leaves first – these are the ones closest to the ground. By doing so, bugs don’t get to them. 

Plus you can eat these leaves. Broccoli is in the same family as kale so the leaves will taste familiar. That’s the great thing about growing broccoli. You can eat almost all the parts throughout the season!

Trimming the leaves reduces pests, tidies up the planting area, and gives you a good meal. Why not do it?

Plant broccoli during cool weather months of February to March (Spring) or August to September (Fall). Growing broccoli is best during these cold months because if it gets too hot, you won’t get as much yield. Broccoli is a cool-weather crop. It can withstand summers but only in the cooler areas up north. Also, consider the last frost date in your area.

For early spring broccoli, start the broccoli seedlings 2-3 weeks before the last frost indoors. This way, you can transplant them outside when the frost goes away in February. 

If you want to enjoy broccoli through the winter, start sowing your seeds in late August. This is just before the first frost date meaning you can harvest just before snow starts falling and the sunny days get shorter.

  1. Broccoli Varieties And Types of Broccoli. Retrieved from: https://www.grow-it-organically.com/broccoli-varieties.html
  2. How To Transplant Broccoli. Retrieved from: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/transplant-broccoli-35781.html
  3. Broccoli. Retrieved from: https://portlandnursery.com/docs/veggies/broccoli.pdf
  4. Choosing A Clay Or Plastic Pot for Plants. Retrieved from: https://portlandnursery.com/docs/veggies/broccoli.pdf
  5. Bolting Broccoli: Growing Broccoli In Hot Weather. Retrieved from: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli/bolting-broccoli-growing-broccoli-in-hot-weather.htm
  6. Best Management Practices For Broccoli. Retrieved from: https://www.seminis-us.com/resources/agronomic-spotlights/best-management-practices-for-broccoli/
  7. Broccoli In The Garden. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/extension_curall/274/
Broccoli

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