Broccoli Essentials

By National Gardening Association Editors


  • Two broccoli crops a year are possible in many areas.
  • Start spring transplants indoors 5 to 7 weeks before the last spring frost date, or buy nursery transplants 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.
  • Plan to seed fall crops 85 to 100 days before the average first fall frost date.
  • Where the weather is warm, select a variety that is bolt resistant.


  • Add 3 to 4 pounds of 5-10-10 or its equivalent per 100 square feet before planting.


  • Set out transplants 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • Set the transplants 6 to 18 inches apart, with 20 to 36 inches between rows, depending on the fertility of the soil.
  • Protect transplants from hard frosts with newspapers, plastic cones, paper bags, or baskets. Provide a windbreak to reduce transplant shock and moisture loss.
  • For fall crops, direct seed the broccoli in the garden. Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep, 2 to 4 seeds per foot of row, leaving at least 20 to 36 inches between rows, depending on soil fertility.


  • Thin direct-seeded seedlings when they are 4 inches tall. In rich soil, thin seedlings to stand 6 to 12 inches apart. Where soil is of average fertility, thin seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • Side-dress each plant 3 weeks after setting out transplants or 5 weeks after sowing from seed with 1 tablespoon of fertilizer high in nitrogen.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common broccoli pests such as flea beetles, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.


  • Harvest for peak quality when the buds of the head are firm and tight. If buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately.

Other articles in this series:
1. The Cole Crop Family
2. Broccoli Essentials ← you're on this article right now
3. Cabbage Essentials
4. Cole Crops and Soil
5. Planning for Cole Crops
6. Fall Cole Crop Bonus
7. Hardening-Off Your Cole Crops
8. Starting Cole Crop Seeds Indoors
9. Brussels Sprout Essentials

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower & Company / Getting Started.

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