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What You Must Know Before You Start Your Broccoli Seeds Indoors

by a Friendly Gardener
Broccoli with leaves

Broccoli is well-known as a powerhouse of nutrition full of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. If you like growing your produce in your home, you might be interested in trying your hand at growing this green vegetable at home.


What Is Broccoli?

Broccoli is an edible green plant from the cabbage family, Brassicaceae, and the genus Brassica. The scientific name of broccoli is Brassica oleracea. It originated in Italy more than two thousand years ago.

The name broccoli is derived from the Italian word “broccolo”. “Broccolo” is singular for “broccoli” and means “the top flowering part of a cabbage”. It has in turn come from “brocco”, which means “sprout” or “small nail”.

It looks like cauliflower despite the two being different vegetables. It has dark-green flower heads arranged close together in a tree-like structure. The branches come out of a thick stalk light green in color. The entire head of flowers is surrounded by leaves.

Broccoli tastes slightly sweet and slightly bitter when raw. It also is crunchy. When cooked, it tastes sweeter. Based on how long it is cooked, it can be tender or crunchy or anything in between the two.

It has been observed that boiling broccoli reduces its nutrient content a little. Alternate ways to cook broccoli without losing nutrients are steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying.

Broccoli is a cultivar group of the Brassica oleracea like many others like cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. Hence, growing patterns for all these crops can be similar, varying mostly in the finer details.


Types of Broccoli

For growing broccoli at home, there are a few varieties that are preferred.


  • Green Comet: Also known as Premium Crop, this is ideal for spring planting.


  • Gypsy: This is a disease-resistant variety that matures quickly.


  • Arcadia: This is a mid-season to late-season variety with big heads. This is a disease-resistant variety as well. It is also tolerant to heat as well as cold temperatures.


  • Belstar: This variety grows in winters that are slightly warm.


  • Nutribud: This is an open-pollinated variety of broccoli.


  • Packman: This variety is a high-yielder and early producer. It also produces massive heads.


  • Small Miracle: This variety can grow in small spaces like containers.


  • Munchkin: Like the previously listed variety, this is also fit to grow in containers and other small spaces.


  • Waltham 29: It is a favored variety for a fall harvest.


  • Purple Sprouting: This variety is well-known for late-fall harvesting and has small purple heads.


When to Plant Broccoli?

Cabbage top turnips vegetables

Broccoli is a cool-season plant and can be harvested during spring and fall. Spring planting should be timed in such a way that the crop can be harvested before the peak of summer. Fall planting should be timed to accommodate the crop maturing in cool fall temperatures.


To plant your broccoli seedlings, you should know when to start broccoli seeds indoors.

Broccoli seeds

  • For a Spring Crop: Find out the last predicted date of frost in your locality for the season. Start your seeds indoors seven to nine weeks before the last frost.


A spring crop has the advantage of faster maturing due to warmer weather.


  • For a Fall Crop: Find out the date for the first predicted frost of fall. You should start your seeds indoors ten to twelve weeks before this date.


How to Plant Broccoli?

You can start your broccoli from seeds if you enjoy the process or plant it from seedlings. Broccoli seeds are viable for about 3 years.

To start your own seeds, you would need the seeds and some paper peats (or any other material you want) to grow your seedlings in.


  • Take the paper peats or biodegradable containers or plastic pots, and poke a couple of holes at the bottom. This ensures proper drainage of the soil.


  • Place the pots on a solid tray so that it can prevent any leakage from the pots from ruining any surface you keep them on.


  • Fill the pots with a high-quality seed starting mix and water it well for the soil to be thoroughly moistened. Wait for 30 minutes so that the soil is completely drained and the top later of the soil is moist.


The soil must not be wet or soggy.


  • Sow the seeds into the pots—½ to ¼ inches deep.


  • Cover the tray with a plastic bag and poke some holes in it for proper air circulation.


  • After sowing, keep the tray containing the pots in a place inside your house that gets direct sunlight like in front of a window or a balcony.


  • If you do not get direct sunlight, you can use a glow stick for your seeds. Keep the light only a few inches above the pot.


  • Your seeds should get about eight hours of direct sunlight. Rotate the tray to make sure the seeds get enough light.


  • Water your pots with a spray bottle every day to make sure the soil does not get too wet and only stays moist.


  • Try to maintain the temperate of the soil to 77 degrees Fahrenheit—the optimum temperature for germination.


  • Keep a watch over your seeds, and you should start seeing the seedlings within five to ten days of sowing the seeds.


  • Keep on this routine till your seedlings grow 2–4 true leaves each.


After each seedling grows about 2–4 true leaves—leaves that grow after the first two leaves—you can transplant them outdoors or continue growing them in containers indoors.

You can transplant them in a bigger container from the small peats, or you could start the seeds in a big container directly.


Where to Plant Broccoli?

Healthy vegetable broccoli in garden

Before you transplant your broccoli babies outdoors, you need to make sure they are strong enough to withstand the outside. For this, hardening your seedlings is a must.

To harden your seedlings, you need to start gradually exposing the seedlings to the outdoors.


  • Start by placing the seedlings outside during the day under direct sunlight for four to five hours. Move them to the shade after that. Bring them indoors at night. Do this for 2–4 days.


  • For the next 5–6 days, place the seedlings in direct sunlight outdoors for about five to seven hours. Remember to bring them inside at night.


  • For the next week, keep the seedlings in the direct sun all day. You should still bring them in at night.


After your seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them into a patch of soil that gets direct sunlight. Although broccoli loves the cold weather, it also loves the sun and needs it to grow well. It can also tolerate partial shade.

Before transplanting, add 3–4 inches of well-aged manure and compost into the planting bed. The soil itself should be friable and moisture-retaining for better drainage and nutrition retention.

Plant the seedlings 20–24 inches apart. If you want to get smaller heads, you can grow them closer to each other. Each row of your crop should be about 35 inches apart.

Immediately after planting, make sure to cover the seedlings with a cloche or a plastic tunnel to protect them from cold weather during the nights. Do this for 2–3 weeks.

You can use a high-quality organic fertilizer at half its strength to provide it with nutrition.

Broccoli vegetable growing

Do not plant in areas where a crop of the cabbage family has been grown previously. Do not plant in an area where other plants will be shading the broccoli from the sun.

You can interplant with beets, carrots, celery, chard, bush beans, cucumbers, peas, and lettuce. You can also plant them with herbs with strong fragrances—rosemary, sage, dull, basil, garlic, mint, and thyme.


How to Deal with Pests and Diseases?

Broccoli is susceptible to pests like cabbage worms, aphids, as well as the larvae of “small white” butterflies.

One way to prevent insect infestations is by interplanting your crop with strong-smelling herbs as their fragrance helps keep the insects away. You can also spray pesticides. Or handpick the pests from the broccoli or hose them with water.

To prevent any diseases like clubroot, black rot, or fungal infection, handle the plant only when it is dry. If you notice one infected plant, uproot and destroy it immediately to prevent the other plants from getting infected.

Try to buy only disease-resistant variants so the risk of your plants dying is less.

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