Can you grow broccoli from seed? Yes. In fact, most gardeners start their broccoli plants from seeds. Especially in cooler climates, many home gardeners start their seeds indoors, so the seedlings are ready to plant as soon as the ground thaws—or summer temperatures start to drop—as broccoli is a cool weather crop. But direct sowing seeds or planting garden center plants work, too. Broccoli is very easy to grow—and well worth it!
Seed Planting Process
Broccoli is a cool-season crop, so you’ll want to plant seeds in late winter or early spring for summer harvesting, or in mid- to late-summer for a fall crop. These are general guidelines—some broccoli varieties can be planted in the fall and winter over for a late spring harvest. Whatever you choose, keep in mind the goal is to avoid the broccoli reaching full maturity during the height of summer temperatures.
To sow your seeds directly in the garden in spring for summer harvest, plant as soon as the ground can be worked or two to three weeks before the last frost date. The soil should measure at least 40 degrees F, but higher temperatures will encourage faster germination. For fall harvest, sow seeds outdoors 85 to 100 days before the first fall frost, when soil and ambient temperatures are high. Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep and 3 inches apart. Once seedlings reach a height of 2 to 3 inches, thin them so that plants are 12 to 20 inches apart.
To get a jump on the spring planting season, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Put the seeds about a half inch deep into the potting soil, moisten it a bit, and then cover the top with plastic wrap. This is a good situation to use a seed starter tray with a plastic lid.
Put the seeded soil in a warm location until the seeds germinate. You could put it on top of your fridge, or you could use a heating mat designed to help seeds along. You don’t need a lot of light at this point, but don’t let the soil dry out. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
Once the seeds germinate, they’ll need light. So put them in a sunny spot or get out your grow lights. Once you have seedlings with several sets of leaves, harden them off by placing them outdoors in a sheltered spot (such as a porch), every day for a few days. Then you can transplant them to the garden.
You can get seedlings from the garden center and skip the whole germination process; transplant them right into the garden when you get home. If you can’t plant them right away, keep the soil moist and give the broccoli plants plenty of light in the meantime—but try to get them into the ground within a few days.
Growing Broccoli from Cuttings
If you already have a broccoli plant and you’d like to have more, you can propagate a new plant from a cutting. This is an economical way to get more plants! Simply cut off a stalk as you usually would and place it in a container of water without submerging the head. Put the cutting and container in a sunny place such as a kitchen window and mist the top of the stalk occasionally. Soon, roots and leaves will develop, at which time you can transplant to a pot or the garden.
Have you tried growing broccoli from seeds, seedlings, or cuttings? Which method do you prefer—and why? Please share your experiences with us.