Starting, Growing and Dealing with Pests of Broccoli

Grow your own broccoli. Seriously - this is an extremely valuable vegetable when it comes to providing a full range of vitamins and minerals (not to mention fibre) to our diets.

This is a healthy plant and it is no wonder that mothers have been saying for years, "Eat your broccoli!"

Early Broccoli Crops

Early crops should be sown indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before you want to plant them outdoors.

The seeds are easily germinated so do not crowd them in the seedling tray. Give them at least a half inch from any other seed.

When the growing broccoli seedling has four true leaves (leaves that develop after the first two seedling leaves) transplant it into a larger container for growing-on.

Full Sun

Full sunlight, a regular feeding at half strength and a temperature of 62F will produce a nice short, thick fast growing broccoli plant for putting into your garden.




The transplants should be put into the garden 18 inches apart and the rows 30-36 inches apart.

If you are concerned with cutworms (small worms that eat the stems below the soil line) you can wrap the stem with a band of waxed paper or heavy paper to stop the worm from getting to the stem.

A bit of lime or wood ash (very tiny bit) scattered around the plant will deter slugs. Alternately, you can use an organic slug bait containing iron around your transplants.

Late Crops

Late growing broccoli crops can be sown directly into the garden from early May until the first week of June in zone 3-5 gardens and as late as July in warmer areas.

Sow the seed as thinly as possible at four to five seeds per foot (remember that this seed germinates quite easily) and then thin out or transplant the resulting seedlings so they are 18 inches apart.

Generally healthy growing broccoli will mature approximately 100 days from the day you sow it.


The major pest of this plant is the green caterpillar of the cabbage moth.

Dust with rotenone or spray regularly with Bt to control this pest. Dropping the harvested heads in salty water will also help to identify the "surprises" you miss.

Chewed up leaves are the primary sign that you have an infestation.

When and How To Harvest

Harvest your growing broccoli when the large central heads are still tight budded. While you can eat them when the buds begin to swell and open, they are much nicer harvested tight.

Do NOT pull up the plant but simply cut off the top head.

When the top head has been cut, side shoots will develop and you'll get a ton of these from each plant.

Harvest side shoots regularly before they start to stretch or the buds open on them. These smaller heads are easy to pick and use fresh in salads and stir fries.

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Drop Into Salt Water For A Minute

This might seem strange but if you drop the heads (either the main head or the secondary florets) into a pot of salty water, you may avoid some of the small green worms (they'll float to the surface) before you freeze or cook the broccoli. Don't be grossed out, it's a fact of life. ;-)

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