How I Plant Broccoli to Produce Large Gorgeous Heads

I've had many gardeners complain to me that they can't get their broccoli to grow decent heads.  In this video, I show how I plant my broccoli to produce large gorgeous heads – including the size of the containers I grow the seedlings in, how deep I put the transplants, how far apart I space them, and how I keep cabbage worms off my plants.

This isn't the only way it can be done, however. It's just what has worked well for me.

I like starting my plants in larger than usual containers (3″ wide by 4″ deep), because it helps to produce large vigorous plants and it keeps the young plants from becoming root bound – which often causes broccoli to fail to form good heads.  But I do know other gardeners that grow good broccoli using smaller containers.

Unfortunately, many nursery-grown broccoli transplants are sold in tiny containers in a severely root bound condition. That's one reason why I prefer to grow my own transplants. I can also choose from a wider number of varieties when I purchase seed instead of seedlings.

I space my broccoli 16-18″ apart (40-45 cm). It's often recommended to plant them just one foot (30 cm) apart, and you can definitely harvest good broccoli with that spacing. But I've learned that I can harvest just about as much broccoli per square foot using wider spacing, and with the wider spacing I only need 40% as many plants. However, I grow a variety that has been bred to produce large heads – Arcadia. It is also a very cold hardy variety that can produce a lot of side shoots.

See: Broccoli Spacing Experiment

As for the cabbage worms, I usually prefer to use row cover or fine netting to keep the butterflies and moths off of my plants. However, you can choose to spray the plants with BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis), an organic pesticide composed of bacteria that only affects caterpillars. Or you can remove the tiny green caterpillars hiding inside the broccoli heads by hand after harvest – which I've done, but it's extremely tedious and time-consuming when you are processing many heads.

I obtain resin-coated fiberglass rods through 7 Springs Farm in Floyd County, Virginia.

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Leave a Reply 8 comments

Deb - May 3, 2015 Reply

I learned from you last year that root bound transplants were not ideal, but in my haste this March, I bought and planted a 6 pack of 8″ tall Packman broccoli from Lowes to plant, as my house started seedlings were only 1-2″ tall with wavy stems. I planted my home starts a few weeks later because they had not grown much in the house under artificial lights. All of them went through the extreme cold spell outside ( covered with pots at night). They sulked for a week or so after transplanting, but in the past 2 weeks my home starts have surpassed the root bound larger Broccoli from Lowes. I will pay attention to which produces best, taking in mind the different varieties that I planted. Thanks so much for your most informative advice which always gives me something interesting to think about Debra!

    Debra - May 3, 2015 Reply

    You’re quite welcome, Deb! Yes, please let us know how your harvests compare. Tiny broccoli heads is a very common complaint that I hear about, and root bound plants is the most common cause.

Judy - May 3, 2015 Reply

Hi Debra,

Thanks for this video. Great info especially about the effect of root bound plants on yield. Where do you purchase resin-coated fiberglass rods, and approx what height did you use for your beds?

thank you!
Judy

    Debra - May 3, 2015 Reply

    I purchased the rods through 7 Springs Farm in Floyd County, Virginia. They are one of the best suppliers of organic gardening supplies that I know. But many gardeners use other products for the hoops, too. Our garden beds are 18″ high, which allow me to continue to do some gardening with my disabilities.

Judy - May 4, 2015 Reply

7 Springs Farm looks like a great resource. I’ve used the wire hoops in the past which is fine for low greens but the ones you use will give a taller cover. Thank you!

Jennifer Martin - June 8, 2015 Reply

This is a great video! My broccoli heads weren’t as big as they should be this year. I look forward to implementing this process next year!

Shonna - September 16, 2016 Reply

Hi! I just found your site while googling info about onions from seeds and then quickly found this one on broccoli. Busy exploring & learning. I’m a zone 6 gardener (NOVA). Of course I have so many questions! I like your resin rods–I’ve been eyeballing the metal hoops from a supply catalogue, but hesitating. Where did you get yours? Also in the background I spotted a cattle panel trellis (I believe?) Had dh driving all over the place as we checked farm stores for these, but only found the heavy duty ones. Again, can you tell me where you were able to find yours? Thanks in advance 🙂

    Debra - September 24, 2016 Reply

    I obtained my resin rods from Seven Springs Farm here in Virginia.

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