Growing broccoli in pots or containers (Detailed Guide)

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Being conducive to the limitations of gardening space, growing fruits, and vegetables in containers at home has become one of the most common and easy ways to grow your own produce! The constraint of space, especially in parts of urban America, has led to the popularity of growing crops in containers and this process has evolved over time, introducing many new and innovative methods. This is a detailed guide on growing broccoli in pots or containers.

growing broccoli in pots
Two broccoli in a plate

Growing your own vegetables at home can add a real zing to your balcony garden or outdoor garden and provide a picturesque visual to your space. This is also a great budget-friendly way to grow your own produce and frankly, never run out! It doesn’t get any fresher than this!

The broccoli belongs to the Brassicaceae family and finds its origin in Italy where it was first grown over 2000 years ago. In America, it is typically grown as an annual plant and has found its rightful place in a vast number of culinary dishes here and around the world.

Can you grow broccoli plants in pots?

This question comes if you are a beginner in gardening, growing broccoli in pots or growing broccoli in containers, is it possible?

Growing broccoli plants in containers or a basket are quite a straightforward process and the plant grows with great comfort and ease. Since the broccoli plant tends to spread wide, it needs enough space to grow and a large container can do the trick! The key is to choose the correct size of a container and then, of course, giving it the right kind of potting soil and climatic conditions.

Growing broccoli plants in pots can be quite an effortless process and can be executed using both the seeds and by transplanting. It is noted that the best way to get quick and effective results while growing broccoli in containers is the transplanting method. The growing season of the broccoli plant can be extended by controlling its environment and providing the right growing requirements.

Growing broccoli in pots

Ready to know how to grow broccoli in pots or containers? Check out the steps below.

Choosing the right container when growing the broccoli plant

There are two simple methods for growing broccoli plants in pots. To determine what container to choose, you must decide on the growth strategy. Are you going to let the broccoli spread naturally? In that case, selecting a container that is at least 12 inches by 12 inches for a single plant would allow its unrestricted growth and provide large harvests. Or are you looking for smaller harvests with larger quantities?

In that case, you can grow multiple plants close to one another. You can add up to 3 plants in an 18-inch container. This would give smaller but more harvests and offer a secondary harvest too.

The containers must be at least 12 inches deep in order to provide ample space for the roots to enjoy unrestricted growth. The color of the container that you choose can play a vital role in the plants growth as well. Choosing a lighter colored container is important, as the darker ones tend to absorb heat and that could cause harm especially during the bright sunny days.

Both plastic and terracotta containers do well except that the soil in the terracotta containers can dry out fast as terracotta is porous by nature. Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom to avoid any water logging which would result in the rotting of the roots.

Sometimes pebbles and gravels are added to the bottom of the container to absorb and pull down the excess water thereby saving the plants roots from waterlogging.

Choosing right soil to grow broccoli plant

growing broccoli in containers
broccoli plant outdoor garden

The broccoli plant is a heavy feeder and hence requires amended soil. An equal amount of compost or well-rotted manure mixed with soil can help provide all the nutrients that the broccoli plant needs for its optimal growth.

When growing broccoli in pots it is important to ensure that the soil being used has not previously had any other species of the Brassicas planted in it as that might contaminate your Broccoli plant and stunt its growth.

The soil can range from neutral to slightly acidic. A light soil that remains aerated and well-drained is ideal to maintain the plant’s health.

The broccoli plant, when given the right growing conditions and good quality soil, can only require to be fertilized once or twice during its entire life cycle. It is highly recommended to go with an all-purpose organic fertilizer that has an extra addition of micro-nutrients such as boron and magnesium.

Temperature and sunlight requirements of the broccoli plant

The broccoli plant thrives in cool temperatures but requires 6 to 8 hours of full and direct sunlight in the day. Unlike other smaller container-grown plants and vegetables, the broccoli can grow in partial shade too.

The plants start to flower in the hotter climates and hence, it is best to grow them in the cooler temperatures of spring and autumn. In locations where the temperatures tend to stay warm even during these seasons, you can protect your plant by applying a layer of organic mulch to the top part of the soil.

This will have a cooling effect on your broccoli plant and protect it from environmental heat. To produce healthy greens, the broccoli plant must get adequate light. Even if your plant is grown indoors, you can ensure that enough artificial light is provided to it.

Watering and fertilization needs of container-grown broccoli plants

Once your broccoli plant has settled in its container, you must ensure it receives plenty of sunlight. Additionally, watering your broccoli regularly and ensuring that the soil remains moist at all times is important. Like most plants, overwatering is not required as water clogging can cause serious damage to the roots which in turn destroys the overall plant.

Since larger containers have better water retention, you can water your plants once every two days. The best way to check whether your plant needs water is to stick your finger 1 inch deep into the soil and look for moisture.

If the soil feels dry, your plant can be given a drink of clean water. Remember, while watering your broccoli plant you must steer clear of the leaves and stems and provide water directly to the soil and roots. This will help keep the plant dry and avoid over humidity while providing the roots with their much-needed nutrients.

When it comes to fertilizers, the broccoli plant does not necessarily require any. As long as the potting mix in the container is nutritious, you need not bother with additives or plant food. However, if you feel the need to do so the right time to fertilize would be a week after a successful transplant, or when your broccoli plants are in their final containers.

Some broccoli farmers feel the need to fertilize their plants once every month until the harvest seasons. This is done when the roots of the plants are restricted in terms of space and cannot find enough nutrients to grow well with just soil. In some cases, overwatering can cause the nutrients of the plant to drain out along with the excess water.

In either case, fertilizer application encourages root production and can give an added impetus to the formation of the broccoli heads.

Managing pests and insects that affect container-grown broccoli

how to grow broccoli in pots
broccoli plant

While growing broccoli in pots you must be cautious and wary of pests and insects such as cabbage worms, flea beetles and aphids. An advantage of growing broccoli in containers is that you can easily take notice of any such adversity well in time and take prompt corrective action.

You should opt for a natural dietary supplement like diatomaceous earth that helps eliminate a variety of insects like earwigs, fleas, ants etc. Applying this to the soil can help keep the broccoli plant pest-free. If you notice holes in the leaves of your broccoli, this is a clear indication that your plant is infested with insects. You can also spray neem tree oil on the leaves to repel them. In most cases, soil-borne diseases can be avoided by proving your plant with a good quality potting mix.

When the broccoli seeds have been planted close together, they face a danger of powdery mildew, which is a fungal disease that negatively affects plants. This is caused by the poor air circulation between closely potted plants. The indication for this fungal disease is the appearance of white patches on your broccoli leaves and stems. In order to avoid this situation, you must ensure to never over water your plant as it can cause excessive humidity giving the powdery mildew a clear green signal to invade your broccoli plant.

Growing broccoli in containers by using seeds

The broccoli plant can be grown from both seeds and transplants. The advantage of growing broccoli in pots using seeds is that you can have full control over the variety, the germination conditions, and the time frame between the sowing and the transplanting. Hot climates are not favorable when you are growing broccoli in a pot and therefore, the best time to start your plant is in cooler seasons like in spring or in autumn.

For a thriving spring crop, the seeds need to be sown indoors for about 6 – 8 weeks before the average last frost date. This will provide you with a head start Vis a Vis if you start them outdoors 2 – 3 weeks before the last average frost date. Both possibilities are viable and will work.

In the case you decide to germinate the seeds indoors first, you can choose to move the plant outdoors once small saplings start to sprout. The broccoli plant has the capability of growing well indoors as well but full sunlight gives it an extra impetus for it to thrive better.

When planting in the autumn months, you can start by sowing the seeds about 8 – 10 weeks prior to the first frost date. The advantage of planting these seeds in cooler temperatures is that there is less chance of attracting bugs and pests.

Starting the seedlings

The broccoli seeds are large in size compared to other vegetable seeds and are known to resemble peppercorns with their deep purplish-brown colour.

The seeds can be started in seedling trays or cups and however, you can sow them directly in the final containers where they would remain till their maturity. It is recommended to fill the containers with good quality potting mix which is preferably organic in nature.

Start by making a hole of about 1/2 inch deep with your finger and place your seed in there, covering it up with soil. You can plant up to 2 seeds per cup depending on its size. The reason to sow 2 seeds in one hole is to ensure the germination of at least one of them.

Once you have covered the seeds carefully with soil, you must water them gently using a spray bottle. The soil must remain moist but be cautious of waterlogging. Unlike other plants, the broccoli does not require much light during its germination process however you can place the tray or the cup in a warm and dry area.

In about 8 to 10 days, you will find that the seeds have fully germinated. When small seedlings start to appear, you can move them to a brightly lit area whether that is on a south-facing window or under a bright bulb. If using artificial light, remember to keep the bulb minimum 1 to 2 inches away from the seedling as it can cause heat damage.

At the same time, you must ensure that the light bulb is not placed too far away either as that can cause the stems to stretch in search of light and in return, weaken them from their core. You can adjust the intensity of the artificial light as per the requirement of the plant.

In case both the seeds that were sown together decide to germinate, one will require to be thinned out. You can do this by cutting the smaller one out of the two, using a clean and dry pair of scissors. Just make sure that for the next 3 to 4 weeks your plant does not face any stress and remains moist in order to grow the seedlings to their highest potential.

Growing broccoli in containers by using the transplanting method

After the 3 to 4 week germination period, the seedlings would be ready to be moved into their final containers. Once the adequate potting mix has been added to the containers, the seedlings can be gently removed from the seed tray or cups and transplanted into a larger container maintaining a distance of at least 3 to 4 inches between plants. The hole in the soil where the seedlings are being transplanted should be the same size as the plant’s root ball.

how to grow broccoli in containers
growing broccoli outdoor

Although the entire process of physically transplanting plants does not take much time or effort, the matter becomes intricate when it boils down to the plant getting acclimatized to its new location, that is, being moved from indoors to outdoors. This transition of placement is known as the hardening process off the plant. It needs to be done gradually and carefully.

You can start by taking the broccoli plant outdoors for 1 hour a day and exposing it to fresh air and sunlight. As the days pass, your #broccoli can start spending more time outdoors but in phases. Within the first two weeks, the plant will be absolutely acclimatized to its new environment and can be placed permanently outdoors.

It is to be noted that if the outside temperature drops below the freezing point, your broccoli plant needs to be brought back indoors. Growing broccoli in pots is a rather quick process and the plant can take up to 2 to 3 months in order to fully mature and provide you with green and healthy edible broccoli heads.

What is the best way to harvest your broccoli plant?

When growing broccoli in pots, be prepared to harvest your plant in 50 – 70 days after the seeds have been sowed. That is approximately 3 to 4 weeks after the seedlings have been transplanted into their final containers and placed outdoors.

With the broccoli plant, you need not worry about the number of harvests. This astounding plant can give you multiple harvests before the summer sets in and the plant begin to flower.

The initial or the main head of the container-grown broccoli will be the first to reach its harvest stage and should be at least 3 to 6 inches in diameter when it is ready. The outer florets that surround the main head would be smaller in size, probably as thin as a common pencil. Broccoli florets that have no flowers and are dark green in color have the best taste.

In fact, the minute you notice that any of the florets are beginning to sprout flowers, you must harvest those heads immediately. Do not worry though, the flowers produced by this plant are edible too and due to their sweet taste are famously added to many dishes and salad preparations.

To harvest the head of the broccoli plant you must simply cut the stem 5 to 6 inches below the head using a clean and dry sharp knife or pruning shears. The side shoots will grow well if the harvesting of the main head has been done correctly and the temperatures have not risen beyond the plant’s threshold.

By harvesting the main head, you are redirecting the minerals and nutrients of the plant to focus on the side shoots turning them into healthier products as well. Given the right conditions, the heads of these baby shoots could grow a considerable size and provide you with a container full of healthy edible broccoli florets that will be ready to harvest, 2 to 3 weeks after the main head.

These side heads are harvested in pretty much in the same way as the main head. You can escalate the growth of these side heads by fertilizing the plant at the time when the main head has been removed.

Best types of broccoli commonly grown across the United States of America

The most compact and fast-maturing broccoli cultivars are grown right here in the United States of America. The broccoli consumption rate has grown by almost 1000% over the last 25 years and the average consumption per person in the United States is a whopping 2.6 kgs per year.

Growing your own produce at home is not only merciful to your wallet but also a safer and more convenient option. This way, you know exactly what you are consuming and you can ensure clean pesticide-free organic produce that is free from any form of adulteration.

Let’s explore a few varieties of broccoli that you can grow in containers straight from the comfort of your home –

1) The Di Cicco is a variety of broccoli that is best suited for compact spaces. The Di Cicco is a ‘head forming’ cultivar that produces more heads than stems and matures quickly within 48 to 70 days. Especially in the United States, The Di Cicco is used for the preparation of soap bars.

2) The Royal Tenderette is another great option for growing broccoli in pots as they are compact and can produce their heads faster than other varieties. This sprouting plant produces stalks that are 3 to 4 inches long with one floret each. It grows rapidly and in just 50 to 60 days can go from seed germination to harvesting. The heads can be easily removed for consumption and within 12 to 14 days, fresh heads start to appear.

3) The Chinese broccoli is a ‘non-heading’ variety of the broccoli plant. It is a cool-weather crop and is leaf dominant with broad and flat leaves and thick stems. It looks different from the regular broccoli and can taste a bit bitter. It is used in a number of Asian dishes as it contains a large quantity of nutrients that can help prevent the risk of cancer and improve immunity.

These vitamin enriched broccoli plants can be cooked in various forms and have made their own unique place in the culinary world. Broccoli can be consumed raw, sautéed, baked, roasted, steamed, or creamed and will continue to add the much-needed color of green into our daily lives!

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Enjoyed this step by step guide on growing broccoli in pots or containers? Even we saw how to grow broccoli in pots from seeds and how to grow broccoli in containers transplanting method. Happy Gardening!

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