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For an optimal harvest, broccoli should be planted after the extreme heat of summer.

Expert tips for the best homegrown broccoli

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Jian Liu shares her answer to an important question when you are starting to grow broccoli in your patch: is it better to plant seeds or seedlings?

Broccoli can be a difficult vegetable to master due to a number of pitfalls that can trip you up along the way. The key is all in the timing, soil and some clever tricks during the growing season. For starters, which is best: seeds or seedlings?

Growing broccoli from seed opens you up to a whole new world of interesting and exciting heirloom varieties, such as the geometric ‘Romanesco’ variety and jewel-like purple broccoli. While it’s easy to germinate broccoli seed, raising young plants can be challenging and demands a good deal of patience.

Buying established seedlings may give you a few weeks head start and is an easier option for new gardeners. However, be especially careful when choosing broccoli seedlings at your local nursery – larger is not always better. When broccoli plants outgrow their punnets, they become hungry and root bound. A stressed broccoli plant can bolt to seed prematurely – which is great if you want to save seed, but not so good if you want a head of broccoli to eat. Rather than size, look for healthy, vibrant seedlings and avoid plants that display signs of pest attack such as chew marks on the leaves.

We practise the technique of ‘sizing up’ for both our seed-grown and nursery-bought seedlings. Rather than planting tiny seedlings directly into the garden, we pot up seedlings into small pots and move them into increasingly larger pots. The goal is to raise robust and strong seedlings, hardened to the weather and more resistant to pests before we plant them out into the garden. Aim for 10–15cm tall seedlings before planting them out into the garden.

For those in cool temperate climates, it is a bit late to be starting seeds in late autumn, unless you can get them going fast in a glasshouse. Better to wait until August to sow and then plant out your seedlings in mid spring. Or, just go for the seedling option.

‘Spigariello’ is an heirloom from southern Italy.


This information comes from a feature Jian Liu wrote for our Early Winter 2023 issue (OG 141). It’s easy to get a copy delivered to your door, just head here!

OG 141 cover_Helen McKerral