In general, broccoli is not a difficult vegetable to grow.
However, leave it in the ground too long and your broccoli will bolt, which simply means it has a vertical growth spurt so it can flower and go to seed.
This can result in the main head (that you want to eat) turning bitter.
Below we outline some basic steps you can follow to maximise your chances of harvesting fresh, delicious broccoli.
When to harvest broccoli
Broccoli will be ready for harvest around 8 to 20 weeks months after being sowed. The exact time to harvest will depend on the variety you are growing and your local conditions.
Broccoli should be harvested as soon as the first heads are ready, before they start to flower.
In doing so, you’ll encourage the development of new growth, so you can harvest your plants for months to come.
How do you know broccoli is ready to harvest?
Broccoli heads that are ready for harvest will be firm and compact. The heads should be from 10 to 18cm across, depending on the variety.
You want to harvest them before the head starts to open up and flower as this impacts the flavour.
In terms of colour, harvest your broccoli when the heads are a consistent dark green. The florets starting to turn yellow is an indication that they are about to open up in preparation for flowering.
How long does broccoli take to grow?
Broccoli generally takes from 8 to 20 weeks to grow from seed through to being ready for the initial harvest.
If you want your broccoli to grow faster, provide it with plenty of fertiliser, sun, and water.
Also, keep in mind that different broccoli varieties have different days to maturity.
Popular varieties in broccoli Australia include:
- Di Cicco
- Green Sprouting Calabrese
How to harvest broccoli
The best time to harvest broccoli is in the morning before the day warms up. This ensures you’ll harvest your vegetables when they are crisp and fresh.
Use a clean, sharp knife to cut at an angle just below the main head. The purpose of cutting on an angle is that this allows water from rain or watering to run off.
Be sure to cut above the secondary shoots as we want these to continue to grow for future harvesting.
Broccoli leaves are edible so harvest these as well and throw them in your next stir fry, soup, or stew.
After harvesting, feed your plants with a high-nitrogen fertiliser such as Seasol PowerFeed to encourage the next shoots to develop
How to store broccoli after harvest
After harvesting broccoli, what you do with it will depend on whether you want to eat it immediately.
If you do, give it a good wash. There will often be insects, dirt, and dust hidden in all the nooks and crannies of a broccoli floret.
You can also soak the heads in warm water with a dash of vinegar which should loosen up most of the dead insects and they will float to the top.
However, if you are not going to eat it immediately, don’t wash it. Just store it in the veggie drawer in your fridge.
Are broccoli easy to grow?
Broccoli isn’t difficult to grow but many growers do face problems with pests, namely the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar.
Also, broccoli requires a lot of water and will also benefit from regular feeding, so some attentiveness is required during the growing season.
For more info, check out our Broccoli Grow Guide below and our How to Grow Broccoli post.
Grow Guide: Broccoli
|Plant type: Annual|
|Climate: Suitable for most climates|
|How to plant broccoli|
|Soil: Rich soil with good drainage|
|Soil pH range: 6 to 7|
|Soil temperature: 18°C to 24°C|
|Spacing needs: 40cm|
|Seed depth: 1cm|
|Germination days: 7 to 10 days|
|When to sow: Autumn|
|Caring for broccoli|
|Sun: Full sun|
|Water: Every 3 days|
|Feeding: Apply a low nitrogen fertiliser after planting, then apply a balanced fertiliser fortnightly|
|Time to harvest: 8 to 20 weeks|
|When to harvest: When the central head is deep green and fully developed with small, tightly packed buds|
Can you leave broccoli in the ground too long?
Yes, broccoli that isn’t harvested at the right time will bolt, which means it has a vertical growth spurt so it can flower and go to seed. This process changes the flavour of the broccoli, making it taste bitter and unpleasant.