I like to eat broccoli but it’s an expensive vegetable where I live. That’s why I wanted to try growing it in my container garden. I’ve written all the details that you may find useful if you decide to grow them yourself.

You can grow broccoli in a container that is at least 12 inches in size of width and depth. You want to provide the plant with the right potting soil, sunlight, and nutrients to get the best results in the container.

There are a lot more details on the steps you need to take when growing broccoli in a container. Keep reading my research and you’ll find it a simple process to grow some of your own.

1. Choose the right broccoli variety

Broccoli is a plant that is related to the cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts family of plants.

You can get different varieties of broccoli such as Calabrese, Sprouting, and Chinese broccoli.

Calabrese broccoli is the one most common in grocery stores. They have a large head with small florets attached to it.

Sprouting broccoli is a tall, leafy plant that has individual florets rather than all attached to a single head.

Chinese broccoli has a thick stem and large, green leaves that make a great addition to a stir-fry.

I would suggest starting growing a type of Calabrese broccoli as a beginner. This is the broccoli variety that you are familiar with at the grocery store.

This broccoli variety is easy to grow, has low maintenance, and is cold hardy. This makes it a suitable choice for the first time grower.

Calabrese30-36 inches60-90 days
Eastern Magic Hybrid28-30 inches60-65 days
Gypsy Hybrid30-36 inches60-65 days
Waltham 2924-30 inches74 days
Sun King Hybrid14 inches71 days

2. Pick the best time to grow broccoli

Broccoli is a cool-season plant that can grow well when the temperature is between 50 to 75 °F. If the weather gets hot beyond this temperature, the broccoli will bolt. This means the plant will try to develop flowers and the broccoli florets will become inedible.

I recommend starting growing broccoli two weeks before the last frost date as spring is about to begin. Or you can start growing them as fall begins and the temperature starts to cool down.

How long does broccoli take to grow?

Broccoli takes about 50-100 days to grow from starting the seeds till it’s ready for harvest. This depends on the variety you are growing and you should check the seed packets for the exact maturity dates.

You want to harvest the broccoli when it’s ready because if you leave them too long the florets will open up as they develop into flowers. This makes the broccoli lose its flavor and become inedible.

You can check the broccoli florets every day once the harvest dates have come close. Another tip to figure out if the broccoli has grown is to check the height of the plant. If it reaches 6-7 inches in height, that’s a good indication of maturity.

3. Choose the right container to grow broccoli

I would recommend using at least a 5-gallon container to grow broccoli. It needs the container to be 12 inches deep. And the container should be 18-24 inches wide as the broccoli plant tends to spread wide.

I like to use a plastic container because it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and durable. And it doesn’t lose moisture fast.

plastic containers
Plastic containers I used to grow plants

You can select containers made with other materials like terracotta, ceramic, or metal. But make sure to water the potting soil well and keep it moist.

Materials like terracotta can lose moisture fast because it is porous and water evaporates through the pores.

Also, the container you pick needs drainage holes at the bottom. So when you water, the excess can drain out from the holes. If the container does not have holes, you’ll need to drill some.

4. Prepare the container for planting broccoli

You may either have purchased the container or reusing an older one for growing broccoli. In both cases, it’s best to sterilize the container before use.

You can do this by mixing 1 part bleach with 9 parts water and soaking the container in this for at least an hour. Take the container out, wash it well with water, and leave it to dry in the sun.

Once the container has dried, you can use it to add the potting soil and plant the seeds or seedlings.

Sterilizing the container before use helps to remove the harmful pests and diseases that may be present in it.

Make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom or drill some using a drill or hammer and nails.

Cover the bottom of the container with a rag or newspaper and add the potting soil to it. This helps prevent the potting soil leak out from the drainage holes at the bottom.

I recommend using a sterile potting soil rather than garden soil for growing broccoli plants. The garden soil may contain too much clay or sand and not be suitable for the plant. It may also contain pests, diseases, and harmful chemicals you don’t know about.

You can make your own potting soil using 1 part compost, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite. The compost provides nutrients, microorganisms, and texture to the soil. The vermiculite and perlite make the soil permeable which helps it retain moisture while draining the excess water.

You need to fill the container with potting soil till there’s only about 2 inches space left. Don’t fill the entire container with the soil. This space helps prevent the water from spilling out when you water the container.

If you’re going to place the container indoors or in the balcony, it’s good to place a tray underneath the container. This will catch the excess water that flows out from the drainage holes and prevent the floor from getting wet. You can take the tray and throw out the water once it has become full.

5. Plant the broccoli seeds in the container

It’s best to buy the broccoli seed variety you want from an online store or your local garden center. I like growing from seeds because it’s inexpensive and you can choose from a lot of varieties.

You can start the broccoli seeds indoors in a tray or you can directly plant the seeds in the container outdoors.

My suggestion is to start seeds indoors if you have a short growing season in your area. Starting seeds indoors also helps you protect the seeds and increase the germination rates.

Whether you start seeds indoors or in the container, you need to plant 2-3 broccoli seeds in the potting soil. You need to push the seeds about 1/4th inch inside the potting mix.

Water the soil gently to make the seed starting mix moist. You need to be careful not to dislodge the seeds from their position.

You want to keep the potting soil moist but not soggy. The broccoli seeds will germinate in 5-10 days. Once the seeds germinate, you need to provide them with plenty of sunlight so they can continue to grow.

You can either use indoor lights or place the trays on a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight. If growing outdoors, you need to keep the plant in a place that gets full sun.

Once the seedlings have grown 3-4 inches tall, you can transplant them to a container if growing indoors. But before you do that you need to harden the seedlings.

2-3 days before transplanting the seedlings, start to move them outdoors for a few hours every day. Make sure they are not in full sunlight or wind.

Once the seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them to a container. Gently squeeze the tray till the soil ball gets loose.

Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the container and place the seedling in it. Cover the roots with potting soil so they are not exposed to air.

Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.

6. Plant the broccoli seedlings in the container

If you don’t want to spend the effort of starting broccoli seeds, you can buy the seedlings from your local garden center or nursery.

Don’t transplant the seedlings immediately to a container outdoors. You need to harden them for a few days otherwise they can suffer from transplant shock. The stress from the transplant will limit their growth and the plant can even die.

You need to keep them outdoors for a few hours every day so they get used to it. Make sure to keep the plant away from intense sunlight, rain, and wind.

After a week of this hardening process, the seedlings will have adapted to the outdoors. You can now transplant them to the container. Gently squeeze the tray till the soil ball gets loose.

Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the container and place the seedling in it. Cover the roots with potting soil so they are not exposed to air. You want each plant to be 4-6 inches apart from each other so they get sufficient growing space.

Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.

7. Put the container in the right locaiton

Broccoli grows well in full sunlight which means you need to provide at least 8-10 hours of sunlight.

If the heat gets too intense in the afternoon, you may need to move the container into the shade for some time. Because the leaves will begin to suffer damage from the heat.

8. Water the broccoli plants well

Broccoli needs a lot of water to grow well. You need to keep the potting soil moist but not soggy.

You want to avoid the problem of overwatering or underwatering the plants in the containers. Underwatering will not provide sufficient moisture so the broccoli plant will not grow well or even die. Overwatering will drown the roots, leading to root rot and fungal diseases.

I like to check the moisture every day in the morning by sticking my finger 1-2 inches in the potting soil. If the tip of my finger does not feel moist, I water the soil well.

Water the potting soil slowly and thoroughly so the water can reach the lower levels of the container.

When you water the broccoli plants in the morning, the roots have sufficient time to absorb the required moisture. As the sun comes out, it will evaporate the excess water on the soil and the foliage.

You could water in the evening if that is the only time you have. But make sure not to leave any water on the plants because that may invite fungal diseases.

I use a watering can to water the broccoli plants. You also have the option to use a self-watering container. If you have a large container garden with many plants you can use a drip irrigation system to save time and effort.

I would also suggest using mulch like dried leaves, grass clippings, or moss in your container. This will help keep the soil moist longer while protecting the plants from pests and weeds.

9. Thin the unwanted broccoli seedlings

When we plant any seeds, we put in 2-3 seeds per hole. This is done so that at least one will germinate after the 5-10 days have passed.

But if more than one seed germinates, you need to keep the one that is the healthiest and pull out the rest. This process is known as thinning.

If you’re growing more than one broccoli plant in a single container, you want to keep 4-6 inches between the plants. If they are too close, you can thin them as well. Otherwise, the plants will compete with each other for nutrients and not grow well.

You can do this thinning once the seeds have germinated and at least 3-4 leaves have grown on the seedlings. They may have reached a height of 2-4 inches when you can do this.

When you buy the seedlings from a garden center or nursery, you won’t have to worry about this. You need to spend your efforts on choosing the healthiest plant you can find at the garden center.

10. Add fertilizer in the container for plants

Broccoli plants prefer to have a good supply of nutrients. Once the broccoli plants have germinated from the seeds, you need to add some fertilizer.

If you have compost, you can mix it in with the potting soil when preparing the container. This compost contains the nutrients and organisms beneficial for the broccoli plant. You can add such compost every month to the potting soil so the plant keeps getting nutrients.

If you don’t have compost, you can use a slow-release organic fertilizer in the potting mix when transplanting. This will provide nutrients to the plants for a few weeks.

organic fertilizer
Organic fertilizer I use for my plants

I suggest using a balanced fertilizer that has an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) value of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. The fertilizer is slow-release which means it will leach into the soil every time you water the plants.

You can also choose to use organic, liquid fertilizer instead. You need to spray this on the potting soil and foliage every 2 weeks to give the plants an instant boost of nutrients.

11. Harvest broccoli from the container

If you started broccoli seeds, you will know the maturity dates from the seed packets. If you started growing seedlings, you need to monitor the plant as soon as a flower starts to grow on the stem.

The broccoli head is a collection of closed flower buds known as florets. You want to harvest the broccoli before the florets can fully open. This is because the broccoli will lose its flavor and become inedible.

As soon as the broccoli has grown to a large size or you see portions turning yellow, you need to harvest it. It does not take much time for the flowers to start opening after this.

You can cut the head along with 5-6 inches of the stem. You can leave the base of the plant along with some leaves. This will continue to grow and develop new broccoli heads if the growing season continues.

You can eat the broccoli fresh from the plant or store it in the refrigerator for about a week. You can also separate the florets and freeze them in the refrigerator for several months.

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