Do you have beautiful broccoli plants and tiny, sad broccoli heads? I’ve faced that issue dozens of times, hoping my vigorous plants would finally produce heads worthy of dinner dishes. I had to figure out some tips for growing large broccoli heads. Otherwise, I was just giving space in my garden to useless plants.
There are some tricks you have to learn. You can’t just put the broccoli plants in the ground and expect them to grow without help. They aren’t a low-maintenance plant, so many new gardeners find themselves plagued with issues.
- The Four Broccoli Types
- 1. Large-Headed Varieties
- 2. Sprouting Varieties
- 3. Romanesco Varieties
- 4. Broccoli Rab
- 7 Tips for Growing Big Broccoli Heads
- 1. Pick a Variety Known for Large Heads
- 2. Plant at The Right Time
- 3. Transplant Deeper
- 4. Make Sure You Fertilize
- 5. Don’t Forget to Water
- 6. Mulch Around Your Plants
- 7. Add Boron If Necessary
- Give The Tips a Try
The Four Broccoli Types
The large, green heads you’re used to seeing in the store isn’t just the only type of broccoli you can grow. That might be the standard, but, depending on the variety that you selected, your broccoli might not look like that. You want to know what to expect from your plants.
1. Large-Headed Varieties
This type is what you picture in your mind when you envision broccoli. Large-headed broccoli produces the common, domed heads that are made up of several clustered florets. Once you harvest the large, center head, you should be able to harvest several smaller side shoots.
2. Sprouting Varieties
Sprouting broccoli has a bushier appearance, and it grows several small heads. You can grow these varieties from fall to spring when you have mild winters.
3. Romanesco Varieties
If you want a broccoli variety that looks lovely in the garden, you need a Romanesco type. It produces swirled heads made of symmetrically pointed spirals. The only downside to this type of broccoli is that it needs plenty of space and excellent soil. It’s a more picky variety.
4. Broccoli Rab
Broccoli rab isn’t like regular broccoli. Instead, this produces immature flower buds and has a strong flavor that makes it great for Asian and Italian cooking.
7 Tips for Growing Big Broccoli Heads
1. Pick a Variety Known for Large Heads
The first thing you need to do is pick a variety that is known for large heads of broccoli. If that’s what you want to grow, you need to choose the right ones that produce a large, center heads rather than several smaller ones.
Broccoli raab might be delicious and have a strong flavor, but it doesn’t produce those large heads that you might want. Growing a few for dishes is okay, but you have to understand what to expect.
So, what broccoli varieties are known for producing huge heads?
2. Plant at The Right Time
Picking the right time to plant your broccoli is a big deal, and waiting to plant is a mistake I’ve made. Broccoli plants want to be kept cool; they don’t like heat. I can’t blame them!
Plants need to be set out in the early spring for a summer harvest. Too much heat causes your plants to bolt, or they may button if they’ve been exposed to cold water. Buttoning causes the broccoli plant to produce small heads, as will stress or lack of nutrients and water.
Timing the plantings properly is so important! The goal is to avoid extreme heat or cold weather, and that’s going to be a different planting time for each USDA hardiness zone. My guide on how to grow broccoli shows you the best times to plant broccoli, so check that out.
3. Transplant Deeper
When you transplant the broccoli seedling into the garden, you want to transplant it deeper than it was growing before inside of your house. Look at a depth of the container you have the broccoli seedling in, and dig a hole deeper than that.
When you plant it, make sure you pressure the soil down firmly around the plant to help eliminate air pocket and spread those roots out beforehand. You’re giving the broccoli plants the best start by doing so!
4. Make Sure You Fertilize
One of my main issues, when I grew broccoli, was that I forgot to fertilize. Broccoli is a slow-growing plant, so it needs plenty of nutrients to grow over a 90-110 day period.
Before you plant your broccoli into the garden beds, make sure you work in plenty of rotted manure or compost to add the nutrients needed. You can also add blood meal or cottonseed meal before planting for an extra jump start.
Three weeks after you plant your seedlings, add a complete balanced fertilizer. Some gardeners water with fish emulsion every three to four weeks during the growing season. No matter what fertilizer choice you pick, broccoli needs to be fed every month until it’s time to harvest.
5. Don’t Forget to Water
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop, which means it needs plenty of water. Rainwater is always the best choice for all plants, but we can’t control Mother Nature and pick how much rain we receive each week.
Ideally, broccoli plants require around 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week. If you don’t water enough, you’ll notice a difference in the broccoli head size.
6. Mulch Around Your Plants
If you want massive broccoli heads, don’t forget to mulch around your plants. Grass clippings, straw, or shredded leaves make fantastic choices. Using mulch prevents soil from overheating, and broccoli doesn’t like hot, dry conditions. If there is too much heat, your broccoli will bolt, which means send up flower stalks, and then your harvest will be gone.
Mulch protects the delicate root system, which is another reason why it helps to develop those big heads you want to see.
However, if you do live in an area that gets an excessive amount of rain, mulch can cause your soil to become waterlogged, attracting slugs to your garden.
7. Add Boron If Necessary
All cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi, benefit from extra amounts of boron. When your soil is too acidic or alkaline, boron isn’t as available to plants, so you have to add some to the soil.
How do you know if your broccoli needs boron? You first might notice yellow leaves and the growing tips will start to wither.
If you think your plants have a boron deficiency, you need to add a dose of boric acid. ¼ cup to two gallons of water is a sufficient amount of boric acid. Borax, a typical household cleaner, is a source of boric acid that you can use on your broccoli.
Give The Tips a Try
If you want to grow large broccoli heads, you need to give these 7 tips a try. The ideal heads of broccoli won’t grow without some maintenance and time. Make sure you pick the right time to plant your broccoli and remember to water and fertilize as needed.