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Broccoli is a popular and easy-to-grow winter crop here in Florida. Plus, it’s incredibly nutritious, providing good amounts of riboflavin, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Planting and care
Broccoli needs cool weather to thrive, so it should be planted during fall and winter. Since broccoli takes 80-100 days to mature, don’t plant too late in the season—rising temperatures may cause the plants to "bolt"” meaning the flowers within the head will start to open.
In South Florida, broccoli transplants can be planted in the garden from September through January. North and Central Florida gardeners can plant transplants anytime from mid-August through mid-March. You can buy transplants at a garden center or start your own from seed. A layer of mulch can help retain moisture around the plants and suppress weed growth.
Like all plants, broccoli needs certain nutrients in order to grow, so fertilizing with a 6-8-8 fertilizer of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) will help your plants succeed. You can use either a liquid fertilizer solution or a controlled-release solid fertilizer. You should fertilize at planting time and then regularly throughout the growing season.
And although broccoli is a cool-season vegetable, it will benefit from protection from low temperatures (32°F or cooler), especially when plants are young and tender.
Right plant, right place
Vegetables like broccoli need at least four to six hours of sun per day, so you’ll need to find a sunny spot. Vegetables also need plenty of water, so be sure that you have a convenient source nearby. Provide one to two inches of water per week—heavy soakings once a week are preferred to several lighter sprinklings with the hose.
It’s also a good idea to have your soil tested through your local Extension office before you plant. Ideally, you’re hoping for a soil that falls in the pH range of 6.2 to 6.5. Also consider amending the soil with organic materials like composted manure before planting your broccoli.
Pick Florida-friendly varieties
A number of broccoli varieties are available, with 'Waltham 29' being an old favorite. It can be harvested 80-100 days from when it is transplanted and will continue to produce side shoots after the main head is cut.
Other good varieties for Florida include 'Green Mountain', 'Spartan Early', 'Atlantic', 'Green Sprouting', 'Green Comet', 'Italian Green Sprouting', 'DeCicco', 'Green Duke', and 'Packman'.
For more information on growing broccoli, contact your county Extension office.