Top Problems Growing Broccoli and How to Fix Them

Broccoli is one of the most rewarding plants to grow at home, whether it’s in a small pot or a big backyard garden. However, not everyone knows how to solve problems with the plant when they arise. If you’re going to be growing broccoli in your garden and cultivating veggies for you and your family, you’ll need to learn about the intricacies of this beautiful plant. 

Here are the top problems you might have when growing broccoli:

  • Your plant has bugs
  • Your plant is “leggy”
  • Your plant isn’t producing heads
  • Your plant is dying
  • There are aphids on your broccoli heads
  • The leaves of your plant are drooping

Though these issues might seem daunting, I’m here to give you all the tips and tricks you need to solve them. With some dedication and a few helpful products, you’ll be growing plentiful broccoli in no time. Read on for more info about healing your vegetable plants. 

Your Broccoli Plant Has Bugs

One of the most frustrating issues to deal with when trying to cultivate a new crop is an infestation of bugs. Imagine venturing outside to your garden, ready to harvest your tasty homegrown veg when you notice that they are crawling with insects. Yuck! Few things are worse than watching your veggies grow and flourish, only to see them get chomped on by tiny bugs.

Depending on the species of insect and the intensity of the infestation, you have a number of options available to you to get rid of the bugs. One of the most common and ecologically-friendly ways to keep bugs off of your broccoli plants is to plant what is called a “trap crop.”

A trap crop is a small crop of vegetables, grains, or herbs designed to lure in pests so that a separate crop can flourish instead. Imagine this trap crop as a moat around the castle that is your broccoli. With the help of the trap crop, you can keep pests from harming the broccoli.

What is interesting about using trap crops is that you can pick one of two options. The first option is that you create a barrier around your broccoli with even more broccoli, meaning that the outer ring of broccoli will be lost to bugs, but that the inner section of broccoli will be kept bug-free and healthy.

Another way to make a trap crop is to use a separate species of plants. Depending on the kind of plant you’re working with and the insects you’re hoping to capture, find a plant species that works symbiotically with the main crop you’re trying to protect, and make sure to plant a trap crop of something that is tasty to the pest.

The bugs that are most attracted to broccoli (flea beetles and cabbage maggots) are also attracted to radishes. Plant either broccoli or radishes around the broccoli you want to save and watch the bugs gorge themselves on the sacrificial veggies instead of the ones you want to eat. 

Your Broccoli Is “Leggy”

Broccoli plants should ideally be broad and wide, with leaves that branch out in all directions and a center that houses the head. A healthy broccoli head is fat and wide, tucked low towards the center of the leaves. When a plant has a long stem with few leaves or blooms, we call that plant “leggy.” When broccoli plants start getting leggy, this means that there is less “head” to the plant and more stem.

While this may be okay for some plants, for others, it is less than ideal. Broccoli is majorly harvested for its nutritious and flavorful heads, so when a broccoli plant becomes leggy and starts to fall over, it’s important to switch up your growing methods. No one wants a broccoli plant with a four-foot diameter that only produces a few bites of food!

Luckily, this (rather comical-looking) leggy-ness is a relatively easy issue to solve in broccoli. Though you can’t fix leggy-ness on a plant that has already produced a head, you’ll have to work more effectively in the future to catch leggy-ness before it’s too late.

Since broccoli is a cool-weather, full-sunlight plant, leggy-ness is either caused by weather conditions that are too hot or by a lack of sunlight. Because these are issues that are not easily remedied without relocating the plants, you will have to move your immature broccoli plants into an area with better lighting.

Broccoli plants are easily transplanted. You can do by scooping them up with a trowel, making sure to grab hold of all the roots that keep the plant firmly grounded. As best as you can, avoid damaging or severing the roots. The more of the root structure you’re able to maintain, the better chance the plant has at re-rooting elsewhere.

Once you’ve cautiously plucked the whole plant from the earth, bring it to an area where there is more sunlight. Plant the broccoli in fresh, dark soil. If it’s possible to find a place on your property or in your garden that is a bit cooler (i.e., near a water source) that still gets adequate sunshine, that would be ideal. This will keep your plants from falling over and make sure that they get big and strong.

Your Broccoli Plant Isn’t Producing Heads

As previously mentioned, the best part of growing broccoli is harvesting its delicious and nutrient-dense “heads,” or the finely grained, nubby tops of the plant. From the head, you can harvest the little florets that you often find frozen or steamed at your local grocery store. They grow in segments that look like tiny trees.

If you were to let those little nubs grow out, the broccoli plant would start flowering. However, this is not something that you want because it ruins the texture and flavor of the plant.

Sometimes when growing conditions are less than optimal, broccoli plants don’t produce heads. While broccoli stems are just as nutritionally dense as the heads, they’re not as delicious. Stunted head growth is usually the result of environmental factors such as weather conditions and soil composition, which are easy to adapt to once you’ve identified the issue at hand.

One reason your broccoli plant may be “headless” is that you’re not giving your plant enough sunlight. As previously mentioned, make sure your broccoli can have at least six hours of full sunlight per day. This is an important factor to keep in mind when plotting out your garden in advance. Don’t worry if you haven’t done much garden planning – there is always next year.

Make sure not to plant your broccoli in the shade – otherwise, you won’t be eating much broccoli this year. As an example, if your plants are located underneath an awning or beside a tall full tree, they will have trouble reaching their full potential because they need the sun’s rays. Place your pot or garden bed out in the open where the broccoli has a chance to soak up the sun.

Another reason that your broccoli might be suffering is that the soil you’ve planted it in is of poor quality. Broccoli plants are greedy for nutrients, meaning that they absorb as many minerals from the earth as they can get.

If your plants aren’t flourishing the way you’d hoped, try adding fresh soil, compost, or manure to your broccoli patch and watch them grow. You can also use what is called compost tea to encourage the plant to grow and provide it with more nutrients. Compost tea is a liquid form of composted soil that acts as a nutritional supplement for your garden – think of it as an energy drink for your veggies.

Your Broccoli Plant Is Dying

It’s heartbreaking to put effort into your crops only to watch them die off before maturity, even though you’ve put all your time and effort into them succeeding. Even if you’re a seasoned gardener, the workings of Mother Nature can be hard to predict, leading your broccoli plants stunted and withering. With a little bit of help, you can nurse your plants back to strength and give them the love they need.

To figure out how to heal your dying broccoli, you first need to identify the characteristics of the plant. Get up close and personal with your broccoli sprouts and see what’s going on down at the base of the plant. What is the texture of the stem and leaves – soggy or dry? How old is the plant when it starts dying – is it a seedling, or has it reached maturity? Take note of all these factors.

If the stems of your broccoli plants are soggy when they die, it’s likely that you have overwatered them or that they’ve been exposed to too much rain. When the soil you’ve planted your broccoli in holds too much water, your plant is likely to take on fungus. While smaller plants aren’t likely to survive a severe fungal infection, you can prevent this from happening in the future by making sure to plant the broccoli in an area with good drainage.

If you’re only growing one or two plants in a pot, make sure that the pot has ample space as well as drainage holes in the bottom. If you’re growing in recycled containers, use a small knife to carefully cut holes in the bottom. They should be large enough for water droplets to stream through but not large enough for the soil to leak out.

If you’re growing in a garden bed, make sure that you’ve planted on ground that is breathable. For example, if you’ve built your bed on top of a tarp or on top of a rock, it’s possible that your broccoli won’t have space to drain, causing fungus to linger.

If your broccoli is drying out, it’s most likely that you’ve exposed it to too much sun or heat. While broccoli plants love sunshine, if they get too much heat, they can wither out and die. That’s why it’s important to plant them in an area where it’s not too hot. You should also make sure that your broccoli plants get enough water.

Just like people can suffer from dehydration, plants can do the same. This is why you need to manage a well-organized watering schedule. Use a planner or calendar to keep track. Water your broccoli as frequently as you need to keep the soil damp.

There Are Aphids on Your Broccoli Heads

Aphids are tiny little green bugs that love to munch on your plants. They are a petulant species – one of the most common in the world. If you’ve ever spoken with a gardener, he or she will likely have a story to share with you about their own personal aphid infestations.

While it may be frustrating to have to deal with these little insects, there are a few ways you can rid your garden of them and keep them away in the future. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, meaning that it is more important to monitor your garden regularly for bugs than to have to kill them all off.

The first step to dealing with aphids is to get them out. There are a few natural remedies for aphid infestations that you can use before resorting to synthetic pesticides. The first remedy you can use is simply to spray them off with water.

When it comes to broccoli plants, since there are so many little nooks and crannies in the heads, you’ll need to get up close and personal with your broccoli and make sure you’ve sprayed off as many of the pests as possible. Pull back the leaves and give them a good spray as well, both on the top side and underside.

If you haven’t successfully gotten rid of all the aphids from your broccoli, then it’s time to use a natural insecticide. Since you’ll eventually be eating this broccoli, you’ll want to make sure that you use an insecticide that’s safe for vegetables. 

Look for an organic biodegradable product such as this GrowSafe All-Natural BioPesticide. This organic oil blend kills aphids on contact and is completely non-toxic, so you can rest easy knowing you won’t be consuming synthetic pesticides.

After you’ve banished the bugs from your broccoli, it’s time to set up a system to keep the aphids away for good. Much like establishing a trap-crop, you’ll want to make a sort of moat to deter aphids. 

One method that’s thought to deter the little green guys is putting a shiny layer of aluminum foil down around your plant. If this method isn’t ideal for your garden, you may also just opt to continually use that natural pesticide – just make sure to follow the package instructions.

The Leaves of Your Broccoli Plant(s) Are Drooping

If you’re a newer gardener, you might not have a grasp on when to water your broccoli plants just yet. Even if you’re a seasoned homesteader, it’s still possible to struggle with your plant’s needs. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize a sick or suffering plant when you see one.

When the leaves on your broccoli plant start to droop, it is most likely due to an issue of moisture (or lack thereof). Droopy leaves are obvious – they’ll be saggy and feel tender to the touch. As a rule, broccoli leaves should be robust and crisp and have a rich green color. For more information on diagnosing issues according to the color of your broccoli plant’s leaves, click here.

The best way to find out why your broccoli leaves are drooping is to stick a finger into the soil at the base of the plant. What does the soil feel like – is it dry, or is it wet? Check for moisture at least six inches deep. If the soil is dry, then you’ve found out the problem: give your broccoli a big drink of water and make sure to water them more regularly.

If you’ve stuck your finger into the soil and discovered that it’s quite moist, then you’ll need to hold off on the watering and make sure to space out your watering schedule. Overwatering can be just as harmful as underwatering and can also lead to fungal infections, as mentioned before. 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you may come across issues such as bug infestations, lack of growth, or even plant death. However, there’s no need to worry – these issues are common and easily remedied. With these easy tips and solutions, your plants will be back to strength in no time. Happy planting!

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