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Top Tips for Growing Broccoli

Broccoli is among the first spring crops we begin tucking into trays indoors. It’s got a lot going for it, too. Broccoli is cold-hardy, packed with vitamins, and edible in its entirety, including the leaves, stem, and flower head. It’s also a simple crop to start from seed; no scarification, stratification, or heat mats are needed. Broccoli is a low-maintenance seedling. Like all crops, broccoli isn’t without its growing challenges. To ensure you have success growing broccoli this season, follow these steps and tips!

When to Sow Broccoli Indoors

For these first spring plantings, you’ll want to know your estimated last frost date. We like to have transplants ready to go about one month before our last frost, so we start broccoli seedlings indoors about 4 to 5 weeks before that. Generally, we’re starting broccoli indoors between January 31st and May 31st.

When to Transplant Broccoli

As mentioned above, you can start transplanting broccoli out about one month before your last estimated frost date. Generally, we’re setting out broccoli plants between March 15th and July 15th, with the later dates intended for fall harvest. 

While broccoli is cold-hardy, you do want to avoid very low temperatures. If seedlings experience 20° F or lower, they may “button up” and only make tiny heads. This is because the plants will think that they’ve gone through a winter and that it’s time to flower.

When transplanting, give your broccoli adequate space. Usually, rows 12 to 16 inches apart is a good spacing for broccoli. 

Direct Sowing Broccoli

Many people choose to transplant broccoli as it can help plants reach maturity before the weather gets hot. However, you can also direct sow broccoli seeds. We like to direct sow broccoli from about March 10th through July 1st.

Check out our tips for direct sowing in hot weather.

Brassica Seedlings
Brassica Seedlings

Tips for Growing Broccoli

Broccoli isn’t high maintenance, but like any crop, it thrives with a bit of attention. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your broccoli produces well.

Mulch Deeply

Broccoli produces best when the soil is kept cool, moist, and weed-free. A deep layer of mulch, particularly in the warmer months, can make a big difference in broccoli plantings. 

Water Consistently

Again, broccoli will only produce nice heads if it has enough moisture. Consistent watering is essential, especially during hot, dry weather. 

Keep the Cabbage Worms Away

Almost every gardener who has grown brassicas has dealt with the dreaded cabbage worms at some point. The name cabbage worms often refers to several species, all of which use brassicas as their primary host plant. These include the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae), The Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae), and the Cabbage Looper (Trichoplusia ni). They lay their eggs on brassicas, and the eggs hatch into very hungry little caterpillars that can turn cabbages to lace and infiltrate beautiful heads of broccoli. 

Row Cover

Thankfully, there are some simple, organic methods for keeping them away. One of our favorites is to cover your plants with row cover. Usually, you can purchase a lightweight netting row cover and wire hoops to hold it off your plants. Tulle from your local fabric store works just as well and might be a cheaper option. You can also DIY the hoops from PVC or other flexible materials. 

Organic Insecticides

One organic method is B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis). This natural, soil-dwelling bacteria damages the caterpillars’ guts that feed on it. It’s safe for humans, and you can find OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified products for use on your plants.

Neem oil is another popular choice for repelling cabbage worms. It’s a naturally occurring oil from neem trees that can be applied to your broccoli. Like B.t., you can find OMRI-certified neem oil.

Companion Planting

Cabbage worms are often a more aggressive, intense issue in monoculture plantings. Though they can be more complicated to maintain, gardens mixed with flowers and other vegetables tend to have fewer pest issues. Some specific crops, like Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), are especially noted for their ability to repel cabbage worms.

De Cicco Broccoli
De Cicco Broccoli

Harvesting Broccoli

After being transplanted into the garden, maturity typically ranges from 60 to 90 days, but it can vary. If you’re starting broccoli from seed rather than transplanting seedlings, you must add approximately 25 days to the maturity timeline. This accounts for the additional time it takes for broccoli plants to grow and mature from the seedling stage to full maturity.

Harvest your broccoli heads when they’re deep green and tightly packed. Those heads that have begun to flower or turn yellow should be harvested immediately or left for seed.

Don’t pull your broccoli right away after harvesting the main head. Side-sprouting varieties have smaller central heads with many side sprouts, a valuable feature for extended harvest.

Saving Seed from Broccoli

If you have a few heads that get past their prime, let them go to flower! Many pollinators love brassica flowers, and eventually, you will get seed.

Just know that broccoli will cross with any brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi, and kale that’s flowering at the same time. Broccoli Raab will cross with Chinese cabbage, turnips, and some rapeseed (canola). Isolate by 1/8 mile for home use. For pure seed of small plantings, isolate by 1/4 to 1/2 mile.

Broccoli is a great, cold-hardy crop to have in your spring garden. Follow these tips for growing broccoli to help your plants thrive and produce beautiful heads this season!

Growing Eggplants: Tips for Success

Homegrown eggplants are tender, mild, and perfect for summer grilling or classic recipes like eggplant parmesan, baba ganoush, and ratatouille. These heat-loving vegetables can be tricky to grow, though. After years of growing eggplants, we’ve compiled some tips for success.

The Basics

Start your eggplants indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost, and harden them off outdoors for 1 to 2 weeks before transplanting. Plant your eggplants in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Space them equidistant 24 inches apart or 20 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart.

Tips for Success

Eggplants can be challenging to grow, but these tips will ensure success.

Avoid setting plants out too early.

Eggplant seedlings are susceptible to cold temperatures. Attempting to harden them off too early can shock your plants and stunt their growth. If a late cold snap occurs, bring them outdoors during the day, but keep bringing them in at night until the temperature warms.

Garden beds with row cover
Row cover protecting White Beauty Eggplant from flea beetles.

Keep pests off your seedlings.

Young eggplants are highly susceptible to pest pressure, especially flea beetles. There are a few different methods you can use to protect your seedlings.

  • Harden seedlings off on a table at least 3 feet tall. Few issues occur at this height.
  • Use organic control methods like pyrethrum or diatomaceous earth.
  • Cut the bottoms off 1-gallon milk jugs and place them over the seedlings with the lids off.
  • Use row cover to protect young eggplants and remove it just before flowering to allow pollinators to reach the blooms.

Older eggplants require less protection. They can still produce well even with quite a bit of flea beetle damage on their leaves.

Feed your eggplants.

Eggplants enjoy fertile soil that’s rich in organic matter. Adding several inches of finished compost to your bed before planting can encourage good production. You can also mix a bit of compost into your transplant holes.

If you’re growing eggplants in containers, giving them a bit of extra nutrition is a good idea, especially when they’re flowering and setting fruit. You can use an organic vegetable fertilizer or make your own compost tea. 

Provide support for eggplants.

Eggplants loaded with fruit are prone to lodging or falling over. Set up stakes, tomato cages, or other supports early to ensure your plants don’t lodge later. Securing the plants while they’re still small will prevent you from damaging them or knocking off fruit later. 

Keep the soil moist.

Eggplants produce best when they have moist soil but not soggy soil. Check the soil and water regularly to keep it consistently moist for best production.

Louisiana Long Green (Green Banana) EggplantApply mulch.

Mulching around your plants can help suppress weeds, keep the soil moist, and add additional organic matter. We like to mulch around eggplants with an organic mulch like straw or old leaves.

Harvest your eggplants regularly. 

Regular harvesting will encourage your eggplants to keep producing. We find that the small fruits have the best eating quality. Eggplants are ripe when the skin appears glossy, and the fruit is resilient to thumb pressure. When your eggplants mature, harvest them by clipping the stem with scissors or garden snips. 

Rotate your eggplants and other crops.

Eggplants can be affected by many of the same diseases, like verticillium wilt, that affect other nightshades, such as tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. Rotate your crops yearly and avoid growing any nightshades in the same plot for at least two years.

Eggplants are tasty, beautiful additions to the summer garden. They can be fun to grow, too! Even beginners can succeed with eggplants if you follow a few simple tips.

Choose the Right Lettuce Type for Your Garden

Lettuce is excellent for beginner gardens, seed savers, and succession planting. Even if you didn’t have a great spring lettuce crop, you can sow another for fall. If you’ve been browsing lettuce on the catalog or website, you may have noticed that there are an almost overwhelming number of varieties divided into a few different categories. Below we’ll cover the different types of lettuce and how to select the best one for your garden.

Lettuce Types

Jericho Romaine Lettuce
Jericho Romaine Lettuce

Romaine (Cos) Lettuce

Even if you’re new to gardening, you’re probably familiar with romaine lettuce from your local grocery store. It produces upright, elongated tall heads with thick succulent ribs and distinctively flavored long, thick crinkled leaves. In most stores, you’ll see green Romaine, but you’ll find seeds in other colors, like the red heirloom Rouge d’Hiver (Red Winter) Romaine Lettuce or the deeply blotched Mayan Jaguar Romaine.

Romaine is the most nutritious type of lettuce you can grow. It does best in loose, fertile soil and is moderately tolerant of heat and shade. Some varieties, like Jericho, an Israeli variety bred for the desert heat, are a favorite among market growers for their heat and to-burn resistance.

Red Sails Loose-Leaf Lettuce
Red Sails Loose-Leaf Lettuce

Loose-Leaf Lettuce

You may have also spotted loose-leaf in stores, probably in baby lettuce mixes. As the name suggests, it’s a non-heading type of lettuce. Like Romaine, there’s so much more than you’ll find in store. Loose-leaf lettuce contains the largest diversity of attractive heirlooms.

Loose-leaf is second to Romaine in nutritional value. It’s great for home gardeners because it does well as a cut-and-come-again type and allows you to harvest only as much as you need at once. However, it doesn’t keep in the fridge as well as Romaine. Loose-leaf is also the most forgiving of poor soil and is generally more heat-tolerant than other types. 

Schweitzer’s Mescher Bibb Bibb (Butterhead) Lettuce
Schweitzer’s Mescher Bibb (Butterhead) Lettuce

Bibb (Butterhead) Lettuce

Bibb or butterhead lettuce has small, loose green heads, blanched yellow interiors, and thin, soft-textured leaves. It has a wonderfully almost-buttery, sweet taste. The small heads are a great size for single people and smaller families.

Bibb has intermediate nutritional value. It’s generally more tolerant of hot weather than crisphead lettuce. As a group, it is best for cooler regions, with some notable exceptions.

*There’s also Buttercos lettuce which has the characteristics of both butterhead and cos.

Anuenue Batavian/ Crisphead Lettuce
Anuenue Batavian/ Crisphead Lettuce

Crisphead & Batavian Lettuce

You’re undoubtedly familiar with one common type of crisphead lettuce you’ll find at nearly any grocery store, Iceberg. Like Iceberg, other crisphead lettuce varieties are popular for their tightly folded, blanched crisp leaves.

Crisphead is less nutritious than other varieties. Because it is harder to grow to perfection, we offer varieties that are more adapted for hot regions. Crisphead lettuce should be set out early in the season since it requires a long cool season. Shading with cheesecloth or screening is recommended if heads have not formed by late spring.

Common Questions About Growing Lettuce

How Do You Keep Lettuce Going in Summer?

While some varieties are more heat tolerant than others, lettuce is a cool-season crop. You can extend your season into hotter weather in a couple of ways. The first is to cover your plantings with a reemay blanket. 

The other is to plant tall vegetables in north-south rows and plant heat-resistant lettuce underneath the leaf canopy so that it is shaded during the hottest portion of the day. Corn planted in rows 4 feet apart or pole beans on a fence or trellis is ideal. Interplanting lettuce with bush squash also gives good results. Mulch the lettuce well, keep it well watered, and enjoy!

How to Start Lettuce in Hot Weather?

If the temperature exceeds 80 degrees F, lettuce will often fail to germinate. You can plant lettuce during late summer or early fall while the days are still hot, provided the seeds are germinated in the refrigerator for 4-6 days. Another method is to soak the seed in 10% bleach for 2 hours at 40-60 degrees F, followed by four water rinses. This method enhances both the speed and amount of germination. 

One more method is to keep the soil cool with burlap or boards; remove cover promptly after germination to keep grasshoppers and other pests from enjoying the shaded tender sprouts!

What’s the Best Type for Beginners?

Generally, we recommend loose-leaf types for beginners as they tend to be the most forgiving of various conditions, including heat and poor soil. They also grow quickly, helping you get harvests faster and more frequently. You could also try Romaine lettuce if you have good, loose, fertile soil. 

What’s the Best Type for Greenhouses?

We recommend using heat-tolerant varieties of heat-tolerant, loose-leaf, or Bibb types for greenhouses.

Lettuce Flowering and Going to SeedHow Do I Save Seed From My Lettuce?

To save seed, you should isolate varieties by a minimum of 12’ for home use. For pure seed isolate varieties a minimum of 25-50’.

Lettuce will eventually bolt, especially in hot weather, sending up a tall flower stem. The flowers look a bit like mini, yellow dandelions. The flowers will eventually become fluffy and dry, and it will be time to harvest seed. 

Gently bend the flower stem into a paper bag or container and give it a good shake. Any mature seeds should drop into the bag. You may need to try this for several days as the seeds slowly mature.

After collecting your seeds, you can winnow out the chaff or unwanted plant material. You can use a fan, and a couple of dishes, pouring the seed from one dish to the other as the wind blows the lighter, unwanted material away. Avoid getting too close to the fan, as lettuce seed is quite light. 


There’s a lot more to lettuce than you’ll find on the grocery store shelves. Romaine, loose-leaf, Bibb, and crisphead lettuce types all have their pros and cons. Find a tasty, beautiful heirloom variety that fits well in your garden!