Kitchen Garden

Battling Brassica – Broccoli


We love broccoli—who doesn’t?

It is part of the brassica family of plants. A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is often an acquired taste, but once developed, one can’t get enough. The plan is to grow lots of broccoli in this year’s garden.

I don’t know how to do it. Most seeds I plant are straight-forward. Put them in starter soil, or in the ground, and watch them grow. Broccoli presents challenges, and in most previous years our supply grew from store-bought seedlings I transplanted, or excess from nearby farms. This year I am determined to grow them from seeds. There is a lot to learn.

Spindly Broccoli
Spindly Broccoli Planted March 14

My germination shed is a table set on a south-facing window. It’s not the best. Tomatoes, celery, peppers and basil have sprouted and grow toward the light. They look normal. The broccoli got immediately tall and spindly, and that is never a good sign.

Rather than compost the lot, I decided to transplant some of them into deeper cells. The leaves looked healthy—it was worth a try. Left as is, there would be no crop. I set up a work station in the garage with a goal of producing 24 suitable seedlings for the first batch.

Moving the Seedlings
Moving the Seedlings

Because the plants were so spindly, it was also easy to bend them over and crease the stalk. That couldn’t be good. The starter tray had 72 cells so there was room to experiment and still get 24.

I inserted two craft sticks, one into each side of the starter cell, and carefully lifted the clump of soil into a new cell lined with half an inch of starter soil. In many cases, the long taproot would hang down from the clump along the way. Protecting the stalk, I pressed gently and filled the new cell with starter soil. Success! Slowly the new tray began to fill.


This is basic gardening. Absent guidance or written rules, participating in the trial and error of producing a crop is fundamental to how and why we live. Yes, we look forward to broccoli itself, which is not assured without intervention like this.

It is not about the broccoli. It is more curiosity about other life forms and engendering survival and growth. It’s so basic to our lives on Earth, but often forgotten in a world where we can purchase broccoli year-around at the local mega-mart.

Good news is all the transplanted broccoli was still standing this morning.