Our family loves broccoli. It can make a good healthy snack or side, though we typically choose to drown it in cheese. Broccoli can be a great hydroponic vegetable to grow especially during the winter months. Since it’s a cool weather crop you don’t have to worry about heating your hydroponic garden.
Hydroponic broccoli is not the easiest plant to grow but with a little practice, it can grow really well. Here’s what you need to know to start growing hydroponic broccoli.
Recommended Broccoli Varieties for Hydroponics
Any variety of broccoli will grow well in a hydroponic garden, giving you many options when deciding what to grow. Broccoli varieties vary by days until harvest, temperature tolerance, and size. The most common variety of broccoli grown is Calabrese, shown above. For more information on different Calabrese broccoli varieties, check out this broccoli variety comparison chart by Johnny Seeds.
There are also other broccoli varieties you may be familiar less with. Some varieties are purple, white or even “decorative” such as the Romanesco variety shown below.
Getting Hydroponic Broccoli Started
The first step to growing hydroponic broccoli is figuring out what you’re going to start with.
Germinating seeds- Broccoli is easy to start from seed and takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days to germinate. When germinating broccoli seeds temperatures should be kept in the 75-degree range. I prefer to germinate my seeds using rapid rooter plugs and a heat mat.
After your broccoli seedling sprouts, air temperatures should be cooled down since broccoli is a cool weather crop.
Cloning broccoli Though I prefer starting from seed, broccoli can cloned. Cloning your hydroponic broccoli saves you money from having to buy seeds or plants.
Store bought broccoli in dirt– Buying broccoli plants from the store and transplanting them into your hydroponic system is an easy way to get your garden started, but can be the most expensive route.
What Hydroponic Systems Works Best For Broccoli?
Hydroponic broccoli will grow in most hydroponic system, provided they are given enough space to grow. Dutch buckets, ebb and flow, and DWC all work well.
NFT systems tend not to work well due to spacing needs, but could work if the pipe was large enough and plants distanced further than traditional NFT setups.
What Is The Best Temperature For Hydroponic Broccoli?
Broccoli is a cool weather crop. When temperatures get too hot, above 70 degrees, broccoli bolts giving it a bitter taste. The picture below is of a bolting broccoli.
Hydroponic broccoli grows best in a temperature range of 55 – 65 degrees. You can use a temperature controller to better regulate the temperature in your grows room to prevent bolting.
Spacing Requirements For Hydroponic Broccoli
Hydroponic broccoli plants should be given about 12-16 inches of space between plants to provide plenty of room to spread out. Its leaves can grow large, so make sure to trim them back to prevent blocking light to other plants.
How Much Light Does Hydroponic Broccoli Need?
Hydroponic broccoli doesn’t need intense light and can be grown under T5 fluorescent lighting or LEDs. I don’t recommend growing hydroponic broccoli with HID lighting due to the heat they give off.
Your hydroponic broccoli should receive 14 to 16 hours of light per day for productive growth.
Recommended pH Level For Hydroponic Broccoli
The recommended pH level for hydroponic broccoli is 5.5–6.5.
Hydroponic Broccoli Nutrient Requirements
As I mentioned above, broccoli is one of trickier plants to grow. Typically when a plant is its vegetative stage, higher levels of nitrogen levels are a good thing, promoting foliage growth. This isn’t the case with broccoli.
When broccoli grows too fast “hollow stem” can occur, which is just what it sounds. Cracks form, then expand into each other creating gaps in the stem. These gaps can be inviting to pests and pathogens that will destroy the plant.
For growing hydroponic broccoli I recommend a nutrient solution that is more customizable, like General Hydroponic Flora series. The Flora series a three-part nutrient solution that allows you to tailor your nutrient regimen to better suit the needs of broccoli.
How Harvest Hydroponic Broccoli
You should harvest the broccoli once the head is developed but before the flowers start to open. I recommend harvesting just the broccoli head and not the whole plant.
Cutting the stem 4 to 5 inches below the broccoli head will allow you to harvest while stimulating the plant to create more shoots. The shoots will also form heads and can be harvested, increasing your yields. This can often be repeated several times.
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