11 Broccoli Plant Problems That Can Ruin Your Harvest

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Broccoli is a delicious, easy-to-grow favorite. Except when it’s not easy to grow at all. Like radishes, cucumbers, and cabbage, broccoli is one of those vegetables that’s usually easy to succeed with. When you have a problem, you skip flipping through gardening books, while well the author offers variations of “Anyone Can Grow Broccoli.”

Nothing feels more like failure than being reminded that your failed crop is often referred to as a “no fail” vegetable.

The truth is that any vegetable can go bad under the wrong conditions. Even easy-to-grow favorites such as broccoli will be defeated by simple rabbits or overworked soil.

Broccoli Basics

11 Broccoli Plant Problems That Can Ruin Your Harvest

Broccoli is one of the most popular members of the Brassica family. It is a cool season vegetable – grows best in spring and autumn seasons. Like its close cousin cabbage, broccoli grows best when it is given the opportunity to grow quickly in cool climates with lots of moisture.

With plenty of moisture and rich soil, broccoli is an easy plant to grow. But there are always challenges when gardening – it is one of the joys and challenges of working with the natural world.

Whether your challenge is an unseasonably hot spring, a garden full of cutworms, or troubling dark spots on your plant’s leaves, you’ll find answers—and no judgment—here.

There are two primary types of problems with any vegetable, including broccoli: pest problems and health problems. Broccoli is no exception. If you are losing plants at any stage of growth, it is a good idea to find out if the problem is pests or there is an issue with the health of the plant.

Brassic is visited by many insects. Humans have been growing broccoli, cabbage and other members of the Brassica family for millennia. Naturally, few pests have become as attached to these hearty, nutritious vegetables as we are.

Pests aren’t the only potential threat to your broccoli crop. There are some fungi and diseases that can destroy this crop as well. But if you are careful and take preventive measures, it will be easy to keep your broccoli crop healthy and strong.

The sooner you know what’s going wrong, the sooner you can fix the problem.

1. Seeds harvested at the base

One of the most frequent broccoli pests is the indiscriminate cutworm. This gray grub just likes to eat the shoots. Cutworms chew on roots, stems and eventually leaves. They won’t even eat your broccoli – cutworms will happily eat most of the garden if you let them.

The easiest way to prevent cutworms is to graft your chickens into the garden just before planting. Chickens love cutworms as much as cutworms love seedlings. They will scratch around and find every grub in the garden. But remember that chickens must be taken out before planting, as chickens also like to scratch the seedlings.

If you don’t have chickens, put a paper collar around the base of each sow and sprinkle wood ash around the base of your plants to keep grubs away. There are more helpful tips in our guide to cutworms.

2. Seeds do not germinate or shoots disappear

11 Broccoli Plant Problems That Can Ruin Your Harvest

It is the immature version of the grey-white monstrous cabbage fly. Despite its name, the cabbage fly loves broccoli. In fact, he’ll eat anything in the Brassica family—arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. When shoots fail to emerge from the soil or disappear entirely, both cabbage root maggots and cutworms are suspected. When even full-grown plants develop slimy tunnels in the roots, you know that cabbage worms are probably to blame.

Fortunately, you can rid the broccoli problem of cabbage maggots the same way you eliminate cutworms. Paper collars, wood ash and chickens. If last season was a bad broccoli season for you, try all three remedies.

3. Yellow or Weak Plants

Every gardener’s curse, aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that eat a wide variety of plants. You’ll find them on the underside of your broccoli leaves. When aphids feed, broccoli leaves wither and become wrinkled.

They can do a lot of damage but aphids are usually very easy to get rid of. A basic insecticidal soap is ideal for killing large scale aphid infestations as well. For small infestations of aphids, simply spray them with a sturdy hose to remove them from the plants.

4. Chunky Hole in the Leaf

snail crawling on a leaf

Slugs love brassicas. You’ll find them seeping into your broccoli rows, especially at night. They eat the leaves and leave the entire plant thin. But slugs also love beer, and like most of us, if they have to choose between broccoli and beer, they’ll go for the beer. Build some beer traps in your garden—especially near your brassicas—and the slugs will leave your vegetables alone and head for the beer instead.

Don’t forget to replace your beer trap regularly. They can quickly fill up with fallen slugs, giving other slugs a chance to enjoy a few sips of beer before filling up on the broccoli leaves. Traps only work if the slugs can’t escape them.

5. Leaves Disappearing Completely

11 Broccoli Plant Problems That Can Ruin Your Harvest

Insects aren’t the only problem affecting your broccoli. Rabbits, groundhogs, birds and even goats are the first to head for brassicas when they invade the garden. Solid fencing is the only defense against goats I’ve had any success with, but you have more options when it comes to smaller animals.

One year, a groundhog came and ate all my cabbage and broccoli. He ignored everything else in the garden. I planted new brassicas, but the greedy, little insect came back and ate all the new brassicas as well. Broccoli pests are persistent.

Try spraying each plant with a natural repellent like Liquid Fence or a homemade red pepper and garlic deterrent.

6. Seedlings are weak or do not produce seeds

Damping off can attack any plant, but it most often occurs with young seedlings. If you see your young shoots drooping along with black, wet stems, they are suffering from dampness. Make sure the humidity isn’t too high and give your young plants plenty of bright sunlight (or grow light). Damping off is a fungus that grows in cool, dim, moist places.

Since my house is always a little cold and dim in early spring – I bring my seedlings outside to a cold frame as often as possible and water them with emollient, oregano tea to combat the fungus.

7. Brown or yellow spots

If you’re starting to see brown or yellow spots on the tops of your leaves and powdery mold on their undersides, it’s likely that your broccoli plants are suffering from a problem with downy mildew. Another fungus that lives in moist soil, downy mildew can quickly overwhelm a row of broccoli.

Often, the problem is air quality and circulation. Maybe your plants are too far apart? Open the rows a bit to give air a chance to move through. Pull weeds, mix a little wood ash into the soil, and give that part of the garden a break next year. If downy mildew persists,

8. Beige Dark Spots

Unfortunately, it cannot be treated. if ervinia Bacteria attack your plants, leaves and heads will turn pale green, and then slimy rot will begin on the stems and engulf the entire plant. Water-soaked, black, mushy spots will appear everywhere and seep through the cracks of the stem. It sounds like a horror story doesn’t it.

When bacterial rot hits, all you can do is collect your broccoli plants and burn them. Do not put these plants in the compost, otherwise the rot will also take root there. Then, work on the clay. Improve drainage, add healthy compost, wood ash and leave the area fallow for a year. Rotate your crops when you replant – avoid brassicas for at least another year.

9. Flowering

11 Broccoli Plant Problems That Can Ruin Your Harvest

What if your plants look great, but they just aren’t producing heads of broccoli. The leaves look healthy, there’s no rot or harmful insects, and you’re positive the goats aren’t sneaking around to steal the heads. What’s up?

If your plants suddenly go into flower without producing a head, it is possible that the temperature is too hot. Try planting broccoli so the plants reach maturity before temperatures reach 80-85°F. One of the major causes of broccoli problems is the problem of temperature.

Drought can also cause the kind of stress that causes broccoli to bolt. Broccoli loves full sun, cool temperatures and moist, rich soil. If Mother Nature fails to provide any of these, the plant starts to worry. So, instead of forming a head of broccoli, it simply turns into a flower, in the hope that the next generation will have a better chance of growing.

10. No head at all

Maybe your broccoli plants aren’t even flowering. If that’s the case, there’s probably a root problem with your broccoli at play. Plants may be overcrowded. If plants are not able to spread out their roots and absorb enough nutrients from the soil, they will not be able to head properly.

If your broccoli plants are root bound in pots, or if careless transplanting damages their roots, you may end up with a row of broccoli leaves and stems at the end of the season. It’s disappointing, but at least the whole plant is edible.

In the form of too much heat the plants are forming, this can cause the plant to bolt instead of forming a head.

11. Seedlings Fall Off When You Take Them Out

uh oh! You didn’t harden off your plants well. When you start a plant indoors and move it outside, you need to do it gradually over one to two weeks. If you don’t, the shock will kill or stunt your plants.

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