When you think of growing food in Hawaii, many people imagine pineapples, papayas, and mangoes. However, Hawaii can support a huge variety of crops because of its many microclimates. In a few of those microclimates, you can find cool-season crops such as broccoli growing in the garden.
Broccoli grows well in Hawaii in elevations above 800ʻ and below 4000ʻ. It is known as a cool season crop, growing best in the winter and early spring. It thrives in rich, fertile soil and plenty of moisture.
The thing is though, just because it grows here, doesnʻt mean youʻll be successful. Pest issues are real, there is a possibility that the broccoli just might bolt or just not grow at all.
That being said, fear not broccoli loving friends! As a broccoli lover myself, I’m going to share with you how broccoli CAN be grown successfully in Hawai’i!
Related: We may not have broccoli seeds, but we do have tropical fruit tree seeds, like Abiu. Homesteadinʻ Hawaii has just opened a seed store, where we ship super fresh tropical tree seeds straight to your door. We have fruits like abiu, surname cherry, ice cream bean, rollinia and more! Check out the store today!
Where In Hawaii Does Broccoli Thrive?
Hawaii is known to be home to 12 of the worldʻs 14 microclimates. We have deserts, rainforests, dry forests, alpine regions, grasslands and more. Broccoli has got to thrive in at least a couple of those microclimates.
The bud formation and compactness of the head, which is an important characteristic in broccoli, develop best in the cooler temps of late fall and winter in Hawai’i, yet the early growth and development of the plants can occur during the warmer weather conditions of late summer and fall.
On the Island of Hawaii for instance, you can find a lot of success growing broccoli in upper Puna, mauka from Hwy 130 up to the town of Volcano. It also grows well in Waimea and on the upper slopes of Hualalai in Kona.
On Maui broccoli grows well on the slopes of Haleakala, from Makawao to Kula.
You might be able to find it growing in lower elevations, but it is harder to find success with most varieties, although broccoli raab does well in hotter weather.
Lettuce tends to like to grow in the same microclimates as broccoli. Learn more about growing lettuce in Hawaii by checking out this post.
What Varieties Of Broccoli Do Well In Hawaii?
A lot of the success in growing broccoli in Hawaii comes in what variety you choose to plant. Lucky for us there are a few varieties that do well in different situations.
Warm and Lowland Varieties of Broccoli are best adapted because of their ability to produce a large central head and a multitude of lateral shoots.
Warm climate varieties include:
- Green Comet
- Blue Ocean
- Express Corona
Cool climate, upland varieties of broccoli that do better above 2000 feet of elevation might include:
- Waltham 29
- Premium Crop
- Express Corona
You can find some of these broccoli varieties available through some of our favorite local Hawaii seed companies, which you can learn more about here.
How To Plant Broccoli
Broccoli does well in rich, fertile soil with a high water-holding capacity, good drainage and a pH range between 6–7. Testing your soil is the best way to find the pH of your soil and what specific inputs you will need to be successful.
When planting broccoli, make sure to incorporate manure and compost into the soil to about 6–8 inches deep. Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so make sure the soil has lots to eat.
If you need to treat your soil for nematodes, do this after preparing the soil, and allow 2 to 3 weeks after treatment before planting.
To learn more about creating great soil for growing in, check out this post that gives you the ultimate soil recipe for Hawaii.
Broccoli can be transplanted or seeded directly into the garden. Seeds germinate in 4 to 7 days and can be transplanted when they are 4 to 6 inches tall.
Water your seedlings in the morning daily, so that plants will dry as soon as possible. Crowded, wet seedlings can become infected with diseases.
Transplant seedlings into rows 3 to 4 ft apart. Control weeds around your growing broccoli plants, taking care to prevent root injury. Irrigate regularly, depending on your rainfall, as needed to prevent plants from wilting.
When choosing fertilizer, a basic fertilizer such as 10-30-10, can be applied at 2.5–3.5 pounds per 100 sq ft. It should be applied in 3 applications: at time of transplanting, 4 to 5 weeks after you transplant, and then 12 to 14 weeks after you transplant.
Added nitrogen can be used after the first harvesting begins to keep the broccoli side shoots in production longer.
Other great methods of fertilization include adding worm compost to the soil during growth or spraying the leaves weekly with a mix of fish emulsion and kelp.
Because broccoli is a notorious calcium-hog, plants that require little calcium are good companions, such as nasturtiums, and marigolds. Eggshell dust may also be used as a slow release calcium additive.
Pests That LOVE Broccoli
Some of the pests found in Hawai’i that may be a problem for your broccoli include: cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, stink bugs and red spider mites, some of which you can learn more about in this post.
Ways to prevent pests from destroying your broccoli plants may include the use of organic pesticide or miticide or safer soap on your plants during an infestation, though caution should be taken to choose environmentally safe ingredients.
The much loathed semi-slug, which harbors the rat lung worm virus, along with other snails, particularly love brassicas and can decimate your entire crop in a very short time. Raised beds, copper barriers, beer traps and other similar methods may be deployed to reduce the slug and snail population.
If you have a small garden, it may be feasible to hand pick any problem insects and broccoli munching caterpillars from your plants. They make great chicken food and ducks especially love slugs!
Parasitic wasps may also be helpful in pest reduction.
Herbs that act as an aromatic to help repel common garden pests that feed on broccoli include:
Disease Is A Broccoli Killer
The most common diseases of broccoli are wire stem and black leg disease in the seedling stages, and black rot and downy mildew in the mature stages.
Wire stem disease can best be controlled by treating with a seed disinfectant or by preplant soil application of fungicide.
Black leg and black rot are usually transmitted through the seed stock and a hot-water seed treatment at 122F for 15 or 20 minutes is the best control.
Downy mildew can become a serious problem in cool, wet areas and cooler seasons. It has a fluffy, purple-white growth on lower leaf surfaces and yellow spots on the upper surfaces. Spraying with fungicide will control this common problem.
So YES, you CAN grow broccoli in Hawai’i, but IF broccoli isn’t your favorite vegetable, and IF you do not live at cooler elevations, you might just decide to choose any number of other nutritious food plants that grow incredibly well in Hawai’i, often with less finicky requirements.
Although there are warm weather varieties of broccoli for those who are below 1200’ elevation and want to try growing it, you will need to decide for yourself if the effort to grow broccoli in Hawai’i is worth it.
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