Growing Broccoli has become a challenge! For me, discovering the first quarter size Broccoli head is always exciting to me! Since I have only been veggie gardening for a few years now. Growing Broccoli has all been trial and error for me! Knowing the difference of when to harvest and when it's too late is an easy call.
The center heads must be cut before it blossoms! How do you know when this is about to occur? Did you know a head of Broccoli is a cluster of flower buds?
When the head is very young, it's individual buds are packed super tight. Take your thumb and rub over the Broccoli head and you will feel the tightness! If the buds stay tight let it grow. Pictured below is a tight Broccoli head.
If the buds loosen and spread out, most likely it is about to produce little yellow flowers. If your buds are loose, you might want to harvest it before it flowers. Even if the buds are very small, harvest anyway. Below is a picture of the buds spreading and loosing their tightness.
Sometimes with hot weather, lack of water or some kind of other stress the plant will still be determined to send up flowers and go to seed. Once this happens your Broccoli will stop producing.
After cutting the center head, you will start to get "side shoots" these form on other parts of the stem. They dont get very big, but a bunch of little ones will start to add up. Here is a picture of a side shoot!
It is important once the hot weather starts, to check your plants every other day or so for side shoots. Snip all the little bite size pieces before they flower. You will have a non-stop harvest. They may be small, but depending on how many plants you grow you will have plenty of little florettes.