Broccoli will still grow broccoli heads if the leaves have been eaten. When the weather begins to warm in spring the broccoli leaves can quickly get eaten. Even with holes in the leaves the broccoli can still keep growing small side shoots which can be eaten in stir fry or curries.
This article will explore what happens to broccoli when it is attacked by bugs, what you can do to prevent bug attack and what might be eating your broccoli.
What eats the leaves of the broccoli?
Broccoli leaves can be eaten during the winter as cabbage white butterflies visit and lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the caterpillars hatch they will eat through the leaves of the broccoli before they pupate and fly away.
Will broccoli grow after leaves eaten?
Organically grown broccoli always runs the risk of being attacked by bugs that like to nibble their leaves. Throughout the winter growing season small bites were taken out of the leaves. There were only a few small holes and it didn’t affect the growth of broccoli heads.
The variety that I chose to grow this year was a sprouting broccoli which grew a small head in the center then many small head that would sprout out from the center stem. This is similar to the growth of purple sprouting broccoli which grows one single large head and then many smaller sprouts from the side.
The small holes that were eating into the leaves made no difference to the broccoli growth. I harvested broccoli 4-5 times per season for a full bunch of broccoli to add to my meals.
Holes in broccoli leaves in Spring
When the weather warms in spring this is the key time that insects will come out to eat any delicious brassica leaves including broccoli. As they are ready to finish their growing season the leaves will be mor susceptible to insect attack and can be a feeding ground for passing caterpillars.
When the weather warms, the last broccoli stems will quickly send out flowers ready to go to seed and reproduce. The bright yellow flowers attract passing bees and pollinators which like to visit the yellow flowers and then the bright pink strawberry flower nearby.
Spring is the time to allow the broccoli to go to flower and not to worry about bugs eating the leaves. For those growing heirloom varieties, the seeds can be collected in a brown paper bag and saved to grow the next year. The seeds will grow true to the original plant.
For hybrid varieties of broccoli like the one I have grown, the seeds are usually not viable and will not grow into a useful plant. The easiest way is to grow broccoli is to get new seedlings each year and replant the variety that you like the best.
What is eating the leaves of my broccoli plants?
There are many insects that will love to eat the leaves of your broccoli plants including cabbage white butterfly, aphids, flea beetles and cut worms. The most likely insect that is eating your broccoli leaves is the cabbage caterpillar. These are green so blend in perfectly with the leaves.
They can easily be picked off with gloved hands or knocked off with a small spade. Feed the caterpillars to the chickens or take them to the bin to make sure they don’t find your broccoli leaves again.
How to prevent holes in broccoli leaves
The best way to prevent holes in broccoli leaves is to plant a mix of plants together or interplanting, preparing the soil well to grow healthy, resistant plants and picking off the leaves that are touching the ground.
To prevent your broccoli from being attacked by bugs that will eat their leaves is to plant them in between a variety of other plants. Rather than the traditional rows of single species, create a food forest by planting a range of fruits and vegetables together.
You can even plant your broccoli in flower beds, in amongst annual and perennial flowers. These can distract the bugs and even hide the broccoli leaves, protecting them from attack.
Prepare the soil well
Preparing the soil well before planting out your broccoli seedlings will help them to develop their own resistance to pests. Plants that are in distress actually send out chemical signals that bugs can detect making it more likely that they will be eaten.
Broccoli plants that are grow in good soil will grow strong, healthy root systems which will make the plant more resistant to pest attack. Prepare the soil first with aged cow manure, pelleted chicken manure and compost. If you have worm castings, these can be added too to add extra nutrients.
Remove leaves that are touching the ground
Removing any lower broccoli leaves that are close to the ground will help to prevent pest attack. Leaves that are touching the ground provide easy access for ground crawling bugs to make their way up onto the plant to nibble on the leaves.
Snapping off the lower leaves at the base of the stem is the best way to prevent ground insects from climbing up and chewing on upper leaves.
Will broccoli grow if leaves have been eaten? | Summary
Broccoli will keep growing even after small amounts of the leaves have been eaten. If too much of the leaf is eaten, the plant will struggle to photosynthesize over time. By the end of the season there might be a lot of holes in your leaves but by Spring you should have had a great harvest of broccoli to fee your family.
By Spring you can replace the broccoli with the next seasons planting like tomatoes, peppers and basil. Transform the vegetable garden into a Spring haven once your broccoli plants have been eaten.
Feed the rest of your broccoli plant to your worms or chop it up into pieces and put it in your compost bin.
If you are lucky enough to have backyard chickens they will love to peck the last pieces of broccoli leaf from the plant and will nibble on the flowers.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.