Brussels Sprouts: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting

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Brussels sprouts

Though Brussels Sprouts date back to ancient Rome, they are named for the city of Brussels, Belgium.

People have enjoyed this plant since the 14th century. Moreover, brussels sprouts are a part of the cabbage family, and you can grow them in any home vegetable garden.

However, make sure to have patience as they are slow growers that require a long growing season.

If you see Brussels Sprouts in the grocery store, you will delight in the striking appearance of the plant form.

The numerous mini cabbage head forms long thick, 30-inch tall stalks, along with bold, jutting stems and board, cabbage-like leaves.

Moreover, the leaves of this plant are also edible and you can prepare them like other hardy greens.

Just like other vegetables in the Brassicaceae family, Brussels sprouts taste best in cool weather.

This means harvesting them after a light frost or snow.

Keep on reading to learn more about them.

Brussels Sprouts: Facts:

If you want to plant Brussels Sprouts, you will have to plant them in early summer for a fall harvest, in cooler climates.

However, in warmer climates, you should plant them in late summer for a late fall or winter harvest.

Common Name Brussels sprouts
Botanical Name Brassica oleracea (Gemmifera group)
Family Brassicaceae
Plant Type Annual vegetable
Size 30 in. tall, 8 to 12 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH Neutral (6.5 to 7)
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 2 to 9
Native Area Mediterranean

Planting Brussels Sprouts

In order to find the best planting time, count backward from your first fall first date using the ‘days to maturity” that you can see on the seed packet.

This means that you can sow Brussels sprout seeds about 4 months before your first fall first date.

It is important to note that in regions where the winter temperature is often below freezing point, start seeding in early to mid-summer.

Plants will mature for mid-fall or early winter harvest.

Brussels sprouts plantation

However, in regions with mild or want winters, where the winter temperature is occasionally or rarely below freezing points, start seeding in mid to late summer.

Moreover, these plants will mature for a mid to late winter harvest.

You can also start Brussels Sprouts from seeds indoors or sow them directly into the garden.

Many gardeners recommend starting seeds indoors as this gives them a headstart and helps to protect them from heat and pests.

Furthermore, if you directly sow them in the soil, it can take a few weeks longer to mature, so add 20 days to your planting date calculation if you plan to sow them outdoor.

Choosing, Preparing, and Planting Brussels Sprouts

In order to choose and prepare the planting site, follow the steps below:

Planting Site

Many gardeners recommend choosing raised beds for cool-season vegetables, especially in the spring and fall, when the temperatures are not consistent.

Make sure to work several inches of aged manure and/or compost into the soil a few days before sowing or transplanting.

Brussels sprouts can reach the height of 2 to 3 feet, so make sure to plan accordingly, and they may require staking.

How to Plant Brussels Sprouts

When planting Brussels sprouts, sow the seeds about 1/2 inch deep. If you plan to directly sow them outdoors, then make sure to sow seeds about 2 to 3 inches apart.

Moreover, make sure to thin the seedling to 12 to 24 inches apart when they reach 6 inches tall.

However, plant transplanted seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart and make sure to water well at the time of transplanting.

Learn more about Organic Plant Nutrition here.

Growing Brussels Sprouts

In order to grow Brussels Sprouts, follow the steps below:

Thin young plants to 12 to 24 inches apart when they reach 6 inches tall.

Fertilize your plant with the nitrogen-rich product after thinning, and repeat every 3 to 4 weeks.

Moreover, mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil temperature cool through the summer season.

If you are planning to grow these plants during hot weather, make sure to keep the plants well-watered.

inconsistent moisture can lead to subpar sprout development, and they should receive about 1 to 1½ inches of water per square foot per week.

Furthermore, consider row covers. This will help to protect young plants from pests.

Brussels sprouts

It is important to note that you often have to plant Brussels sprouts outdoors right when the pests are at their worst.

Do not disturb the soil around your plants, as the roots are shallow and susceptible to damage.

Additionally, remove yellowing plants at the bottom of the plant to allow for more sunlight on the stalk and to focus plant energy on healthy growth.

To encourage plants to mature faster, you can cut the top leaves 3 to 4 weeks before harvest.

Note: If you intend to harvest sprouts into winter, leave the top leaves of the plant intact, as they provide protection from snow.

It is important to cover your plants with 10 to 12 inches of mulch if you plan to harvest into the winter.

Pruning and Maintainance

In order to maximize the harvest of Brussels Sprouts, you can use a little extra pruning.

In some cases, gardeners choose to remove the lowest leaves on the stalk to speed up the development of the edible orbs.

While some gardeners also swear by the process: Topping. This is the practice of lopping off the top of the plant to encourage larger heads.

If you are not sure what to do, then read on.

First, refrain from removing lower leaves unless you have a good reason to do so.

Good reasons are:

In the cases above, go ahead and remove the affected parts of the plant.

Moreover, you can do topping anywhere from 30 to 60 days before harvesting your plant.

At this point, remove the small top leaves and it will help to encourage the buds to mature at the same time and be slightly larger.

While your plant is growing, keep an eye out for lodging. This occurs when your plant starts to fall over or tilt, often because of the heavy heads.

Crowded plants tend to have thinner stalks, and consequently, they are more prone to lodging.

In order to help prevent this, you can heap 6 inches of the soil up the base of your plants once they reach their mature height.

Types of Brussels Sprouts

Some popular types of Brussel Sprouts you can choose to grow are:

Bubbles F1, 85 to 90 days to maturity. This variety can tolerate heat and drought and can grow 2-inch sprouts that are resistant to powdery mildew and rust.

Jade Cross F1 and Jade Cross E F1 need 90 days to mature.

Moreover, both are compact plants that are good if you have a windy location, however, the sports on Jade Cross E are slightly larger and have good disease resistance.

Long Island Improved Op needs 90 days to mature. This variety is another small, but a high-yield plant that stands up to wind and tolerates freezing.

Oliver F1 requires 85 days to mature. This type is an early producer, the 1-inch sprouts are easy to pick and the compact plant is also disease resistant.

Royal Marvel F1 needs 5 days to mature. However, this is an early and productive plant this is resistant to bottom rot and tip burn.

Rubine will need 85 to 95 days. Moreover, these heirloom purple plants are late-maturing and lower-yield plants than green varieties.

However, this type of sprouts then has a good flavor.

Learn more about Organic Soil Conditioners here.

Care and Growing Requirments

Care for Brussels Sprouts includes:

Light

The plant tends to grow best in full sun and needs at least 6 hours of sun daily. However, too much shade can slow the maturity of the sprouts.

Soil

Brussels sprouts like a slightly acidic to neutral soil, that is fertile, well-draining, and most. Also, it should contain plenty of organic matter.

Moreover, the soil pH should be between 6.5 to 7 and a good amount of organic matter can help maintain the moisture they need for intense growth.

These plants like the soil around them to be firm, however, not compacted. Pat it down lightly.

Water

Make sure to keep the sprouts moist but not soaked. Give it between 1 and 1.5 inches of water per week.

growing requirments

Temperature and Humidity

These plants tend to thrive best in temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

They can tolerate a couple of days of below freezing point as well and even improve their flavor with a bit of light frost.

However, these are not warm-weather crops, sprouts that mature during hot or dry weather tend to be bitter and flimsy.

Fertilizer

You can fertilize Brussels sprouts twice a season with nitrogen fertilizer.

Make sure to do that once your plants are about 12 inches high and again four weeks later.

Common Pests and Diseases

One of the important things to note about Brussels sprouts is that they have the same diseases as cabbage and broccoli.

The most common pests are:

  • cabbage looper
  • imported cabbageworm
  • cabbage root maggot
  • aphids
  • Harlequin bug

As these are late-season crops, you will have time to monitor for problems before the sports start forming.

pests and diseases

Make sure to use a row cover to protect your plants from pests.

On the other hand, the diseases that can affect your plant are:

  • blackleg
  • black rot
  • clubroot

You can achieve disease control by rotating the crop each year. While you can diminish clubroot when you raise the soil pH to about 7.0.

Learn more about Organic Pesticides here.

Wrapping it Up

Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family and an excellent source of nutrients. You may see them commonly in a grocery store as these are not the easiest vegetables to grow. They need a fairly long growing season and are a cool-season crop.

As long as you plant them at the right time, keep the growing conditions in mind, and water them well during the heat of the summer, these are a rewarding vegetable crop to grow as an accomplishment.

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