Brussels sprouts are a tasty and nutritious vegetable named after the fact that they were first grown near the city of Brussels. But because these sprouts can often be hard to find fresh at the market, you might be considering planting some of your own.
Brussel sprouts are a finicky vegetable that requires commitment and proper planting technique. But when you plant them in the late summer and take care to rid them of pests, water them regularly, and otherwise nurture them, they can flourish in any garden.
Ready to get started with your own crop of Brussel sprouts? Let’s look at how to plant and care for Brussel sprouts properly so you can enjoy this delicious vegetable.
When to Plant Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a cold weather crop, which means they actually need the cold in order to develop flavor. But before you think you can drag your feet on planting your Brussels sprouts, you should be aware that they also have a very long growing season.
For best results, you’ll want to plant your Brussels sprouts four months before your first expected frost. This can be difficult in a state like Colorado where the first frost varies widely each year.
Make your best estimate, and plant your Brussels sprouts four months before the month you expect your first frost. That’s usually during early to mid-summer. You also need to take your method of planting into account.
If you plan to start your seeds inside first, you should start the process prior to the four-month time clock. Those who plan to place their seeds directly in the ground should add 20 days to the four-month planting schedule.
Brussels Sprout Varieties
There are several varieties of Brussels sprouts, and you’ll need to research them before you begin planting as certain varieties do better in one climate versus another.
Those living in warm or hot climates should plant the Jade Cross variety of Brussels sprouts as they’re generally more heat tolerant than the other varieties. This type is also more resistant to diseases common to the Brussels sprout plant, making them a good choice for beginners.
Want a lot of Brussels sprouts? The Diablo strain is known for plants that produce a large number of sprouts.
Long Island Improved
The Long Island Improved variety of Brussels sprouts is best for people who have a cooler summer since they’re not heat tolerant and may die if it gets too warm.
Oliver Brussels sprouts have the shortest growing season of only about 3 months (as opposed to four), so plant these if you are running a bit behind schedule on summer planting.
No matter where you live, the Churchill variety is a good choice because it’s an adaptable and hardy plant. Those who live in extreme temperatures, however, are better off picking a plant designed for those environments.
Falstaff Brussels sprouts are one of the most unique breeds thanks to their purplish hue, which they retain even when cooked. They do take the longest to mature, however, so they’re best kept for growers who experience a long summer before the fall frost.
How to Plant Brussels Sprouts
Despite common belief, you can’t just put Brussels sprouts in the ground and hope for them to grow. Brussels sprouts are a difficult crop and require some time, love, and commitment in order to flourish.
Start your Brussels sprouts indoors to help protect them from bugs and the summer heat. Once the seedlings are about 6 inches tall, it’s time to move them outdoors.
Plant these seedlings about 1-2 feet apart with plenty of soil. They need to be in an area where they will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Water them immediately after you plant them.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
Although it may feel like a long wait, your Brussels sprouts will eventually be ready for harvesting. But just as these plants are finicky to grow, they can also be difficult to harvest.
Don’t attempt to harvest your Brussels sprouts until the sprouts are about 1 inch in diameter. Any earlier and they won’t be properly ripe.
Start by harvesting the Brussels sprouts at the base of the plant and work your way up. Pull Brussel sprouts firmly near the base and place them in the basket or container you plan to store them in.
You can also remove the entire Brussels sprout plant if you so choose, just make sure you remove the leaves prior to harvesting and remove the entire plant, including the roots. Hang to dry.
Maintaining Brussels Sprouts
As mentioned above, while your Brussels sprouts are growing, they need a lot of attention.
You’ll need to do the following tasks on a regular basis in order to keep your Brussels sprout plants happy and healthy:
- Fertilize every 3-4 weeks
- Water regularly, 1-1.5 inches of water each week
- Add mulch to the top of the soil in the hottest months
- Don’t allow pets, children, or adults to disturb the soil near the Brussels sprouts
- Add stakes if the plants begin to bow
- Remove yellow leaves as they appear on the plants
As you can see, there’s a lot that you’ll need to do on a weekly basis to keep up with your plants. You’ll also need to consider a form of pest control when you plant your Brussels as there are many pests that enjoy feasting on these plants.
Common Pests and Prevention
Below are the most common pests you might encounter as you grow your Brussels sprouts, and what you can do to prevent them.
|Aphids||These pesky little bugs can make your plants look black and moldy. Keep them at bay by growing companion plants, using insecticide, or placing banana and orange peels around your plants.|
|Cabbage Loopers||Cabbage loopers will leave holes in your leaves, and you’ll see their larvae on the plants. You can hand pick them to stop them in their tracks, spray insecticide, or cover your plants with row covers like these (on Amazon).|
|Stink Bugs||You’ll find the eggs from this pest on the underside of the leaves. You can remove them by hand (careful, they smell), spray insecticide, or use row covers.|
|Flea Beetles||Flea beetles will leave tiny holes in your leaves. Stop them in their tracks by using lots of mulch around your Brussels, and adding native plants that attract beneficial bugs.|
|Cabbage Worms||You’ll see large holes in the leaves when you have a cabbage worm problem. You can get rid of these by hand removing them or growing companion plants like thyme.|
|Cabbage Root Maggots||These pests are the hardest to spot as they usually feed off the root of your plants. If your plants are wilting without reason, cabbage root maggots are probably around. Combat these nasty pests by tilling soil, rotating your crops each season, and using collars like these (on Amazon) for your seedlings.|
Overall, Brussels sprouts are a great vegetable to plant to improve your gardening skills, and as long as you plan when you will plant them, and keep a close eye on them as they grow, you should have some delicious Brussels sprouts to enjoy come winter.
Just remember to start your Brussels sprouts indoors, and take every precaution to prevent pests from getting to your plants.