- Brussels Sprouts
- The much-derided Brussels sprout is delicious when grown fresh and cooked quickly. Here’s how.
- Brushing Up on Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts
- Tasty Combinations
- Brussels Sprouts Care Must-Knows
- Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
- Eating Brussels Sprouts
- More Varieties of Brussels Sprouts
- Brassica oleracea ‘gemmifera’
- You’ll Never Guess Where They Came From
- Can You Get Two Crops In?
- Let’s Get Going
- Water and Food
- With Thanks to Their Cousin, the Cabbage
- Call the Kids – It’s Time to Eat
- Recipe Ideas
- Fresh Sprouts in May?
- Winter Care For Brussels Sprouts: How To Grow Brussels Sprouts In Winter
- How to Grow Brussels Sprouts in Winter
- Do Brussels Sprouts Need Winter Protection?
- Where to Plant Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts Planting Time
- Planting and Spacing Brussels Sprouts
- Container Growing Brussels Sprouts
- Watering Brussels Sprouts
- Feeding Brussels Sprouts
- Companion Plants for Brussels Sprouts
- Caring for Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts Pests
- Brussels Sprouts Diseases
- Storing and Preserving Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts Varieties to Grow
- About Brussels Sprouts
- Learn how to grow Brussels sprouts in pots. Growing Brussels sprouts in containers is not difficult, and with little efforts, you can have this nutty and sweet vegetable at home.
- Choosing a Pot
- Planting Time
- Growing Brussels Sprouts from Seeds
- Growing Brussels Sprout Indoors
- How to Grow Brussels Sprouts in Pots
- Brussels Sprout Care
The much-derided Brussels sprout is delicious when grown fresh and cooked quickly. Here’s how.
Apparently Brussels sprouts are Britain’s most hated vegetable.
The 2002 survey that published this finding didn’t go on to explain how the sprout-haters cooked their vegies, but chances are they boiled them to a grey and sulphurous mush. Brussels sprouts lovers, on the other hand, are well aware that sprouts are a delicacy when lightly cooked, possessing a vivid lime green colour, and a delicious nutty flavour that lends itself to pairing with chestnuts or walnuts, batons of crispy bacon, or simply a knob of butter and some fresh pepper.
Photo – Ray Lacey/photolibrary.com
Sprouts were cultivated in Belgium as far back as 1200, which is why they are named for the Belgian capital, though they are now cultivated all over the world.
Sprouts are a true winter vegetable, with the best flavour developing after the frosts have come. But the trick is get them in early enough, way before you start thinking about winter food, or even winter gardening. In fact you need to be germinating seed at Christmas, when gardeners in the northern hemisphere are feasting on their sprouts harvest.
Sprouts are tolerant of almost all soil conditions, although they are susceptible to club root in acid soils. A firm soil is best as it helps the root system support these top-heavy plants.
They grow well in sun, but prefer partial shade. Don’t choose a position in front of plants that need full sun, as their foliage will put others in the shade. Again, because they are top-heavy, they should be grown in an area that is free from strong winds.
Prepare soil by digging well-rotted compost or animal manure through the bed. Keep soil moist. Lime may need to be added if soils have been well composted and are acidic. A pH of 6.8 is ideal.
The big mistake we all make is planting out Brussels sprouts with the rest of the cool season vegetables in autumn. That’s too late! In fact Sydney gardeners should plant out young seedlings as early as mid-January. Brussels sprouts need between five and seven months of growing time so to grow some of the unusual varieties, you’ll need to sow seed before Christmas.
The difficult planting schedule for Brussels can cause headaches, as in mid-summer the garden is full of warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers. But if you can nudge aside some space for sprouts to spend some time, you will be rewarded in winter.
Sow seed in early summer in time for transplanting in mid-summer in cooler areas and for transplanting late Jan-Feb in warmer areas. Sow 10 mm deep in trays or seedbed. Transplant seedlings when seedlings reach 15cm by first removing the seed leaves and planting deeper, up to the 1st set of true leaves. Space plants 60 cm apart in rows 1 m apart. Any closer and you will get smaller sprouts.
After plants have been in about a month, stablise the growth by drawing up more soil around the trunk to prevent the plants flopping over. This is called ‘earthing up’.
Strip the leaves off the stem just above and below the young sprout buttons to help them develop. Sprouts will be ready to harvest from late autumn. Pick from the bottom, before they begin to open. Cut sprouts off with a sharp knife or snap them off by pulling downward.
Photo – Duisterhof Miki/photolibrary.com
All the pests and diseases that affect other brassicas will also affect Brussels sprouts. These include aphids, cabbage moth and clubroot. Remove yellowing leaves throughout autumn to help avoid fungal diseases.
Tips and Tricks
You can buy unusual red varieties from www.greenharvest.com.au
Don’t forget – sow seeds before Christmas Day!
Many consider that the best flavour occurs in mid to late winter, after the plants have been exposed to frost.
If you want all your sprouts to ripen at once, for a large meal or special occasion, cut off the leafy head at the top in early autumn. If you are content to pick as they come to maturity, leaves the tops on.
Pick Brussels sprouts as soon as they are walnut sized. Don’t delay as they get puffy and the leaves will be flabby.
Brussels sprouts varieties
Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group
This unusual Brussels sprouts is red, with a milder, nuttier flavour than green types. The quality and colour of these sprouts is improved by frost and they have a long growing season of 8 to 9 months, so they are more suitable for cooler areas. Steam lightly to retain colour when cooked. Available by seed from Greenharvest.
‘Green Thumb’ is an early to mid-season maturing F1 hybrid variety producing excellent dark-green sprouts of uniform size. It has a long harvesting season and a tolerance to downy mildew. Available as Oasis seedlings at your local nursery.
Text: Linda Ross
Brushing Up on Brussels Sprouts
Q. I have been trying to grow Brussels sprouts the past two years. I start from seed and each year, the plants do well; they get big and healthy and strong, but the sprouts are loose-leafed and/or very small. I garden in sunny raised beds, feed the plants with my own compost and a fish and seaweed fertilizer, and test my soil every year for pH and fertilizer needs. Should I even bother trying again? Thanks for your help; I don’t know how I’d make it without your show!
- —Janice in Hannibal, MO (zone 5b with hot and humid summers)
A. Darn! Your nice compliment at the end there trumps my natural impulse to say that we don’t help people grow foods that require an equal amount of melted butter to induce human consumption. And we do need new topics for the A to Z archives, so I guess it’s off to Brussels we shall sprout. Just don’t expect to see any lima beans tips here any time soon!
The variety “Prince Marvel” shows up repeatedly as a BS of choice for tightly wrapped sprouts in the issues of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine I edited during the 1990s, It was even named a ‘best variety for the zone 5 region’ by a pair of testers (Rick and Sharon Carpenter) who gardened just an hour West of you in Macon, Missouri! (There are also a number of newer varieties available with “Marvel” in their name that should be just as good, if not better.)
The name “Long Island Improved” also shows up on a lot of BS lover’s lists. And Andrea Ray Chandler of Kansas, who also tested crops for us in Zone 5 back in the 90s, praised a variety named “Rubine” for its beautiful red-colored leaves and sprouts. (Which, she explained, made the cabbage worms and other green caterpillars easier to see and squish.)
No matter the variety, the basic trick to growing great BS is to time the plants so that they don’t begin setting their little cabbages until cool weather arrives in the Fall. If the sprouts start to form while it’s still hot, you’ll get those small, loose-leafed ones. (They won’t taste very good either, which implies that my lack of love for this vegetable might be due to my not getting to eat ones that grew up in chilly times.)
BS is a long-season crop; it typically takes at least 90 days from transplant of six week old starts for the first little cabbages to start forming. Red Rubine takes 120 days; and it’s not unusual to see varieties with even longer days to maturity—and many experts feel that the varieties that take the longest also produce the biggest, tightest sprouts.
But that long timing is fine, even in a short-season location, because these plants are the ultimate cold-weather lovers. Frost doesn’t kill (or even remotely bother) the plants, and the little cabbages always taste sweetest when they’re picked after the weather goes North. (BS lovers say that the sprouts have to sit through freezing cold nights on the plant to really taste their best.)
The fact that your starts have been good-looking and strong shows that you’re raising them right; and it sounds like your soil has the natural richness these plants crave, so improving your timing may be all that’s necessary. Time your starts so that the grown plants will hit the days to maturity listed on the seed packet right around the time your average daytime temperatures typically fall to around 65° F. These things are the opposite of tomatoes and peppers—you want the plants to start forming their edibles just as your main crops of summer are winding down.
So if, like me, you start your tamatas and other summer crops in early March for transplanting out in mid to late May, you’d start a “90 days to maturity” BS baby in May (June in warmer climes than Zone 5) and transplant them out around the end of June or early July. That would have them forming their first heads in late September, which would be close to perfect.
Keep the young plants cool in the heat of the summer with liberal watering and a soil-cooling mulch of shredded leaves or straw. Then, when the weather starts to chill, look for the first sprouts to begin forming down towards the bottom of the plant. (The little cabbages always appear down low and then progress up the plant.) They should be bigger and tighter now that they’re heading up in cool weather.
Pull off the leaves nearest the spouts as you pick to encourage the fast growth of big new sprouts. Don’t worry if the first ones are a little small and loose-leafed; pick them promptly, de-leaf the plant as you go and they should get tighter and bigger as the harvest progresses up the plant and the weather gets progressively cooler.
Don’t worry about frost. And then don’t worry about hard freezes. The sprouts that form after your first hard freeze should be the best tasting of all, and you should be able to keep picking through at least December.
After that, a lot of people will gently and slowly rock and push the plant until it’s almost out of the ground (wetting the soil may make this easier to do), lay it down on its side, cover it with a light mulch and continue harvesting through the winter and early Spring. (When the weather finally does get hot again, rip that plant out of the ground; it’s done.)
Some gardeners, however, prefer to ‘top’ their plants to get a big, uniform harvest. To do so, wait until the sprouts at the bottom of the plant are half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter and then break off the very top of the stalk. The plant will stop growing and direct all of its energy into producing a final run of big, well-shaped sprouts.
Brussels sprouts, a slow-growing cool-season vegetable, is a cinch to grow in your garden or in a container. That’s good news because this tasty vegetable is full of vitamins and minerals. You’ll also love the interesting visual character Brussels sprouts brings to plantings.
It may be hard to decide what you like best about Brussels sprouts: The way this cool-season vegetable looks or how great it tastes when served for dinner. As a garden plant, Brussels sprouts offers an otherworldly appearance because it bears relatively large leaves, much like its cousins cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. As it grows, Brussels sprouts shows off a thick stalk topped by a crown of attractive blue-green foliage. The sprouts, which look like miniature heads of cabbage, form up and down the main stem. A healthy, well-grown plant may reach up to 3 feet tall (depending on variety) and bear as many as a hundred edible sprouts. Brussels sprouts’ distinct look makes it a perfect partner for colorful kale, Swiss chard, feathery carrots, and cabbage.
Read our guide to first-time vegetable gardening.
Brussels Sprouts Care Must-Knows
A relatively slow-growing vegetable, Brussels sprouts loves cool weather. Plant it in late spring, and watch it grow all summer long. Harvest Brussels sprouts in fall, but wait until the plant has been exposed to a couple of light frosts; the cool weather enhances its nutty flavor and reduces bitterness. Like most vegetables, Brussels sprouts does best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct light per day) and moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. If your soil has lots of sticky, heavy clay or sand that dries out fast, amend it liberally with compost before planting. Or, for an interesting display, plant Brussels sprouts in large containers.
Brussels sprouts isn’t a drought-tolerant plant. So keep it well watered—especially during periods of hot, dry weather—if you want plentiful yields of high-quality sprouts. Want to water less? Spread a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil. This will help keep the plant’s roots cool and moist, allowing it to thrive during the heat of summer. As you see the sprouts begin to develop along the stem, start to remove the lower leaves.
Like many leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts is considered a heavy feeder. It does best in rich soil and with regular applications of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. If you don’t want to worry about feeding your Brussels sprouts throughout the summer, use a time-release fertilizer at planting time. This type of fertilizer slowly breaks down to add nutrients to the soil over time.
If you want to grow Brussels sprouts from seed, start the seeds indoors about four weeks before your region’s last average frost date in spring. Because these plants are slow to mature, you may not have enough time to develop a harvestable crop if you plant seeds outdoors. Save time by getting transplants in the spring. If you live in a warm-winter area, you can plant Brussels sprouts in the fall and harvest it as a spring crop.
Several types of pests enjoy Brussels sprouts, too, so keep an eye out for invaders. Using row covers can help protect plants early in the season. Row covers are fabric tunnels that allow light, air, and moisture to reach the plants while keeping harmful pests out. Watch for insects, such as cabbage worms, later in the summer after you have removed the row covers. Hand-pick the sprouts or treat with an organic or synthetic insecticide or insecticidal soap as necessary.
Get ideas for growing vegetables in containers.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
Once the sprouts studding the stems reach about ½ inch wide, you can harvest them for eating. (You can also wait to harvest until they get as large as 1–2 inches wide.) Twist the sprouts to pull them off the stem, and refrigerate them if you don’t plan to use them right away. Don’t harvest in hot weather; warm temperatures make them bitter.
At the end of the season, just before killing frost, you can pick Brussels sprouts’ young leaves and enjoy them as cooked greens.
Eating Brussels Sprouts
Use Brussels sprouts in a wide variety of dishes. Sprouts can be eaten fresh, but many people find they’re much more satisfying when grilled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed.
Try one of our best Brussels sprouts recipes!
More Varieties of Brussels Sprouts
‘Red Rubine’ Brussels sprouts
An heirloom variety of Brassica oleracea prized for its purple-red color. In addition, the colorful sprouts are higher in antioxidants than green varieties. Start harvesting about 85 days after transplant.
‘Jade Cross E’ Brussels sprouts
This Brassica oleracea sports better disease resistance than many other Brussels sprouts varieties. This hybrid also grows only 28 inches tall, making it a good choice for containers and small-space gardens. It’s ready for harvest about 85 days after transplant.
Brassica oleracea ‘gemmifera’
Show of hands: How many of you detested Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea ‘gemmifera’) when you were a kid?
And how many of you love them now, spritzed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven? Or sauteed with bacon and fennel?
Want to ensure that these delicious dinner sides are just steps away? Grow your own Brussels sprouts – even if your kids carry on the tradition of hating them!
As opposed to the bushels of heat-loving tomatoes and peppers grown in backyard gardens, Brussels sprouts prefer a nip in the air. These are a perfect cool-weather crop, when the salsa fixin’s are but a memory.
Let’s toss out a wild hunch as to where this plant originated, and then we’ll dig into how to plant, care for, and harvest it.
You’ll Never Guess Where They Came From
By vegetable standards, Brussels sprouts are quite youthful. According to Michigan State University Extension, the plant was unknown until about 400 years ago.
It is thought to have descended from wild Mediterranean kale, developing near Brussels, Belgium — and thus, unsurprisingly, the name.
The first rough description of this cute green sphere was recorded in 1587, according to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Respected botanists as recently as the seventeenth century referred to it only as something they had heard of, but had never seen.
The plant made its way to North America around 1800, and has been distressing American children ever since.
Brussels sprouts and their cousins cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli are colloquially referred to as “cole crops” – all members of the Brassica family.
Can You Get Two Crops In?
Most varieties of this plant have an extremely long growing season with a lengthy interval between planting and harvest, as much as 130 days. Though there are some shorter-season varieties, which will have your kids singing the blues in as few as 80 days.
Or, maybe they’ll even learn like them. Repeat exposure is key when you’re aiming to adjust a picky palate to new veggie flavors.
This little persnickety veggie prefers temps between 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 75°F, and will tolerate a day or two down around 20°F, but not long.
Oh, and did we mention that they greatly appreciate a little nip of frost to really enhance their flavor?
So, that means very northern gardeners can plant as early as mid-June, reap the taste-enhancing benefits of a frost or two, and enjoy these tasty treats at Thanksgiving.
Gardeners further to the south can almost certainly get a fall crop in, though the sprouts might not be ready for Turkey Day. Things get tricky when these southern gardeners get a little cocky and think maybe they can also get a spring harvest in.
If you think you can plant a spring crop early enough to enjoy a bit of frost, but not too much chill, and have them vegging out before daytime temps get above 75°F, go for it!
Play with different varieties to get the timing right, according to your local weather patterns. According to Cornell University, shorter plants tend to mature earlier and be more cold tolerant.
Northern gardeners have good luck with ‘Long Island Improved,’ available from Mountain Valley Seed Co. This variety produces tightly packed one-inch veggies. Kids in northern climes might lobby for ‘Rubine,’ as this red-hued variety takes a leisurely 105 days or so to mature.
Southern gardeners might also like ‘Long Island Improved,’ as well as ‘Jade Cross.’ And gardeners looking for a quick fix might want to try ‘Oliver,’ which matures 85 days from transplant.
Also suitable for the South are ‘Diablo,’ ‘Royal Marvel,’ and ‘Tasty Nugget,’ according to Texas A&M Agrilife extension.
Let’s Get Going
If you want to grow your own transplants, plant seeds ¼- to ½-inch deep in small containers indoors about 3 or 4 weeks before you plan to transplant outdoors — the seedlings should be about 3 inches tall.
Plant transplants 14 to 18 inches apart in full sun. These veggies will tolerate light shade, but this will slow their maturity. They prefer well-drained fertile soil with lots of organic matter and a pH of 6 to 6.8.
Apply a thick layer of mulch for moisture retention and weed suppression.
Water and Food
Keep soil moist, but not soaked.
This cabbage mini-me is a heavy feeder and appreciates a side dressing of a balanced fertilizer two to four weeks after planting, or when they’re about 12 inches high. Four weeks later, apply a second round of fertilizer.
These plants have a shallow root system, so you’ll want to be careful with the hoe to avoid damaging the roots.
With Thanks to Their Cousin, the Cabbage
Brussels sprouts are susceptible to the same bugs that plague other cole crops. If you suffer an infestation of cabbage aphids, wash off with hard stream of water.
Use Bacillus thuringiensis to get rid of cabbage worms, and spray insecticidal soap to kill flea beetles. If you see cutworms, your best bet is to hand pluck them off.
Practice crop rotation to help prevent diseases. Cover cropping also serves as a great way to revitalize the soil between veggie plantings.
Call the Kids – It’s Time to Eat
Some gardeners remove the lowest leaves on the stalk to speed up development of the edible orb.
Twist, snap, or cut off sprouts when they are hard, compact, deep green, and reach mature size, depending on the variety.
Generally, these cruciferous vegetables are ready to harvest when they’re 1 to 1½ inches in diameter.
Pick after frosty weather for the best flavor.
The lower vegetables mature first, and you’ll want to pluck the globes of goodness before they turn yellow. Yellow leaves are bitter and unappealing, even to adults.
If you didn’t remove the lower leaves to quicken development, remove them after the first harvest to encourage the plant to grow taller and produce additional fruit.
Near the end of a growing season, when you know it’s about to get too cold or too hot for the plant to continue producing, you can harvest the entire stalk.
The stalk is actually edible as well, but it has a tough outer layer you might want to remove.
Read more about harvesting here.
Try some of these tasty recipes for our favorite balls of green goodness found on our sister site, Foodal.com.
Caramelized Red Chili Brussels Sprouts
Brussels gets a major makeover with this caramelized red chili version.
This side dish is simple to make, and it goes with just about any type of protein. It’s a spicy and flavorful way to enjoy Brussels sprouts that you’ll want to make over and over again!
Get the recipe now on Foodal!
Brussels Sprouts Sautéed with Bacon, Fennel Seed and Dill
If you have picky eaters in the family that won’t normally eat sprouts, try adding bacon. Bacon makes everything better and the Brussels are cooked to al dente (still firm) rather than being squishy.
And the added fats helps your body absorb the nutrients packed into the sprouts. That’s what we call a win-win!
Get the recipe now on Foodal!
And for more even ideas, you can take a look at all the Brussels sprout recipes we have on Foodal.
Fresh Sprouts in May?
While Brussels have a reputation for being tricky to grow, it’s quite possible to grow these tasty treats in the home garden if you simply give them what they need – assuming the weather gods cooperate, that is.
Who knows, if you’re really lucky, you might start a new Memorial Day tradition: Brussels sprout salad to go along with your burgers and grilled corn. Won’t the kids just love that?
Have you grown this plant? In the comments section below, tell us what zone or region you’re growing in, when you plant, and when you harvest. We’d love to compare notes!
Want some more garden inspiration? You’ll need these growing guides:
- How to Grow Collard Greens, A Taste of Southern Culture
- How to Grow Broccoli, A Cool Weather Crop
- How to Plant and Grow Cabbage: A Fall and Spring Staple Crop
Photo credit: . Recipe photo by Mike Quinn.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
Winter Care For Brussels Sprouts: How To Grow Brussels Sprouts In Winter
A member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts look much akin to their cousins. The sprouts look like miniature cabbages dotted up and down the 2-3 foot long stems. Brussels sprouts are the hardiest of the cabbages, and in some regions, such as areas of the Pacific Northwest, growing Brussels sprouts over winter is a common practice. Do Brussels sprouts need winter protection or any other special winter care? The following article contains information about how to grow Brussels sprouts in the winter and winter care for Brussels sprouts.
How to Grow Brussels Sprouts in Winter
Brussels sprouts thrive in cooler temps, so sowing and planting them at the appropriate time is imperative. Brussels sprouts are planted later that warm-season crops, such as peppers and squash, for late fall into winter harvest. Depending upon the variety, Brussels sprouts take from 3-6 months to mature from seed.
Start seed indoors about 16-20 weeks prior to the last frost in your area. Transplants are ready for the garden 12-14 weeks before the last frost in spring. For fall harvest, Brussels sprouts are planted in late May through early July. If you are growing Brussels sprouts over the winter in very mild areas, plant the crop in early autumn for a late winter to early spring harvest.
Depending upon your timing, opt for early varieties such as Prince Marvel, Jade Cross, and Lunet, which mature within 80-125 days from seed and are ready for harvest then in the fall and early winter. In western areas of USDA zone 8, late maturing varieties are suitable for winter growing and will be ready to harvest from December through April. These include: Fortress, Stablolite, Widgeon, and Red Rubine.
While Brussels sprouts can be directly sown, due to timing and weather, success is more probable if you start them indoors. Transplants should be spaced 18-25 inches apart in rows that are 2-3 feet apart in a full sun area with good drainage, fertile soil and high in calcium with a pH around 5.5 to 6.8.
Be sure to practice crop rotation to minimize the incidence of disease. Do not plant in the same area as other cabbage members in the previous 3 years. Because Brussels sprouts have shallow roots and top heavy heads, provide some sort of support or staking system for them.
Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders and should be fertilized at least two times during the growing season. The first time is when they are first planted. Fertilize with a high phosphorus food. Apply a second dose of fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen several weeks after. High nitrogen foods include liquid fish emulsion, blood meal or just a commercial fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Do Brussels Sprouts Need Winter Protection?
As mentioned, Brussels sprouts do very well in areas of the Pacific Northwest with its mild weather conditions (USDA zone 8) and can be grown in the winter. In USDA zone 8, very little winter care is required for Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts can also be grown in USDA zones 4-7 but with harsher winters, but caring for Brussels sprouts in winter requires a greenhouse. They are a cool-season veggie and can withstand freezes for short periods of time, but sustained cold snaps and burial in snow won’t result in winter sprouts.
In colder climates, Brussels sprout plants should be pulled out of the soil before temps drop below 10 degrees F. (-12 C.) in the late fall. They can then be stored in a cool, dry area with their roots buried in a box of damp sand.
In milder areas, where temperatures rarely dip below freezing for any extended period of time, caring for Brussels sprouts in winter requires little effort. My neighbor here in the Pacific Northwest simply rakes up everything in her yard in the fall and mulches around the plants with the fall leaves. So far, she has had beautiful standing plants with fresh Brussels sprouts ready for harvest during the winter holidays.
Time planting so that Brussels do not grow in periods of extended warm weather much above 70°.
Brussels sprouts are a slow-growing but very bountiful crop. Planting Brussels sprouts from seed outdoors requires a very long, cool growing season. Timing is important when growing Brussels sprouts.
- In most regions, it is best to plant Brussels sprouts so that they come to harvest in autumn.
- Start seeds indoors 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost in autumn for harvest after the first frost.
- In mild-winter regions plant Brussels sprouts in late summer or autumn for winter or cool spring harvest.
- Brussels sprouts reach maturity 80 to 90 days after transplanting and 100 to 110 days after sowing seed depending on the variety.
- Time planting so that Brussels do not grow in periods of extended warm weather much above 70°.
Where to Plant Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels sprouts grow best in fertile compost-rich, well-drained soil. Add 6 or more inches of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to planting beds before planting then turn the soil to 12 inches deep.
- A heavy soil, not a light sandy soil, is best for growing Brussels sprouts.
- Brussels sprouts prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If clubroot disease has been a problem in the past, add lime to adjust the soil to 7.0 or slightly higher.
- Avoid planting Brussels sprouts in the same location two years in a row. Crop rotation is important to prevent soil nutrient depletion and soilborne diseases.
Start seeds indoors about 5 to 6 weeks before you want to set transplants in the garden.
Brussels Sprouts Planting Time
- Plant Brussels sprouts so that they come to harvest in cool weather; the ideal time to harvest Brussels sprouts is in autumn after the first fall frost.
- To determine the best time to plant Brussels sprouts, estimate the date of the first fall frost then count back the number of days to maturity for the variety you are growing; that is the date to set Brussels sprouts transplants in the garden.
- Sow seed directly in the garden 10 to 12 weeks before the first average frost date.
- Time the planting so that harvest comes about 2 weeks after the first frost.
- The best average temperature range for Brussels sprouts growth is 60° to 65°F. Temperatures much above 70°F can cause Brussels sprouts to bolt and go to seed.
- Brussels sprouts will reach maturity 80 to 90 days after transplanting and 100 to 110 days after seeds are sown.
- Mature Brussels sprouts plants are not suited for temperatures greater than 80°F; sustained warm temperatures will leave Brussels sprouts bitter tasting and may cause their tight cabbage-like heads to open.
More tips: Planting Brussels Sprouts.
Space or thin plants 24 to 30 inches apart in the garden.
Planting and Spacing Brussels Sprouts
- Sow Brussels sprouts seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep.
- In flats or containers, sow seed 2 inches apart; when plants are 5 to 7 inches tall they can be transplanted into the garden.
- Space or thin plants 24 to 30 inches apart in the garden. Space rows 30 to 36 inches apart.
- Leggy transplants or transplants with crooked stems can be planted up to their first leaves so they won’t grow top-heavy.
- Be sure to firm the soil in around Brussels sprouts transplants so that they are well-rooted and anchored as they mature.
- Plant 1 to 2 plants per person in the household
Container Growing Brussels Sprouts
- Grow a single plant in a container 12 inches wide and deep or larger.
- In larger containers, allow 24 to 30 inches between plants.
- Keep the soil evenly moist.
- Feed plants compost tea or diluted fish emulsion solution every three weeks.
More tips: Brussels Sprouts Seed Starting Tips.
Watering Brussels Sprouts
- Keep the soil around Brussels sprouts evenly moist; water at the base of plants.
- Brussels sprouts require 1 inch (16 gallons) of water each week or more.
- Mulch around plants during the summer to slow soil moisture evaporation and to keep the soil cool.
- Give plants shade if the weather warms much above 70°
- Reduce watering as Brussels sprouts approach maturity.
Feeding Brussels Sprouts
- Fertilize before planting and again at midseason; side-dress plants with well-aged compost or feed with an even organic fertilizer such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
- In regions with heavy rains or sandy soil, supplement the soil with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
- If Brussels sprouts develop hollow stems or small buds, the soil may need the plant nutrient boron. You can add boron to the soil by dissolving 1 tablespoon of borax in 5 quarts of water and sprinkling it evenly over the planting bed (this will cover 50 square feet).
Companion Plants for Brussels Sprouts
- Plant Brussels sprouts with beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes; avoid pole beans, strawberries, tomatoes.
Set a stake in place soon after planting or transplanting; mature plants will be top-heavy with sprouts and can lean or fall. At stake is necessary wherever it is windy.
Caring for Brussels Sprouts
- Place cutworm collars around young seedlings.
- Set a stake in place soon after planting or transplanting; mature plants will be top-heavy with sprouts and can lean or fall. At stake is necessary wherever it is windy.
- Keep planting beds free of weeds. Cultivate shallowly or weed by hand to avoid disturbing roots; Brussels sprouts are shallow-rooted.
- To encourage all of the sprouts on a plant to come to harvest at the same time, pinch off the top terminal bud when the plant is 15 to 20 inches tall or 4 weeks before harvest time.
- Remove lower leaves from the sides of stalks as sprouts develop and are harvested; leave top leaves intact.
Brussels Sprouts Pests
- Brussels sprouts can be attacked by cutworms, aphids, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), and imported cabbage worms.
- Aphids can be knocked off of plants with a strong blast of water.
- Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms can be handpicked off of plants and destroyed or spray with Bacillus thuringiensis.
- Place cutworm collars around young plants early in the season.
Brussels Sprouts Diseases
- Brussels sprouts are susceptible to yellows, clubroot, and downy mildew.
- Cabbage yellows is a fungal disease; lower leaves turn dull green then yellow and then the disease spreads upward; the stem and vascular system become brown and rot. Control yellows by applying compost tea to roots; bacteria in compost tea can suppress fungal spores. Plant resistant varieties.
- Clubroot is also a fungal disease. It causes roots to swell; plants become weak, yellow and wilt. Control clubroot by maintaining a soil pH of 7.0 and add calcium and magnesium to the soil. Rotate Brussels sprouts and other cabbage-family members out of infected beds for 7 years.
- Planting disease-resistant varieties.
- Keep the garden clean of debris to reduce the possibility of disease. Remove and destroy diseased plants immediately.
- Rotate crops each year.
More on pests and diseases: Brussels Sprouts Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.
Harvest buds when they are small and tight, about 1 to 1½ inch in diameter.
- Sprouts begin to form in lower leaf axils first and then continue to develop and mature upward. When sprouts mature, nearby leaves turn yellow.
- Harvest buds when they are small and tight, about 1 to 1½ inch in diameter.
- Break or cut off yellow leaves above developing buds as you harvest upwards. Remove leaves just above buds a few days before harvest leaving about 2 inches of leaf stem on the stalk as you remove each leaf. This will give developing buds room to grow round.
- The harvest of buds from one plant can last as long as 6 to 8 weeks.
- One plant can produce as many as 100 sprouts.
- If you want to harvest all of the sprouts on a plant at once, pinch out the growing tip—the top set of leaves–4 weeks in advance of harvest. All of the sprouts on the stem will come to harvest at once.
- Tendergreen leaves can be eaten as greens or cooked like collards.
- Cool temperatures and frost will sweeten the flavor of buds coming to maturity.
- Warm temperatures will cause sprouts to be loose-leaved and strong flavored.
- If a severe, hard freeze is forecast before the end of harvest, lift the whole plant root and all and put in a cold frame or unheated shed; you can complete the harvest there. Pack earth around the roots so that the plant does not dry out.
- The first sprouts harvested will not be as flavorful as the last.
More tips: How to Harvest and Store Brussels Sprouts.
Storing and Preserving Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels sprouts buds will keep in the refrigerator unwashed for 3 to 4 weeks; keep them in a plastic bag or air-tight container.
- Sprouts can be frozen for up to 4 months after blanching.
- Stems loaded with buds in late fall can be harvested and kept in a cool (30° to 40°F), dry place for several weeks.
- Remove loose or discolored outer leaves from stems before storing them.
- Do not wash buds until you are ready to use them.
Brussels Sprouts Varieties to Grow
About Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels sprouts are a hardy member of the cabbage family and produce miniature cabbage-like heads 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
- The sprouts grow from a tall, heavy main stem surrounded by large green leaves.
- Botanical name: Brassica oleracea gemmifera
- Origin: Europe, Mediterranean
Learn how to grow Brussels sprouts in pots. Growing Brussels sprouts in containers is not difficult, and with little efforts, you can have this nutty and sweet vegetable at home.
USDA Zones– 2 – 10, can be grown in almost every climate, planting time varies
Soil pH– Neutral
Choosing a Pot
A standard 5-7 gallon sized planter, at least 12 inches deep and 12-14 inches in diameter is suitable for growing Brussels sprouts in containers. You can grow one plant in such a container. To grow a couple of plants together, choose a minimum 15-gallon pot or in other words, a pot that is at least 18 inches in diameter. In a square foot of area, you can try to grow 2 plants.
Tip: Choose a clay pot to grow this vegetable if you’re growing it in a frost free area. As clay pots remain cool, drains well and provide good air circulation.
Brussels Sprout is picky about the growing conditions. It’s a cool season crop and has the best taste when it matures in the cool air temperature. So, keep that thing in mind when you plan to grow Brussels sprouts.
Planting in early spring and spring is ideal for regions with cool summers. In temperates and moderate climates, start growing Brussel sprouts in mid summer to late summer or even early fall for the fall and early winter harvest. And, if you live in a frost free climate with mild winters, fall (autumn) and the winter is the best time to start growing brussel sprout in pots to get a winter or spring harvest.
Growing Brussels Sprouts from Seeds
Get the seeds of dwarf brussels sprout varieties for containers. Start seeds in the seed pots or directly in the desired containers, either indoors or outdoors, depending on the temperature. For the germination of seeds, the soil temperature should be in the range of 45 – 85 F (7 – 30 C).
Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, wait for a few days for the baby plants to emerge, which usually takes 5 – 20 days. Once the seedlings have shown their first pair of leaves, thin them and save the healthiest one only. And when these seedlings have grown a few inches (4 – 5 inches approximately), transplant them.
You can also look for transplants in the nearby nursery if you missed sowing seeds on time or want readily available plants.
Growing Brussels Sprout Indoors
Growing Brussels sprouts indoors is possible, if you’ve got a spot that receives enough sunlight. They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
How to Grow Brussels Sprouts in Pots
Choose a location that is sunny and has good air circulation to have productive plants. Although avoid the windy site for sure, otherwise the plants may fall over as Brussels sprouts are unstable plants due to their thin bases. Also, the windy site affects the productivity of this vegetable.
*In warmer regions, keep this vegetable in a partially shaded spot.
Like other Cabbage family plants, Brussels sprouts do well in the slightly clayey growing medium as this helps in having firm roots and keeping the soil moist. Fill the pot with a quality potting mix that is well-draining, light, deep, humus-rich and slightly clayey. The soil pH should be neutral, additionally, add well-rotted manure to the soil at the time of planting.
Tip: Cabbage family crops like Brussels sprouts are prone to Boron deficiency. You can look for symptoms like hollow stems, small sprouts, low productivity, slow growth, dying growing tip. However, these symptoms are very common, that’s why if soil testing is possible, do that. If you’re sure about Boron deficiency, apply borax. Learn more here!
Growing Brussels sprouts need evenly moist soil, so water regularly. It is important to prevent the drying of the soil in the period when the plant is maturing and at the time of head formation. Also, avoid overwatering.
Staking is important to keep Brussels sprouts growing in containers upright and prevent them from falling over, especially if the planting location is windy as they’re top-heavy plants.
Brussels Sprout Care
Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders; you can mix well-rotted manure at the time of planting in the potting mix and side dress the plants either with compost or manure or with balanced fertilizer 3-4 weeks later after the transplanting time. Again when they’re half grown, apply fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 according to the instructions on the product. Alternatively, you can also feed this vegetable crop with liquid fertilizer instead of time-based every other week.
You can skip mulching when you’re growing Brussels sprouts in containers. But doing this helps in keeping the soil cool and moist.
Prune the lower leaves as you pick the matured sprouts from the bottom to help the plant in concentrating on becoming taller and developing more leaves and sprouts on the top part.
For a home gardener, harvesting Brussels sprouts from the bottom-up is the best way to ensure the steady supply of this nutty and sweet tasting vegetable. But if you want your sprouts all at once, cut off the terminal bud (top part) 3-4 weeks before harvesting time.
Pests and Diseases
Since you’re growing Brussels sprout in a pot and using quality potting soil, don’t worry about the soil-borne diseases like club root and fusarium wilt (yellows). By providing good air circulation around the plant and avoiding overhead watering you can prevent downy mildew and powdery mildew. Keep an eye on pests like aphids, thrips, cabbageworm, and flea beetles.
Usually, to reach the harvesting window, the plant takes around 3 months of time after transplanting, depending more on the variety. Harvest the sprouts from the bottom as they mature earlier than the top ones, when they are 1 to 2 inches in diameter, looking firm and green.
Pick the sprouts by turning and twisting them carefully without damaging your Brussels sprouts growing in containers.