How To Grow Brussels Sprouts (Sweet Tasty Sprouts)


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Think that Brussels sprouts are gross? Then you need to learn how to grow Brussels sprouts in your garden!

Brussels sprouts are one of the cold hardiest plants you can grow in your garden. Start them by seed 2 to 3 weeks before your last frost date and transplant to your garden 4 to 5 weeks later for a fall harvest.

Brussels sprouts have to be one of the vegetables kids hate the most.

I really never cared for them myself until we started growing our own.

Now our kids love Brussels sprouts and beg us to grow them every year.

So what changed?

Grow Your Own Brussels Sprouts text overlaid on a close up photo of a brussel sprout plant

The taste, it’s as simple as that.

When you grow Brussels sprouts in your garden you will have fresh sprouts to harvest, not ones that were picked weeks before they made it to your dinner table.

You can also harvest them at just the right time so they taste the best.

Brussels sprouts harvested in hot weather don’t taste that great but just wait until they have been touch by frost in the fall and they are super sweet!

How To Grow Brussels Sprouts

Planting

Start Brussels sprout seeds indoors 2 to 3 weeks before your last spring frost date for an early fall harvest. Planting the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6.35 to 12.7 mm) deep in your seed starting trays.

Alternatively you can buy seedlings from your local nursery too.

The plants will need at least 12 weeks of growing time before you can start harvesting sprouts.

So if you live in a shorter growing season try growing a variety that matures in about 80 days, as many of the common heirloom ones take 100 days or longer.

4 to 5 weeks after starting the plants by seed you can start to harden them off and then transplant them into your garden.

Space the seedlings 14 to 18 inches (35.56 to 45.72 cm) apart in your garden.

Growing

Sprouts ready to start harvesting.
Sprouts ready to start harvesting.

Brussels sprouts prefer to grow in full sun but can be grown in part shade.

The less light they have the longer it will take until they start producing though. So keep that in mind when you are planning when to plant your seedlings.

Fertilizing

Like other members of the brassica family, Brussels sprouts need a soil rich in organic matter to grow well.

For the best results top up your garden with 1 to 2 inches of good quality compost before planting in the spring.

Once the plants have grown about 12 inches (30 cm) tall side dress with more compost, compost tea or liquid fish fertilizer. A little blood meal for a nitrogen boost works well too.

Watering

Brussels sprouts like a soil that is evenly moist. But take care, not to overwater and make the soil soggy as you could have problems with root rot.

Give the plants 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water a week if you haven’t had enough rainfall.

Mulching around the plants with shredded leaves, straw, or wood chips will help hold in moisture and keep the water level in the soil more even.

Plant Support

Brussels sprout plants can grow to be 2 feet (60.96 cm) or taller. So these vegetables can really benefit from some extra support.

The easiest way is to stake the plants and loosely tie them up. This will help to protect them from strong winds that could cause the stems to snap.

Maturing Sprouts

Unpruned Brussels sprout plants.
Unpruned Brussels sprout plants.

One of the most common questions I’m asked about growing Brussels sprouts is how to get the sprouts to grow large in time for harvesting.

The trick is to cut the leafy top off the plants once the sprouts on the bottom of the plant are about 3/4 of an inch (1.9 cm) in diameter.

This puts the plants energy into growing the sprouts that have already formed rather than growing taller and making more and more sprouts.

It is important to remember that removing the top leaves takes away the plants natural frost protection for the little sprouts. So do this only if you plan on harvesting before a heavy frost.

Another option is to use a floating row cover to protect the plants in the fall.

You can also prune off the bottom branches as the sprouts start to grow. Some believe that this helps the sprouts to grow larger.

Harvesting

Freshly harvested Brussels sprouts.
Freshly harvested Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are ready to start harvesting in the fall once they have reached 1 inch (2.54 cm) in diameter and feel firm. They’ll look a lot like mini cabbages on the plants.

But if you want the best, sweetest tasting sprouts wait until the plants have had a light frost. This completely changes the taste of the Brussels sprouts!

Sprouts you buy in the store often have a bitter taste to them. But if you grow your own and wait until they have been touched by a light frost they tastes so sweet.

To harvest, twist, snap or cut them off the plant stock.

You can harvest them all at once for preserving or for a gradual harvest start picking the largest sprouts on the bottom of the stems first.

The sprouts close to the bottom of the plant will start to mature first. So make sure to harvest them before they start turning yellow.

Yellow Brussels sprouts taste very bitter and you really won’t want to eat them.

Pests

Just like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts have many of the same pest problems.

Varieties To Try

Long Island Improved – This heirloom Brussels sprout variety has been grown for over 100 years. With compact growth and high yields these sprouts will do well in gardens of any size.

You can get long island improved seeds here.

Catskill – A newer heirloom first developed in 1941. Catskill produces large yields of big 2 inch (5.08 cm) sprouts. With its deep flavor, it’s perfect for freezing or fresh eating.

You can get catskill seeds here.

Instructions

  1. Start Brussels sprout seeds indoors 2 to 3 weeks before your last frost date in the spring. Plant the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6.35 to 12.7 mm) deep in your seed trays.
  2. When the seedlings are 4 to 5 weeks old and about 3 inches tall you can transplant them into your garden after hardening off. Space the plants 14 to 18 inches (35.56 to 45.72 cm) apart.
  3. Brussels sprouts grow best in full sun but may be grown in part shade. It will slightly slow down its growth.
  4. Fertilize the seedlings when you plant them by filling up the planting hole with liquid fertilizer. Once the plants have grown 12 inches (30 cm) tall fertilize again with fish fertilizer, compost tea, or compost.
  5. Keep the plants well-watered but don’t let the soil stay soggy. They need 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water per week. Mulching will help the soil to maintain an even moisture.
  6. Brussels sprouts can get 2 feet (60.06 cm) or taller. Use stakes to support the plants and prevent damage from strong winds.
  7. To help the sprouts grow faster, you can cut the leafy top off the plants once the bottom sprouts have reached 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) in size. It can also help to prune off the bottom branches as the sprouts start to grow.
  8. For the best flavor harvest sprouts after they have had a light frost. They should be 1 inch (2.54 cm) in size and firm to the touch.

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