Are you trying to find your way around growing Brussels Sprouts in your backyard or garden? Here is how to start.
The Brussels Sprouts originated from Brussels, Belgium, and that explains the naming behind it.
If you are beginning, go for the Brigitte F1 variety.
It’s a popular variety amongst gardeners and gives you superb results to make your planting experience fulfilling.
The plants are highly nutritious, rich in dietary fiber and Vitamins D, C. It also comes with compounds – glucosinolates that help prevent certain diseases.
Brussels sprouts take time to mature and reach full maturity between 26 and 31 weeks.
This complete guide shows you how and when to grow, and the optimum climatic and soil conditions required for the plant. Also mentioned are some helpful tips for protection against pests, and how you can nurture it to maturity.
How to Plant Brussels Sprouts?
Timing is vital when setting out to plant Brussels Sprouts. Ideally, set them off in a planting tray four weeks before you plant them.
If in a cold climate, planting them indoors for about 5-7 weeks will ensure your seeds don’t get destroyed by frost. Gardeners in warm climates can begin planting during the Fall.
On the planting tray, ensure you plant one seed per module. The planting depth on the tray should be only an inch.
Otherwise, you face the risk of your seeds not sprouting. Make the soil moist by watering it after planting your seeds.
Typically, the seeds germinate within 7 to 12 days and should be ready for transplanting in your garden in four weeks.
Before you transplant your seedlings, you first want to harden them. Hardening involves getting rid of seedlings that appear weak and preparing the strong-looking seedlings for exposure to external conditions such as those in a garden or farm.
Some gardeners use a heat tray or propagator system to assist germination. If this is the case, ensure your seedlings don’t turn spindly during hardening.
Place the propagator over the seedling tray to help keep humid air around the plant.
Also, always keep the seedling tray in a shady area away from sunlight.
Every day, ensure that you are cutting back on the plant’s benign conditions by an hour for the next ten days. That means removing the plastic tent or propagator on top of the seeds an hour earlier.
Your seedlings should be about 3-inches tall during transplanting. If you leave your seeds in the tray longer, they might take root and grow in a stunted pattern later.
The standard spacing for Brussels Sprouts is 25-30 inches by 25-30 inches. The first measure is inter-plant, while the second measure is inter-row.
Short varieties of Brussel sprouts do well at a spacing of 25 by 25 inches, while the taller types thrive at a spacing of 30 by 30 inches.
Your planting hole should be 1 foot wide. You want to mix some compost and perlite with the fresh topsoil for additional nutrients and improve drainage.
Place the seedling at the center of the hole and gently firm the soil around the root to get rid of air pockets.
Afterward, water your seedlings to enable them to manage the transplanting shock.
When to Plant Brussels Sprouts?
Brussels sprouts are a cool-season vegetable and can withstand light frost.
Their seeds germinate in a temperature range of 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best planting time for sprouts is two months before the first frost that comes during the Fall.
If the temperatures hit below the freezing point, your crop won’t survive without additional protection. Cold frames or greenhouses prove useful for growing your sprouts during winter.
Ideal planting zones for your sprouts range from zone 3 to 10.
The zones go with different varieties of vegetables. Some types do well in zone 2. For example, if you are in zone 5b, start planting the sprouts indoors before the first frost.
Afterward, transplant them around May or June. This will ensure your sprouts reach maturity by the first frost.
Planting your sprouts during the scorching summer will lead to losses.
However, some summers come with lots of rainfall which creates a favorable microclimate for your crop.
Watering Brussels Sprouts
Watering Brussels sprouts requires that you be keen on how you water your sprouts right from the day you transplant them on your seedbed.
Avoid leaving your sprout seedlings dry before you transplant them. The soil should always be moist to create the right environment for germination.
Gardeners should know the optimum watering requirements for Brussels sprouts to avoid under-watering or over-watering them.
Overwatering your sprout’s seedlings leads to root rot and stunted growth resulting in plant failure.
After transplanting your seedlings, adequately water the vegetable bed. Stop watering the bed for about three days before you resume.
This allows the roots of your sprouts to grow as they seek water underground.
Also, pay attention to your location’s climate conditions as the watering regime varies with the type of climate you are in.
Planting your sprouts in warm climates demands that you water them daily.
Sprouts growing in cold climates have fewer water requirements as compared to sprouts in warmer areas. Only water them twice a week.
You don’t need to water your sprouts if they are receiving enough rain.
Brussels sprouts thrive in specific soil conditions that any gardener should know.
Your soils need to be slightly acidic or neutral with a pH range of 6.5 -7.
The soil texture should be that of clay or sand, highly fertile, and with good drainage.
How to Care for Brussels Sprouts?
Like any other plant, Brussels sprouts need lots of care to grow to maturity. Here are some routine management practices you want to put into consideration:
Always cover the base of your sprouts with mulch to keep the soils cool in hot weather. Mulching also helps the soils retain moisture.
You could also use recommended herbicides to keep weeds away from your garden.
Ensure you apply fertilizer to your sprouts every four weeks. The plant is a heavy feeder. Take precautions on the type of fertilizer you use.
Note that you should amend your soil with well-decomposed manure before planting your sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts require regular side dressing with a nitrogen fertilizer. Apply it at the plant’s base, about 3 inches during planting and in three weeks intervals.
Alternatively, maintain the periodic application of manure and compost for a constant supply of Nitrogen.
Brussels sprouts also thrive best in boron. Boron is a micronutrient that you will find embedded in other major nutrients and types of fertilizer.
Avoid using too much nitrogen or boron as it leads to fewer and tiny sprouts.
Pruning isn’t mandatory, but if you find your plants are too leafy, you can prune them.
Always prune from the bottom up. Pruning also helps get rid of discolored and shriveled leaves.
Crop rotation is suitable for your Brussels Sprouts. It helps prevent clubroot and the infestation of certain pest types and diseases on your bed.
You also want to avoid succession planting by introducing extra plants such as corn or chamomile to your bed to prevent wind damage and help control pests.
Protecting your Sprouts from Pests
Brussels Sprouts get stormed by pests like any of the other plants in the garden.
Some common pests you should monitor in your garden include:
Caterpillars suck the juice out of your sprouting leaves. Spray the caterpillars with neem oil.
If you check the stems of your sprouts, you may notice aphids congregating. Use a spray with strong water jets to force the aphids out of your plant.
Be careful not to damage your plants.
Cabbage Root Fly
They chew up new transplants, causing wilting of their foliage. You will identify them by their white maggots at the roots of your transplant.
Control them by using sticky traps and cabbage collars. If things turn worse, uproot the plants and swish the roots using clean water before you replant them in new soil.
Leaf Miners form squiggly white tunnels through your leaves. Prevent them from eating up your sprouts by using row covers.
They eat the sap in your plants. Control them with neem oil or sticky traps. A prevention measure would be to keep your tools sanitized always.
When to Harvest your Brussels Sprouts?
Harvest your sprouts during late fall or early winter. The plants mature from the bottom towards the top. What this means is that you should only harvest one part of the plant at a time.
Buds are ready for consumption when they are 1-2 inches in size. Sizes could vary depending on the variety.
During harvesting, grab and twist the sprouts to remove them from the main plant. There will be recurrent harvests in the future as the plant continues growing.