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Brussels sprouts, a touch of green in winter

Brussel sprouts for winter

Winter is a season often associated with cabbages and cauliflowers… why not make the most of the season and add brussel sprouts to the list! Here is how to make sure you can harvest Brussels sprouts in winter.

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Get the timing right for winter brussel sprouts

The key to being able to harvest brussel sprouts in fall, winter and spring is to stage your sowing. Don’t sow all your seeds at once! Ideally, you would sow brussels sprout seeds in at least three batches:

  • First sow in March to harvest in fall
  • Second, sow in April to harvest in winter
  • Third, sow in May to harvest the next spring

Of course, adding intermediate batches is even better, every fortnight. It will ensure you always have perfectly ripe brussels sprouts to harvest at any date from fall through winter to spring. But three batches is already a very good organization!

Detailed sowing steps:

For sowing in March (fall harvest):

  • sow in trays or nursery pots, indoors, at the beginning of March
  • seeds sprout within 8 to 10 days
  • if tightly packed together, thin/repot to individual pots during April
  • transplant to the growing bed after the last frosts, usually in May
  • care for your brussels sprouts and then start harvesting at the end of summer

For sowing in April (winter harvest)

  • sow in individual nursery pots at the beginning of April
  • again, seeds will have sprouted within 10 days
  • thin and transplant to the growing bed after last frost, May
  • care for them and start harvesting in fall

For sowing in May and later (end of winter, spring harvest)

  • sow directly in the ground (in seed holes or along a row) at the beginning of May or later
  • thin one month later (remove the least vigorous ones when growing close together)
  • care for them and wait until winter to harvest them

Usually, the latest possible date to sow brussels sprouts and have them survive and bear sprouts is August.

Harvesting Brussels sprouts at the right moment

Winter is a cold month, and you don’t want to spend more time outdoors than is necessary. Learn to identify when your brussels sprouts are ready so you’re not disappointed when you go out!

Except for extremely small or large brussels sprouts varieties, a good indicator of ripeness is the size. A ripe sprout is a little over an inch across (3 cm). For quick reference, take a ping-pong ball or a golf ball out with you. Any sprout that’s more or less the same size can be picked.

  • Note: Brussel sprouts ripen from the bottom, up. This means you’ll pick lower ones first, and then pick other ones higher up from the same plant at a later date.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Anthony Patterson
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