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Brussels sprouts, all there is to know about growing them

A small pyramid of fresh brussels sprouts doused in water.

Brussels sprouts are vegetables that are mineral-rich and great for intestinal transit when cooked.

Basic Brussel sprout facts

Name – Brassica gemmifera
Family – brassicas
Type – biennial vegetable

Exposure – full sun
Soil – cool, deep, moist and rich
Sowing – March to June

Harvest – September to March
Productivity – more or less 40 pieces per stem

Special care, from sowing and planting up to harvest, will help you grow magnificent Brussels sprouts.

Sowing and planting Brussels sprout

Sowing Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are generally sown at the end of winter or in spring in a sheltered place, to be transplanted outdoors from March to August.

Sow in March and April to harvest in fall and in April or May for a harvest in winter and in spring.

  • Sowing can start in a nursery in March, and seedlings are transplanted to the ground in May.
  • Planting usually takes place in May or June but this phase can last from March to August.
  • Avoid mixing in fertilizer that would be too rich in nitrogen.

>> More details on timing the sowing to extend the harvest

After sprouting

Sprouting usually happens 8 to 10 days after sowing.

  • Once they have sprouted, when the plants bear 2 or 3 leaves, thin down to 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm).
  • Transplant with a 20 inch (50 cm) interval when the plants bear 6 to 8 leaves.

Caring for Brussels sprouts

Growing Brussels sproutsAs soon as seedlings have sprouted at least 3 to 4 leaves, transplant them to their target location. Protect the seedlings if you need to plant them before the month of May.

  • Space plants 20 inches (50 cm) apart when transplanting.
    This space is needed to give the plants room to grow.
  • The soil must have been well tilled beforehand.
  • Water regularly but in a light drizzle to keep the substrate sufficiently moist.

Watering Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts love rather cool soil and requires watering on a regular basis in case of dry spells.

  • Good mulching will retain moisture and keep the soil cool.
  • Avoid getting the leaves wet to keep fungus from appearing.

Harvesting Brussels sprouts

How and when to harvest Brussels sprout

Harvest of Brussels sproutsBrussels sprouts are harvested as the main stem grows taller and taller. Start with harvesting the pieces near the base, and slowly pick them higher and higher.

  • You only need to break off the tiny cabbage heads that grow along the side of it when you need a few.
  • Wait for these small heads to reach at leas 1 inch (3 cm) across.
  • Pick the ones that are towards the bottom of the stem first.
  • Harvest everything before it freezes really hard.

Parasites and diseases that attack Brussels sprouts

The main enemy of Brussels sprouts is downy mildew. Moisture is the primary factor that enables the spread of downy mildew.

Note that Brussels sprouts are also the target of aphids and, of course, caterpillars (the large white is particularly devastating).

For these two parasites, avoid chemical treatments at any cost, because your vegetables and soil could absorb contaminants.

Learn more about Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are vegetables that are over 90% water, so they only count few calories, and they have high Vitamin C and fiber contents, too. What makes this a particularly relevant crop is the timing: brussels sprouts is a winter source of nutrients.

They also gather many minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Finally, the antioxidant lutein and zeaxanthin that it provides help slow ageing.

Brussels sprouts are thus an excellent vegetable that could even help fight ageing and cancer.

Brussels sprout varieties

Varieties differ in that they’re taller or shorter, more or less productive, and, to a lesser degree, the diversity of their flavors.

Here are a few of the most common varieties:

  • ‘Dagan’: grows straight and regular
  • ‘Jade Cross’: smaller than normal head size, not quite an inch across (less than 3 cm).
  • ‘Long Island Improved’: more frost hardy than other varieties
  • ‘Sanda’: also hardy, and produces earlier

Smart tip about Brussels sprouts

Provide your cabbage with extra nutrients (fertilizer, manure and seaweed-based compost) to boost growth and especially enhance your own harvest!

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