Named after the city of Brussels, Brussels sprouts were first made popular in Belgium, where they’ve been grown since about 1200AD. Sprouts are buds that grow in the axils of each leaf. They look like tiny cabbages and are considered a type of wild cabbage. The plant itself looks like a small palm tree and the sprouts grow along the trunk like stem.
Brussels sprouts like a sweet or slightly alkaline soil. Soil pH should be at least 6.5. A good amount of organic matter and mulching will help maintain the moisture they need for their intense growth. In colder climates, start seeds indoors and set outside when there’s no threat of a hard frost. Be sure to allow the full time outdoors for required days to harvest.
In warmer climates, fall planting is preferred. You should be able to direct seed in mid-summer for a late fall/winter harvest. You may also be able to squeeze in a second, early spring crop, direct seeding in February and harvesting in May.
Direct seed in warm areas. Otherwise start seed indoors approximately 5-7 weeks before last expected frost. Cover seeds with 1/4 – 1/2 inch of soil and keep moist. Transplant when the seedlings are about 3″ tall. Don’t allow seedlings to become root bound or the plant will remain stunted when transplanted. Space plants about 2 ft. apart with 3 ft. between rows or stagger plants 2 ft. apart in each direction, for a grid.
Fertilize twice a season once when the plants are about 12 inches high and again about a month before harvest is often recommended, but if you have a fertile soil to begin with, it doesn’t seem to be necessary. Brussels Sprouts are prone to the same problems as cabbage and broccoli. The most common pests are Cabbage looper, cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, and Harlequin bugs.
Each sprout rows in the leaf axil or joint. They begin maturing from the bottom of the plant upwards. You can start harvesting when the lower sprouts reach the size of large marbles. Just be sure to pick before they get too large and start cracking and turning bitter. Some people prefer to cut, rather than pull the sprouts. Pulling is easy if you remove the leave below the sprout first, then twist and pull the sprout.
A few of the Varieties available are:
* ‘Bubbles’ F1 (85-90 days) Early and easy. Tolerates heat and drought. 2 inch sprouts. Resistant to Powdery Mildew & Rust.
* ‘Jade Cross’ F1 and ‘Jade Cross E’ F1(90 days) Jade Cross was a 1959 All-America Selections Winner. Both are compact plants good for windy locations. Sprout are slightly larger on Jade Cross E. Good disease resistance.
* ‘Long Island Improved’ OP (90 days) High yield. Another small plant that stands up to wind. Freezes well.
* ‘Oliver’ F1 (85 days) Early producer. Easy to pick, 1″ sprouts. Compact, disease resistant plants.
* ‘Royal Marvel’ F1 (85 days) Early and productive. Resistant to bottom rot and tip burn.
* ‘Rubine’ (85 – 95 days) Red Plants. Late maturing and lower yield than green varieties, but good flavor. 1 1/2 inch sprouts. Heirloom.
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