All about Brussels Sprouts and How to Grow Them
Growing Brussels sprouts in your own garden can be fun. It will allow you to have Brussels sprouts that are free of pesticide. In addition, this practice will help you to save some money on this vegetable. If you never grow this vegetable before, you don’t need to worry. The process of how to grow Brussels sprouts is not as difficult as you think.
Everything about Brussels Sprouts You Need to Know
Brussels sprouts are scientifically known as Brassica oleracea. They a form of cabbage and belong to the family of mustard. These cruciferous vegetables are grown for its edible leafy green buds. Though they bears the name Brussels, but they can be planted outside this region. However, if you want to gain success in how to grow Brussels sprouts, you need to get to know this vegetable closer.
Some people may think that Brussels sprouts come from Brussels, Belgium. However, it is widely believed that this vegetable is native to Mediterranean region. It is said that the Romans had this vegetable in their diet centuries ago.
Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in an area near Brussels in the 13th century. Later on, this vegetable was introduced to England and French in the 18th century. These days, Brussels sprouts are commercially cultivated in most regions of Europe and North America.
Brussels sprouts are biennial plants. These vegetable plants have leathery and smooth leaves with long leave stems. They grow on a thick and succulent stalk alternately. Those leaves are large and green. However, there are certain varieties with purple leaves. The stalk of this cool season crop can grow up to 1 m tall. Meanwhile, the spread of these plants is up to 0.3 m wide.
How long does it take to grow Brussels sprouts? These plants take between 90 and 180 days to mature. When they are mature, the edible buds will grow along the stalks. These buds are usually between 2.5 cm and 4 cm in diameter.
A healthy Brussels sprout plant can produce about 1 kg to 1.4 kg of those buds. They are matured from the bottom. Moreover, they are usually harvested in between September and March. The taste of these sprouts is delicious if you know how to cook it. However, if they are overcooked, they will give you strong sulfur like taste.
These plants usually will bloom in the second year if they are not damaged by the winter. These flowers are yellow and have four petals. Once they are pollinated, the plant will develop pods with seeds inside them. You can collect the seeds when the pods are brown and dry. Therefore, you will have some seeds to perform the steps of how to grow Brussels sprouts next season.
However, if you grow Brussels sprouts solely to get the sprouts, you can plant them as annual plants. Once they harvested, you can cut down the plants. Therefore, you don’t need to do certain steps to protect Brussels sprout plants from the cold temperature in the winter.
Where to grow Brussels Sprouts
These vegetables cannot be planted anywhere. Before you start the process of how to grow Brussels sprouts, you must know the best site to grow them. In deciding the planting spot for these plants, you must consider these things.
Brussels sprouts can be planted in wide range of hardiness zones. They grow well in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 9. Therefore, if you live in one of those zones, you can try to plant them in your garden.
Similar to most vegetable plants, Brussels sprouts need full sun to grow well. If these plants get 6 hours to 8 hours of sun per day, they will grow optimally. Moreover, they will also yield lots of sprouts. However, these plants can adapt to partial shade. Therefore, if you don’t have an area with full sun, you can still try to grow these vegetables at home.
The soil in which you grow these sprouts must meet the requirement needed by the plant. Therefore, you will likely need to work the soil during the process of how to grow Brussels sprouts. These plants tend to love loamy soil.
In addition, the soil must be fertile. In consequence, you need to mix it with aged manure or compost before planting this vegetable. Moreover, you also need to fertilize the soil with nitrogen rich fertilizer periodically.
Moreover, the soil must be well-drained. To improve the drainage of your soil, you can make a raised bed to grow the cruciferous vegetables. Another thing you need to pay attention at is the pH level of the soil. These plants prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil. As a result, it is recommended to work the soil so that its pH level is about 7 to 7.5.
These vegetable plants thrive in an area with temperature between 7o C to 24o C. However, they will give you highest yield when the temperature is between 15o C to 18o C. In addition, they can tolerate -6o C. But, it is only for a day or two. They usually can adapt to early fall frost for a short time. After the frost, the taste of the sprouts is usually sweeter.
The best time to grow Brussels Sprouts
In order to start the process of how to grow Brussels sprouts, you need to know the best time to grow these plants. If you live in colder areas with freezing winters, the best time to germinate the Brussels sprout seeds is about three weeks before the last spring frost. And you must do it indoors. Therefore, you will be able to harvest the buds in early fall.
For you who live in areas with mild winters, you can germinate the seeds in mid-summer. In doing it, you can sow the seeds outdoors, directly to the ground. Planting Brussels sprouts at this time will allow you to harvest the edible buds in mid-fall to early winter.
If you live in areas with warmer winters, the best time to sow the Brussels sprout seeds is in late summer. Sow them outdoors and you will be able to harvest the sprouts in mid-winter to late winter.
Brussels sprout varieties
There are many varieties of Brussels sprouts. Some of them are early maturing varieties and others are not. Moreover, they also have different level of hardiness. Therefore, it is essential for you to choose the right variety before you start the process of how to grow Brussels sprouts. These are some varieties that you can consider.
This variety is considered as an early-maturing Brussels sprout. It takes about 80 to 115 days to mature. Moreover, it is more tolerant to frost. Therefore, it is perfect for you who live in cooler climate. The size of this plant is relatively small. But, it will give you high yield.
This Brussels sprout also needs relatively shorter time to mature. This plant usually will mature in 90 days. It produces large edible buds. This is a good choice for beginners because it is tolerant to various climate conditions. As a result, you will have more chance of success in growing this vegetable, no matter where you plant it.
This particular Brussels sprout variety produces red sprouts. When it is cooked, their color will turn to bluish purple. It is not only good planted as a vegetable plant. But, it is also good planted as an ornamental plant. Falstaff takes about 100 days to mature.
This variety is resistant to diseases. Moreover, it is relatively small and good for windy area. It is also tolerant to hot weather. Jade cross usually takes about 90 days to mature. The green sprouts of this variety are medium-size and oval. If you grow it, you will get a big harvest.
Tips of growing Brussels sprouts
If you never grow this vegetable before, you may feel a bit unconfident in growing it. However, there are some tips of how to grow Brussels sprouts that you can follow. These are some of them.
Choose disease resistant variety
There are various pests and diseases that can affect Brussels sprouts. Some of them are aphids, downy mildew, and club root. To avoid them, you can choose the varieties that are resistant to diseases, such as Oliver and Royal Marvel.
Plant rotation will minimize the risks of pests and diseases on your Brussels sprout plants. Therefore, it is suggested that you do not plant this vegetable on area which was planted with cabbage family in the previous year. Moreover, it is not recommended to grow Brussels sprouts continuously. But, it is okay to do that on alkaline soil.
Grow the right companion plants
Growing the right companion plants can deter certain pests on your Brussels sprout plants. Some of them are marigold, garlic, and nasturtium. Pests do not like the scent of those plants. Therefore, your Brussels sprouts will be protected from the pests. Other good companion plants for the sprouts are tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and celery.
How to Grow Brussels Sprouts
This particular vegetable is planted from seeds. You can grow it directly to the ground or in containers. If you choose the latter, you need to make sure that the containers are big enough for the plant. Therefore, you can grow a Brussels sprout plant in a pot successfully. To increase your chance of success in growing this vegetable, you can follow the steps of how to grow Brussels sprouts below.
The first thing to do in planting Brussels sprouts is the preparation. Different method of planting will require you to do different preparation. If you are going to plant this vegetable directly to the ground, you must prepare the planting site. You need to work the soil so that it is well-drained, fertile, and slightly alkaline.
If you are going to plant this vegetable in containers, then you must prepare the pots and the potting mix. In addition, you also need to make some preparation to germinate the seeds, especially if you do it indoors. Some of the preparations you need to do are getting a seeding tray and seed-starting mix ready.
Sowing the seeds and transplanting
Once you have done the preparation, you can do the next step, i.e. sowing the seeds. There are two choices of sowing method you can do. They are direct sowing and indoor sowing.
If you prefer direct sowing, you need to sow the Brussels sprout seeds about 1 cm deep. Moreover, space the holes 7 cm apart. It is essential to keep the soil moist so that the seeds will germinate successfully. When the seedlings are 15 cm tall, you need to thin them to 30 cm or 60 cm apart.
If you prefer indoor sowing, you need to make sure that the indoor temperature is suitable for the germination process. You must also check the seeds regularly and keep the soil moist. When they are about 15 cm tall, you can transplant them to the ground. It is important to plant the transplants 30 to 60 cm apart and water them well.
There are several things you must do to take care of the plant. One of them is watering. You need to keep the soil around the plants stay moist. Therefore, you must water it properly. In addition, you need to mulch the soil. It will keep the soil cool and moist. It also prevents weeds to grow around the plants. Thick mulch in winter will protect the plants from the cold temperature.
Moreover, you also need to fertilize the plants properly. It is suggested to fertilize the soil every 3 to 4 weeks. You must also do it after thinning the plants. The recommended fertilizer for Brussels sprouts is nitrogen rich fertilizer. Moreover, it is recommended to cut off the top leaves about a month before harvest in order to boost the yield. But, you must not do it during the winter harvest.
When it is time to harvest, you must pick the sprouts from bottom. Choose ones that are about 2 inches in diameter. If you have a winter harvest, you can cut the entire stalk and then remove the leaves. After that, hang it upside down in a room. Make sure that the place is cool and dry. Storing the sprouts in this way can make the vegetables last for a month.
Growing Brussels sprouts in your own garden will give you some benefits. This vegetable is very rich in vitamin C and K. It is also high in dietary fiber. In consequence, it will promote good health. Therefore, you must try to grow it in your own garden.