How to grow Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts are members of the brassica family and are a hearty addition to the winter garden. Their flavour is improved after the first frost, making them a perfect winter staple.

Sowing and Growing: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts thrive in well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (around 6.0 to 7.5) and full sunlight. Begin sowing seeds in mid-March, spacing them about 6 inches apart and half an inch deep in a prepared seed bed. Alternatively, start seeds indoors in seed trays from early March. Once seedlings reach a height of 5 inches in May, thin them out to 3 inches apart and transplant them into their final positions, ensuring they have enough space to develop.

Consistent watering is crucial, especially during dry spells. Aim to water every two weeks, adjusting frequency based on weather conditions to prevent soil from drying out. Come mid-summer, provide a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, such as dried poultry manure pellets, to promote healthy foliage and robust sprout formation.

Harvesting

While early varieties may be ready for picking as early as August, the true magic occurs when they experience the first frost of the year, enhancing their sweetness and tenderness. Harvest sprouts when they reach the size of a walnut, starting from the bottom of the plant and working your way up. Snap them off gently to avoid damaging the plant.

Pests and Diseases

Despite their resilience, Brussels sprouts are susceptible to pests and diseases that can hinder their growth and yield. Clubroot, a fungal disease causing swollen and distorted roots, poses a significant threat to brassica plants. Additionally, pigeons and cabbage white caterpillars are notorious for feasting on the leaves. Protect your plants by covering them with netting, and consider implementing organic pest control methods such as companion planting or introducing beneficial insects to deter unwanted guests.

Varieties

When selecting Brussels sprout varieties for your garden, consider factors such as maturation time, disease resistance, and flavor profile. Some standout options include:

  • Crispus F1: A mid-season cultivar prized for its resistance to clubroot and abundant yield of dark green buttons.
  • Evesham Special: Ideal for late-season harvesting (September to December), this variety features medium-sized plants suited for exposed sites, ensuring a steady supply of delectable sprouts well into the winter months.

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