Brussels sprouts are a tasty, nutritious, and fun vegetable to grow in your own garden. With their cute little “mini cabbages” growing up the stalk, brussels sprouts are an interesting plant that can be a conversation starter!
Growing your own brussels sprouts is rewarding, but does require some patience and care. Brussels sprouts need a fairly long growing season and do best when grown as a fall crop. With a little planning and preparation though, you can have a thriving crop of homegrown brussels sprouts in your garden.
When to Plant Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop. They need cool temperatures to properly form their little cabbages. The ideal growing season is during the fall when temperatures start dropping.
For most areas, you’ll want to start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last expected spring frost date. Then, transplant seedlings out into the garden about 2-3 weeks after the last frost when soil has warmed up a bit. This generally means transplanting in mid to late spring.
If you live in an area with very hot summers, you may need to plant early in early spring and plan to harvest sprouts in early winter before it gets too hot. In warmer southern climates, plant seeds in late winter for a spring crop.
Wherever you’re located, plant brussels sprouts so they mature during the cooler weather of fall. Time it so sprouts are ready for harvest once cooler fall temperatures hit.
Choosing a Planting Site
Brussels sprouts grow best in full sunlight. Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Avoid shady areas.
Make sure your planting site has fertile soil that is well-draining. Test your soil pH and amend as needed to reach a pH between 6.0-6.8. Mix in several inches of compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil if needed.
Brussels sprouts plants grow over 3 feet tall and wide. Space plants 2-3 feet apart in the garden to allow room for growth. Avoid planting too close to other plants to prevent crowding.
Planting Brussels Sprout Seeds
Once your planting site is prepped, it’s time to get those brussels sprout seeds going! Here are some tips for planting:
- Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Use a seed starting mix and plant seeds 1⁄4 inch deep.
- Keep seedlings warm (70°F) until germination. Move to a sunny spot after sprouting.
- Harden off plants for 7-10 days before transplanting outdoors. Gradually expose to sun, wind, and cooler temps.
- Transplant sprouts 18-24 inches apart in the garden after any chance of frost has passed.
- Water transplants well and provide 1-2 inches of water per week during growing season.
- Consider using a floating row cover to protect young plants from wind, cold temps, and pests. Remove once sprouts start forming.
Caring for Growing Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders and need consistent moisture for best growth. Here are some tips for caring for them:
- Maintain even soil moisture. Water 1-2 inches per week. Use mulch to retain soil moisture.
- Stake plants for support as they grow taller.
- Side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer or aged manure a few weeks after transplanting.
- Be diligent about weeding. Hand pull weeds to avoid damaging roots.
- Monitor for common brussels sprout pests like aphids, cabbage worms, and cutworms. Remove pests by hand immediately.
- As sprouts begin maturing, selectively remove leaves along the stalk to allow more sunlight to reach developing sprouts.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
One of the most exciting parts of growing brussels sprouts is harvesting! Here’s what to know about harvesting fresh sprouts:
- Sprouts typically take 80-100 days to reach full size from transplanting.
- Begin harvesting once the lowest sprouts on stalks reach about 1-1 1⁄2 inches in diameter.
- Twist or cut off sprouts individually as they reach desired size, starting from the bottom.
- Ideally harvest after a few light fall frosts which boost flavor. Taste improves after frost.
- Harvest all sprouts before a hard freeze or heavy frost. Plants will not resprout after heavy frost.
- Store unwashed sprouts in plastic bags in the fridge for 7-10 days. Do not wash until ready to eat.
- Stagger planting for continuous harvest. Plant a new crop every 4 weeks through early summer.
Common Problems Growing Brussels Sprouts
Growing brussels sprouts does take some patience and vigilance. Here are some potential problems to watch for:
- Cool weather is essential once sprouts begin developing. Hot temps (>80°F) causes leaves to yellow and sprouts to loosen. Ensure sprouts mature during cool fall temperatures.
- Monitor for common brussels sprout plant diseases like alternaria, anthracnose and downy mildew. Avoid overhead watering and space plants for airflow.
- Prevent problems with soil borne diseases by practicing crop rotation. Avoid planting brussels sprouts in same spot for 3+ years.
- Protect plants from pests like cabbage worms, aphids, cutworms. Check undersides of leaves frequently and hand remove pests. Row covers early on can prevent infestations.
- Lack of nutrients, irregular watering, and compacted soil can cause stunted or poor growth. Test soil and amend as needed to create optimal growing conditions.
Best Brussels Sprout Varieties
There are many excellent brussels sprouts varieties for home gardens. Some top choices include:
- Jade Cross – an early hybrid variety that withstands heat. Great for southern gardeners.
- Long Island – a later maturing variety with good cold tolerance for northern climates.
- Prince Marvel – a dwarf variety suited for containers and small spaces.
- Royal Marvel – an early maturing, high yielding hybrid variety.
- Falstaff – a red-purple colored variety. Adds unique color!
- Oliver – an heirloom open-pollinated variety dating back to the 1940s.
The key is choosing a variety suited for your particular region and growing season! Check with local nurseries or extension offices for the best variety recommendations for your area.
With the right care and timing, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of homegrown brussels sprouts! What could be better than picking those sprouts fresh from the garden and roasting them up with olive oil, salt and pepper? Let us know how your brussels sprouts crop goes this season!