Growing Crops: Brussels Sprouts

Mini-cabbage-on-a-stick pretty much sums up Brussels sprouts. There are several varieties to choose from, including Jade Cross, Long Island Improved, Prince Marvel, and Rubine. Lightly steamed with a bit of butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper, they are a surprisingly tasty vegetable.

You can order the Long Island Improved variety from Amazon.Com here:

Best Climate to Grow: Brussels sprouts are a cool season vegetable whose flavor actually improves with frost. They require protection from strong winds, as they can easily topple over. Staking or mounding up the soil may be necessary to stabilize them as they grow taller.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Soil Requirements: Rich, well-manured soil with a pH level that is neutral to slightly alkaline, 7.0 to 7.5. Amend as needed (lime raises the pH) prior to planting to ensure a proper pH level, as Brussels sprouts will not thrive in soil that is acidic.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Fertilize in the fall with compost or rotted manure, and make sure the soil remains moist at all times; drip irrigation combined with mulching is recommended.

When to Plant: You will want to harvest after the first Fall frost for the best flavor. Note the growing times on your seed packet and count backward from the first frost date in your area to determine when you will plant.

Planting Depth and Spacing: If sowing directly in the ground, scatter the seeds ½ inch deep in rows that are 2½ feet apart. Once the seeds germinate, thin them to 3 inches apart. Once the seedlings are about 6 inches tall, thin them to 2½ feet apart – they will need the room!

If starting your seeds indoors, the seedlings will be ready to harden off and transplant into your garden when they are about 6 inches tall, which could take anywhere from 1-2 months.

Container Requirements: Not recommended for container growing. They require too much room and time to grow to be an efficient use of container space.

Harvesting and Storage: You will begin harvesting the sprouts at the bottom of the stalk when they are just about egg-sized, using a sharp knife to slice them off the stalk and working your way up the stalk as the sprouts continue to mature. They are equally tasty fresh or frozen. Harvesting an entire plant at once will keep the sprouts fresh for several weeks if the plant is stored in a cool, dry place. To freeze Brussels sprouts, pull off any yellow leaves, mark an X with a sharp knife on the bottom of each sprout where it was cut from the stalk, and blanch in boiling water for a minute or two. Drain and drop the sprouts into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat them dry, and freeze for later use.

Harvesting Seeds: Not recommended, as Brussels sprouts tend to cross-pollinate with other cabbage family members and the seeds are fragile and time-consuming (over two growing seasons) to harvest.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Flea Beetles and any Cabbage parasite (root flies, white butterflies, etc.). Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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