Everything is cuter when it’s tiny, right? Well, that makes Brussels sprouts the cutest veggie around! These baby cabbages look-alikes often get a bad rap, but that can usually be because of the user. Brussel sprouts release sulfur when overcooked, which is why many people find them smelly. If cooked properly, they have a nutty flavor that is pleasurable to eat. If you show your Brussel sprouts some love and care, you can make them the stars of your garden and kitchen! Give them a try!
The Brussels sprout is a cultivar of wild cabbage that was developed and gained popularity in Brussels, Belgium. These vegetables date back to 1200s, but they weren’t brought to the United States until 1800s. Today, California is responsible for the majority of Brussel sprout production in the United States. Even though you don’t live in California, you can still grow these lovely vegetables.
This guide will show you how to grow and harvest Brussels sprouts, as well as how to prepare them. If you follow our tips, you may change your mind about these baby cabbages.
All About Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a healthy and delicious snack when cooked properly. They are tiny, leafy, and cabbage-like, about an inch in size.
Although Brussels sprouts may resemble miniature cabbages, they are not actually a type of cabbage. The Brussel sprout plant is similar to cabbages, but sprouts are not exactly the same.
If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that Brussels sprouts have a lot in common with the other Brassica plants. These veggies store nutrients better than any other food, making them some of the most healthy foods you can eat. The also create seeds that are enclosed in a dry fruit casing called a silique. Biennial brassica vegetables generally take two years to flower.
There are many different varieties of Brussels sprouts to choose from. Try growing the Jade Cross or Dagan cultivars for some classic medium-sized green sprouts. Or, you can choose a variety that blooms early, such as Churchill or Tasty Nuggets. The former bears very small sprouts.
Types of Brussel Sprout Plants
People usually think that the only type of Brussels sprout is the tiny green buds, but that is not true. There are over 110 varieties of the plant, each yielding different sprouts.
Over time, people who grow cabbages have developed a new way to grow these small vegetables that are like cabbages.
The different types of Brussels sprouts are determined by the plant’s resistance to disease, the uniformity of its growth, and the size.
Red Brussels Sprouts
The buds on red Brussel sprout plants are usually larger, and the coloring is more unusual if you’re only used to eating green ones.
- The Rubine – an heirloom Brussels sprout, with darker, purple leaves. It’s quite popular around the world as it yields tasty sprouts.
- The Falstaff – newer on the cultivation scene yet is quite similar to the Rubine. The Falstaff also gives blue-purple sprouts, which tend to be a few shades darker than the Rubine sprouts.
- The Redarling – known for its high yield. Like the other red sprouts, the Redarlings are milder in taste, and tend toward a medium-sized sprout, with a thick, full appearance.
Green Brussels Sprouts
Green Brussels sprouts are more common than other types and have a more intense flavor.
- The Capitola – stands out through its bright green coloring. Thanks to the high yield of this Brussel sprout plant, Capitola sprouts are widely available on the market.
- The Cryptus – also medium, but with a much darker shade of green. It’s milder in taste than other green varieties, which also means it’s more popular, and more easily added to a variety of dishes.
- The Gigantus – Contrary to its name, the Gigantus Brussels sprout is not an abnormally big variety. The rich yield of this Brussel sprout plant usually comes in medium-sized sprouts, with a healthy, green coloring.
- The Gladius – excellent for a late fall harvest. Its sprouts are lightly colored, in shades ranging from green to blue, interestingly enough. The Gladius sprout has an excellent shelf life and an appealing flavor.
- The Martinus – has a hugely appealing green tint that will make even the pickiest eaters hungry. The Martinus Brussel sprout plant usually yields medium-large sprouts, in a fancy cylindrical pattern.
- The Gustus – You don’t need to be a Brussels sprouts expert to know that the Gustus is going to be a pretty tasty sprout. These dark green medium-sized sprouts have a mild, yet notable flavor that goes well with a wide range of meals.
- The Jade Cross – an interesting hybrid that yields deep green sprouts. These mature early on, which makes them easy to grow. But what is truly interesting about the Jade Cross Brussels sprout plant is its compact shape, which makes it less vulnerable to the elements.
- The Confidant – Yet another hybrid sprout plant, the Confidant usually matures in the fall. Its sprouts are a rich green, but the taste is surprisingly mild and easy to like (even if you’re not into sprouts).
The most important part of this section is that there is a type of Brussels sprout for everyones different tastes, from mild to strong!
Planting Brussel Sprouts
We’re looking to harvest the crop just after the first fall frost, so the seeds must be planted approximately 4 weeks in advance. This text is discussing when to plant different kinds of seeds in order to have them bloom at the right time. In most climates, the author suggests planting seeds in-ground in June or starting late-bloomers indoors in May. In a warm climate, you would plant the seeds in mid-summer and then harvest them in late fall or early winter.
When starting your garden, use soil that drains well and add organic material to improve fertility. Plant Brussels sprout seeds ½ inch deep and 3-4 inches apart. When the seedlings have grown 5-7 strong leaves, you can transplant them outside to an area 18 inches apart.
Brussel sprouts should be placed in an area that is sunny but not in direct heat. Adding mulch around the base of the plant can also help. This will help reduce moisture loss and prevent weed growth. Mulch may help with water retention, but it’s not necessary. The soil should be firm, but not compacted.
How to Grow Brussels Sprouts
Growing Brussels sprouts is no picnic. This plant is more difficult to care for than most other plants and will require a lot of patience from you.
Interestingly, Brussels sprouts get a better flavor after being exposed to a light frost. This is what qualifies them as a cold-weather plant.
However, don’t overestimate their ability to withstand cold weather. A hard frost can potentially damage sprouts, as it would with most plants.
Brussels sprouts need to be in the ground for at least 80 days in order to produce sprouts.
The average time it takes for a Brussels sprout plant to reach maturity is between 26 and 31 weeks.
Brussels Sprout Care
Make sure you give your baby cabbages plenty of attention if you want them to do well. Trust us though, it’s well worth the effort!
Sun and Temperature
Brussel sprouts should be grown in an area where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight. Make sure they get plenty of sun so they can grow tall. The following crops are best grown in cooler climates, typically between zones 2-9. The ideal temperature range for them is 45-75° F, though they are a bit flexible. If a heat wave lasts for a long time, the sprouts can start to taste bitter.
The Brussels sprouts plant can survive in light frosty weather, so they usually make it through the winter in warm climates where the temperature doesn’t usually go below 20°F. In locations that are colder than the optimal temperature for growing them, they’re best grown as annuals.
Water and Humidity
The key to keeping your plants healthy is to strike a balance with watering; don’t let the soil get too dry, but don’t overwater it either. The amount of water you give your Brussel sprout plants each week should depend on the temperature. Water your plants at the base, leaving the leaves and stem dry, to keep them healthy. A soaker hose is really useful for this task.
You should give your plant water in the morning so it will have enough to last it through the day. If you’re growing these sprouts in the summer, make sure to keep the soil moist so they get enough water.
Plant in a loamy soil that drains quickly. If the location you want to plant in isn’t already rich in organic matter, add some well-composted organic matter to the area before planting. Since these plants love both cow and horse manure as well as plant-based composts, using any of these composts would be ideal. This vegetable prefers a neutral or slightly alkaline soil pH, but will grow well in soil as acidic as 6.5.
Apply fertilizer to your Brussels sprouts at least two times while they are growing. Around 1 foot in height, side-dress the plants once. After you have watered your plants, you can apply fertilizer every 3-4 weeks, or every 3 weeks if it is raining a lot.
It is best to use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, but it is not necessary to use too much. If there is too much nitrogen, the plant will produce a lot of leaves and not enough buds.
While pruning isn’t required for Brussels sprouts to grow, it can be beneficial if done at the right stages of growth. Pruning redirects a plant’s energy, which in turn extend the growing season and encourage plants to grow better sprouts.
When the first leaves start growing at the bottom of the stem, cut off the lower 5-8 leaves of the plant. However, never remove more than a third of the leaves, or you could damage the plant.
Brussel sprouts can be propagated by taking cuttings from existing plants. This is a great way to get more plants without having to purchase them.
Woody roots may also form around the base of the plant. The leftover parts of the plant that are not necessary for its growth can be used to yield another plant.
However, propagation is difficult. Cut off the excess roots and plant the remainder.
Place the plants in a large pot and water them frequently. Ensure that the pot is in direct sunlight.
The plant will be an identical clone of the parent plant. It’s not normal for plants to reproduce by cloning themselves.
Pests and Disease
The Brussels sprout plant is not immune to disease.
- Clubroot is a fungal disease that will stunt the Brussels sprouts’ growth and yield yellow and wilting plants. Clubroot is hard to get rid of, so the best thing you can do is only use accredited vendors for your plants and maintain healthy soil.
- Black rot is caused by bacteria and will manifest in the form of darkened leaves, and deep, black spots on the stem.
- Alternaria leaf spot will cause purple-dark lesions on the plant, as well as a darkening and the slow death of the leaves.
Crop rotation is an important tool in avoiding black rot and Alternaria leaf spot.
The cabbage aphid is a type of insect that will stunts the growth of your Brussels sprouts and crawl all over the plant.
If there are only a few infested areas, removing them will solve the problem. If the infestation is large, consider using a pesticide.
Cultivating Brussels sprouts in your own yard is a great idea for both practical and personal reasons. It’s a fun gardening project, and it’s also a healthier and cheaper alternative to purchasing them from the store.
This is an extensive guide that answers all questions about growing your own Brussel sprout plant. This guide should help you become interested in trying to grow your own Brussels sprouts.
Though it may seem difficult, it is actually very easy. To grow your own food, all you need is a suitable environment and a lot of patience.
Pluck up your gardening courage and get started.