Brussels Sprouts

Why Grow Brussels Sprouts?

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar in the gemmifera group of cabbages, possibly developed in ancient Rome, but the first definite evidence of them was in the late 16th century, in what is now Belgium. Their popularity then spread across Northern Europe and North America.

Brussels sprouts are a temperate vegetable suited to temperatures below 15-18C (59-64F). Depending on variety, they mature between 90 and 180 days after planting, each plant potentially producing up to 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs). They are also a good source of vitamins A and C, folic acid and fibre.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Brassica oleracea
Sowing Time : March to April
Harvest Time : September to March
Hardiness : Hardy
Position : Full to partial Sun and sheltered from strong winds
Soil Type : Firm and rich organic matter.
Average Plant Height : 80cm / 32in
Spacing : Seedlings – 2cm / 1in thinned to 7cm / 3in
Plants – 60-75cm / 2-2 1/2ft
Spread : 50cm / 20in
Soil and Preparation

Brussels sprouts occupy the ground for several months so it is important to give them a good start with high nitrogen levels and some shelter from strong winds. Avoid freshly manured ground as this will cause the sprouts to “blow”.

Brussels sprouts are a cool-season crop, and will tolerate some frost. As it will occupy the site until the next season, it is vital to start with a soil that is rich in organic matter, moisture retentive and has medium nitrogen levels. As with other brassicas, Brussels Sprouts require firm soil to prevent the plants from falling over.

Seeds and Sowing

Brussels sprouts need to be started off in a seed bed and transplanted to their final position when they are about 10cm / 4in tall. Seeds should be sown 1-2cm / 1/2in deep into your seed bed during March and April, space them 7cm / 3in apart, leaving 15cm / 6in between rows.

Water your seedlings and the row they will be moved to the day before you transplant them. Lift the seedlings from the seed bed carefully, retaining as much soil around their roots as possible. Using a dibber, make holes in their permanent bed at 60 – 75cm / 24 – 30in intervals. The seedlings should be planted with the lowest leaves just above the soil, to fill the holes use your dibber, inserting it into the bed about 5cm / 2in from the hole and then push it towards the seedling, then fill the dibber hole with loose soil.

Caring for your Crop

Taller varieties may need support, earthing up the plants as they grow will also help. Birds can sometimes be a problem for brassicas, it may be necessary to place netting over them if they do become a pest. Sprouts can benefit from a top dressing of high nitrogen fertilizer, such as poultry manure, in late summer.

Harvesting

Start by harvesting the sprouts at the bottom of the plant stem when they reach about the size of a walnut. A short sharp tug in a downward direction should snap them free, alternatively you can use a sharp knife. Only pick the sprouts that have reached a suitable size, harvest the rest once they have reached a sufficient size. Whilst harvesting remove any damaged or “blown” sprouts and any yellowed leaves, this will ensure the rest of the plant remains healthy.

Once all sprouts are harvested you can cut the leaves from the top of the plant and use them as you would a cabbage. The remaining stalk should be dug up and disposed of.

Storage

In severe winters, the plants can be dug up before the ground freezes, and hung up in a frost free place, where they will last for several weeks.