The Q&A Archives: Salvaging Brussels Sprouts

Question: For the first time this year I planted brussel sprouts. The plants are now about 2 feet tall, but a woodchuck came along and ate the tops off the plants and the leaves. Is there any chance of salvaging these plants and still getting sprouts off them? Is there something I need to do?

Answer: Darned woodchucks! Your Brussels sprouts need leaves in order to pump sweetness into the sprouts. If all the leaves have been eaten, there's probably not much hope. If only part of the leaves have been eaten, then there's a good chance you can still harvest some sprouts. Since the stalk tips have been eaten, the next lowest buds on the stalk may elongate to try and "replace" the main stalk, but I doubt they'll be able to produce more sprout-generating buds the way the main stalk would have. Spritz the remaining leaves with a seaweed/kelp fertilizer to help the plants absorb nutrients quickly, and build strength.

To protect your plants from further harrassment, cover them with a fabric row cover, or build a woodchuck-proof fence (as a longer-lasting barrier). To build a woodchuck fence, use strong chicken wire fencing and metal posts. Build a fence that stands 3 feet tall, with the following modifications to increase its effectiveness: If possible, use a 6-foot wide mesh, and bend 12 to 18" outward slightly at the bottom, then bury this in the soil to prevent woodchucks from burrowing under it. Attach the above-ground portion to the stakes to a height of about 3", then let the remainer--1 1/2 - 2 feet--extend above the posts and bend it outward as well. When the woodchuck attempts to climb over it, the loose fence will just flop back under his weight. Foiled again!

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