The Q&A Archives: Growing Brussels Sprouts

Question: I would like to know how to grow Brussels sprouts.

Answer: Brussels Sprouts are a cool-season cousin of broccoli. They have a very long growing season, though, so you can only plant one crop per year. Otherwise, the culture is similar.
Brussels sprouts are normally started during the summer and then grown in the fall and even after frost. This makes the sprouts sweet. They also grow best in cool moist weather so the timing works rather well. These plants need very rich soil that is evenly moist yet well drained rather than soggy. (You may need to water them.) The pH should be near 6.0 for best results. They need full sun and you will probably need to protect them from cabbage loopers with either floating row covers or regular applications of bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The seeds should be planted about four months ahead of your average first fall frost date (in other words, count back). You can harvest them over a long time by picking the well formed ones from the bottom of the stalk first and gradually working your way up. Detaching them is easier if you pick off the leaf below the sprout with a twisting motion. It helps the plant develop good sized brussel sprouts to "top off" the plant. In mid August, when the lowest sprouts begin to swell, remove the terminal growth point (the top two to three inches of the plant, where new leaves emerge). Instead of continuing to elongate, forming more leaves and sprouts that don't have time to mature before hard frost, the plant will divert energy to the sprouts that have already formed. You can help sprouts get bigger by stripping the leaves along the stem when the sprouts have reached one half their desired size (1/2 diameter) and after those leaves begin to fade and yellow, late in the season. The leaves have outlived their usefulness by then and are shading the green
leaves of the young sprout. Best of luck!

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