The Q&A Archives: Will stripping leaves bring larger Brussel sprouts?

Question: My Brussels sprouts grow well, but the sprouts are small. I've seen Brussels sprout plants stripped of their leaves. Should I do this? J.E. Jackson Norwalk, CT

Answer: Topping the plant and applying enough water and nutrients are more important for getting full size sprouts than is stripping the leaves, says Marie Dube, home horticulture specialist with the University of Connecticut Extension System at the FairfieldCounty office in Bethel. To produce one to two inch Brussels sprouts, follow Dube's guidelines. Set out transplants at least 100 days before fall frost. Keep the soil pH around 6.8, add about one inch of water a week and side dress once a month withone tablespoon per plant of 5 10 10 fertilizer. 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 sprouts.

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