The Q&A Archives: Growing Brussels Sprouts

Question: When growing Brussels Sprouts, I get what seems to be a very healthy stalk (if that is the right term) but the actual sprouts barely develop. Is it correct that the leaves are to be removed? If so, when should that be done?<br>

Answer: Brussels sprouts have the same soil requirements as cabbage, broccoli, etc. Average pH, sandy loam, well worked and rich but not too high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen may be your problem. Sometimes too much nitrogen results in a lot of green, foliage-type growth but not much flower or fruit production. Try using a basic 5-10-10, (which is higher in phosphorous and potassium than some other mixes and may help in head development) applied at planting time, and side-dressings three weeks after transplant, as when sprouts begin to develop. Also, work some organic material such as compost into the soil. When harvesting, you should remove heads from the bottom up, and 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 ofcontinuing 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.

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