We don’t grow Brussel sprouts in a greenhouse because it would take up space all summer when more suitable vegetables grow inside. Like any other winter vegetable, sweet buds can never be too much, so we give them enough space in the garden. The crop is small buds that grow above the leaf stalks and look like mini cabbages. This is a fairly undemanding vegetable that does not need protection from the cold in winter, as it is adapted to grow in winter conditions.
It is sown once a year and takes up space in the garden for more than half the year. It has a very long period until the first crops – as much as five months from sowing. Sowing to grow seedlings is done at any time in May. Seedlings are grown the same way as leafy kale, outdoors next to a garden shed or greenhouse.
If you grow Brussel sprouts, then you want to cook them too. Here is the recipe book.
When and How to Grow Brussel Sprouts
First, several seeds are sown in a larger container, where the seeds germinate. Sow in the moist substrate and sprinkle the seeds with a dry substrate 0.5 cm thick. Since they successfully germinate in the dark, the container is covered, which enables better germination due to constant humidity. We uncover as soon as we see the first sprout, which can be as early as two days, and we immediately move it to a bright place.
When the “heart-shaped” cotyledons are nicely developed (within 7 to 10 days after sowing), the plants are transplanted into individual medium planting units with a high-quality substrate mixture. We don’t wait long for the real leaves to start developing because the roots we would damage during picking also develop simultaneously. We carry out natural selection by picking because we choose good plants. If the plants have “stretched” up to now, we can plant them deeper when picking, right up to the cotyledons. We do not touch the roots of the plants but help ourselves with a wooden or plastic stick. If we have more plants left after picking, we eat them as microgreens, as they are edible at this growth stage.
After weeding, we must pay attention to regular watering in May and June, as the sun dries out the substrate quickly. At this time, the white cabbage butterfly (Pieris brassicae) is already active and can lay yellowish eggs on the underside of the seedling leaves, from which caterpillars develop, which can destroy the seedling in just one day. Therefore, it is recommended to cover the seedlings with an insect net or a net with such holes to prevent access by butterflies.
When to Transplant and Planting Distance of Brussel Sprouts
The Brussels sprouts are then transplanted to the bed in June or at the beginning of July when they have formed between 3 and 5 true leaves or about 30, maybe even 40 days from sowing. The seedlings are planted at a distance of 50 cm in a zigzag pattern. We plant deep, up to the first leaves, so the plant does not fall over under its weight later. We can also plant in a heap. We water the planting hole heavily and also the entire bed where it will grow, as the bed must also be soaked in depth. We always behave according to the weather. The seedlings will take root ideally if we transplant them just before the rains. Like other brassicas, it is best to protect them immediately with an insect net after transplanting.
We grow early spring vegetables on the bed before Brussels sprouts. We don’t plant it only after spring cabbages. We combine it on the bed with leafy kale, which has similar care and growing season.
What Should We Care About When We Grow Brussel Sprouts?
The transplanted seedlings are watered daily for the first week. Then gradually, as little as possible, allow the plant to take deep root. The ground is additionally shaded with grass clippings or leaves. If they stop growing in the summer, the crop will be poor during the winter. A summer mulch of leaves and fresh grass clippings suits him. Some use geotextile with predetermined holes.
Brussels sprouts are protected with an insect net from mid-May to the end of October. In a way, the nets still spoil the image of our garden. If we don’t have or don’t want an insect net, prepare a piece of cardboard (cabbage fly) for each seedling and stick some colorful butterflies (cabbage white) next to it.
From July to November, brussels sprouts grow on their own and gradually develop large leaves, above which buds will begin to appear in the fall. Some of the lower leaves may fade, wither and fall off. These leaves are removed; otherwise, leaves are not removed during growth.
Some people top the plant when the central (primary growth) tip is removed in the middle of winter to speed up the development and thickening of the buds. We do not use this technique, as beautiful and smaller buds can still grow from the main top in February and March.
Since brussels sprouts are larger than leafy ones and can be broken by snow or wind, it is highly recommended to put a support on them. We can put a stake on each of them and tie them down. Support is especially recommended if the kale is protected from deer and rabbits with a net, as snow on the net can damage the plants due to their weight.
Challenges and Inconveniences When We Grow Brussel Sprouts
The insect net appears again as the best preventive solution against flying pests. With November comes the beauty of winter gardening, when low temperatures stop all animals and also possible diseases. In winter, we hardly have problems with pests. Only hungry deer or rabbits can eat the leaves. If we don’t have a fence, we stretch a net against the hail or a net against birds over the plants. The vole very rarely gnaws the root of the cabbage during the winter.
If the autumn is warm, the buds open early and form a possible stem. They are also edible when open, so we pick them up in time.
We start harvesting when the plant develops firm, well-shaped buds to the touch. This is usually from November until the end of February or even March of the following year. Frosted buds are sweeter.
We collect it gradually, along the stem from the bottom up. As a rule, the lower buds on the stem are also larger as they are older. If we miss a few older buds and they are larger and softer to the touch, they are still edible. We collect them with the help of a foot or break them off with our hands in the direction of the ground. This will not damage the plant. If the plants were pruned at the end of autumn, then the crop is harvested at once. When we harvest the crop, we remove the leaves next to the buds, thus cleaning the plant.
The Trick for an Abundant Harvest
Uniform ripening of the buds towards the end of the season (March) is achieved by removing all the leaves from the Brussels sprouts and removing the top. The plant thus invests all its energy in bud development.
We use freshly picked buds or store them for a long time. We keep them in the refrigerator for about a week. For more extended storage, it is best to freeze them fresh. We also keep the first autumn harvest in the freezer, which is thus additionally sweetened.