Brussel sprouts have become more and more popular now. Do you like Brussel sprouts? If you do, you may want to grow Brussel sprouts on your own. Whether you are a beginner gardener or an expert one, Brussel sprouts are perfect for you. It is easy to grow and all you need is a bit of maintenance and patience.
Here, we have a guide that will help you grow your own Brussel sprouts. We will tell you how to do it from seeds, growing in containers, and related things like where and when to grow. In the end, we will give you some growing tips to help you further. Let’s start by getting to know about Brussel sprouts first.
Getting to Know about Brussel Sprouts
Before you start growing your Brussel sprouts, it is a good idea to get to know about it first. Brassica oleracea, better known as Brussel sprouts, is a leaf vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family. The “Brussel” name refers to the city where the vegetable has been enjoyed since the 1500s although it certainly is older than that.
Brussel sprouts love cool weather and in warmer climates, they are considered to be a fall crop. If you grow Brussel sprout in warm weather, the “sprouts” will open and become inedible. It grows best when it has full sun exposure. Mature Brussel sprouts can reach 30 inches in height and 8 to 12 inches in width.
The growing season of Brussel sprouts is quite long, about 80 days or more. That means you have to wait a bit before you can enjoy the harvest. Also, to improve the flavor, the vegetable needs to be subjected to a light frost. Growers in colder climates even put them outside when a hard frost is unlikely to happen.
Where Do Brussel Sprouts Grow Best?
While it is true that Brussel sprouts don’t need that much maintenance and are not demanding, there are suitable conditions that help it to grow optimally. Of course, that includes where it is planted. So the next question is, where do Brussel sprouts grow best? Brussel sprouts thrive when planted in soil that is rich and consistently moist.
They also love the sun, so when you grow Brussel sprouts, make sure that it has full sun exposure to ensure the best growth. Just like other plants that belong in the cabbage family, Brussel sprouts are also susceptible to various soil-borne diseases. Avoid planting Brussel sprouts in the same spot where you plant any plant belonging to the cabbage family.
Grow Brussel Sprouts from Seeds
So, how do you grow Brussel sprouts from seeds? The starting point is different, depending on the climate of the region you live in.
- If you live in a region with cold winters, check your date and see when the last spring frost is expected to happen. The best time to plant the seeds is between two and three weeks before the last frost in spring. Seed indoors.
- If you live in a region with mild winters, the best time to plant the seeds is either in early summer if you want a mid-fall harvest or mid-summer if you want an early harvest. Seed outdoors.
- If you live in a region with winters where the temperatures rarely drop below freezing point, the best time to plant is in late summer. Seed outdoors
When you seed, you can choose whether to arrange it in rows or create a grid.
- For rows, create rows with 3 feet space in-between. Within each row, plant the seed about 2 feet apart from each other.
- For grid, stagger the seeds about 2 feet apart in every direction
- Then, cover the seeds with a quarter to a half of soil. Be sure to keep the soil moist
When the seedlings reach 3 inches in height, you can start transplanting them.
When you grow Brussel sprouts, you need to keep the soil moist as Brussel sprouts need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Don’t soak the soil. Keeping it moist is enough.
The ideal soil for Brussel sprouts is one that is moist, well-drained, fertile, and slightly alkaline with lots of organic matter. Keep the soil pH at 6.5 at a minimum. Incorporating organic matter will help in maintaining the moisture level the plants need. Firm, not compacted, soil is preferable as well.
For best growth, allow Brussel sprouts to bask in sunlight at least 6 hours per day. Lack of sunlight exposure may slow the sprouts’ maturity so try not to shade the plants too much.
First and foremost, Brussel sprouts are cool-weather and not a warm-weather crop. They like temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, they can tolerate a few days with temperatures below the freezing point. If anything, a light frost improves their flavor. On the other hand, dry or hot weather will make them flimsy and bitter.
For best growth, fertilize the plants twice in a season. The first one is when the plants are around 12 inches tall. The second one is four weeks after the first fertilizing.
It takes approximately three months after transplanting before Brussel sprouts are ready to harvest. You will notice that the plants will first keep growing in heights while still not producing any sprouts. It is only when they almost reach their full height are they start producing sprouts.
Each sprout develops in the leaf axil. The maturation happens bottom-up, starting from the bottom of the plant and slowly upward. Once the lower sprouts are about as big as large marbles, you can start harvesting them. Sprouts will grow larger over time, crack, and become bitter. Pick them up before any of these happen.
Want to make harvesting easier? Start by removing the leaf just beneath the sprout. Then, twist the sprout a bit and pull it. Alternatively, you can harvest by cutting instead of pulling the sprout. In total, a single Brussel sprout plant yields about a quart of sprouts.
Grow Brussel Sprouts in Containers
While the plants are fond of cool weather, they do well when grown in containers. This is quite interesting considering that containers tend to create dry and warm environments. In fact, there are advantages of growing Brussel sprouts in containers. If you grow Brussel sprouts in containers, it is a lot easier to control moisture levels and nutrients, for example.
1. Best containers to use
When you grow Brussel sprouts in containers, consider using large pots. A container with 5 gallons capacity for each plant is the best choice. If you decide to use larger containers, make sure there are 24 to 30 inches of space between the plants. Don’t forget to add drainage holes if there isn’t any yet so the soil is well-drained.
2. When to plant
The best times to grow Brussel sprouts are the same whether you plant it in-ground or in containers. Depending on the climate of the region where you live, you can plant the vegetables in early spring, fall, or over the winter.
3. Where to place the containers
Brussel sprouts can grow just about anywhere as long as the place has at least 6 hours of full sun exposure daily. Although sunlight is necessary for the plants, avoid exposing them to hot temperatures for too long.
Unlike in-ground, the roots of Brussel sprouts cannot expand to find the nutrients they need. To ensure that they grow best, you need to enrich the soil with mature compost. Use well-drained, loose soil. Rich, fertile soil will do wonder for Brussel sprouts. As for the pH, keep it around 6.8.
When you grow Brussel sprouts in containers, you have to options when it comes to seeding. The first option is to seed indoors and transplant the plants later. Seeding indoors gives you a head start. The second option is to seed directly into large containers and then thin the plants so only the healthiest ones remain.
If you decide to seed directly into large containers, do these:
- Sow 3 Brussel sprouts seeds for every 5-gallon container. So if you have a container with 5 gallons capacity, plant 3 seeds into it. Sow the seeds at the center of the container, about 1/2 deep with 2 inches space in-between seeds.
- Once the plants grow 5 to 7 inches tall, thin them out. Leave only the healthiest plants on the containers.
This is for when you grow Brussel sprouts in smaller containers.
- You can start transplanting the seedlings once they grow 5 or so true leaves or about 6 weeks after planting. When you transplant, make sure that one seedling occupies one container.
- If you have larger containers, you can add multiple seedlings into a container. Provide 24 to 30 inches of space between each seedling.
- Transplant the seedlings after you water the soil until moist. Plant the seedlings deep. Water and feed the seedlings after transplanting them.
If you grow Brussel sprouts in containers, you will notice that the soil dry fast. So, be sure to water the plants regularly. Never allow the soil to dry out. Ideally, the soil should be kept moist. Avoid overwatering the plants. Instead, water directly at the base of the plant.
Whether you grow Brussel sprouts in-ground or in containers, fertilizing is important. This is especially true when you grow them in containers. At a minimum, you need to fertilize the soil two times: after transplanting the plants and at mid-season. For the best growth, give the plants a light feeding on a biweekly basis.
After you grow Brussel sprouts and take care of them properly, now it is time to harvest. The vegetable is ready to harvest when the heads have a diameter of 1 to 2 inches. These heads will be firm and green. To harvest them, twist them off by hand. Do this carefully so you won’t damage the plant while harvesting.
For fall harvest, keep picking up the heads until the first hard frost. Heads that mature and harvested in hot weather will be bitter. Conversely, heads that face a bit of frost taste the best. The best time to harvest is on sunny days when frosts start to happen overnight.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Brussel Sprouts
It typically takes over 80 days to grow Brussel sprouts to maturity. One of the factors that determine the length to reach maturity is the variety. Varieties like Rubine, Royal Marvel, Oliver, and Bubbles take approximately 85 days to mature. Other varieties, like Long Island Improved and Jade Cross, take approximately 90 days to mature.
Some Tips to Help You Grow Brussel Sprouts
- When you grow Brussel sprouts, timing is important considering how the sprouts taste improve with a light frost.
- Never allow Brussel sprouts seedlings to become root-bound. If they are root bound, they will remain stunted when transplanted.
- Brussel sprouts like a firm but not compacted soil around them. Pat it lightly.
- At the end of the season, you can speed up the growth of the remaining sprouts by cutting the tops.
- You can extend the harvest of Brussel sprouts in cold seasons. To do so, protect the plants with a row cover and/or mulch them with straw. Alternatively, you can pull the entire plants, pot and store them in a cool root cellar. You will get another two to three weeks to harvest.
- If you live in a frost-free region and grow Brussel sprouts in containers, consider using clay pots. Clay pots drain well, provide the plants with good air circulation, and most importantly, remain cool.
- To help to keep the temperature cool, choose containers with light color.
- After harvesting, there will be a second crop of sprouts. These new sprouts grow at the base of the stem. Unlike the first crop, the second crop of sprouts is less tight. Don’t worry, these sprouts are still edible.
What do you think? Growing Brussel sprouts isn’t difficult, right? As we said in the beginning, all you need is a bit of maintenance and patience. If you maintain Brussel sprouts properly and are patient enough to wait, you will be rewarded with excellent yields. Ready to grow Brussel sprouts? Good luck and happy gardening!