How to grow brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts, a very popular veggie in Belgium, are now equally popular in the UK.  Being a traditional festive favourite during Christmas, they can be homegrown for a better taste and nutrition than the ones sold in the supermarkets. 

If cooked correctly, they taste delicious while providing you with lots of vitamin C, vitamin D, dietary fibre and folic acid.

Are you trying to know the right process of growing brussels sprouts in your vegetable garden?  Well, brussels sprouts take a little longer to grow than other veggies but the process is very simple.

So when Christmas finally comes around, do you want to be like everybody else and buy your sprouts from the shops, or do you want to go through the rewarding journey of growing your own?

Growing brussels sprouts at home can be easier than you think when you follow the step-by-step guidelines provided below.

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Table of Contents

Recommended Varieties

Here are some recommended varieties of brussels sprouts that are suitable for growing in the UK climate:

Brodie AGM (Our Favourite!)

This variant has a very mild and sweeter taste with no bitter flavour, which makes it ideal for kids. The Brodie brussels sprouts plants are high-yielding that will produce medium to deep green sprouts from late November onwards. Though this variety is available in some supermarkets, homegrown variety will be superior to anything you buy.

Clodius AGM

This variety is quite easy to grow as it has a very good resistance against diseases such as ring spots and powdery mildew. Being a mid-season variety, the medium-sized Clodius brussels sprouts plants produce solid sprouts of rich quality from October onwards.

Crispus AGM

Another reliable variety known for excellent resistance against club root, Crispus brussels sprouts plants have a good standing ability and they can be harvested as early as in September. This variety grows faster than others and is tolerant to most soils.

Red Ball

This variant has a sweet and mild taste that makes it one of our favourites among other varieties. The plants are well spaced and they can produce a good amount of crops from November. When you steam the Red Ball brussels sprouts, the colour doesn’t change.

Maximus AGM

This one is an early to mid season variety that produces smooth and dense sprouts of light to deep green colour. The Maximus brussels sprouts plants look uniform and their stalks are well spaced. They also ensure you with disease resistance throughout the year.

brussel sprouts growing in a field

Planting

Brussels sprouts grow from seeds sown in fertile soil. Just like any other vegetable crop, they need a specific place, time and other conditions to grow. Here are some sowing tips for your better understanding:

Where to Sow

Brussels sprouts need rich soil that’s extremely fertile and mixed with well-rotted manure. To ensure the soil is well-drained, you can do a soil test with the existing soil in your garden. You need to prepare the soil in the previous autumn as plants will grow the best in firm soil. Also, you need to check the soil PH and keep the soil moist before sowing.

When to Sow

Brussels sprouts can be sown in modular trays from mid-March to early May. Then, you need to transplant the seedlings by planting them outdoors after 4 weeks.

Sowing

Sow 1 seed 2cm deep on every 84 cells modular tray and sow seeds in a similar way. It usually takes 7-12 days for the seeds to germinate. You can choose to buy a seed packet online or collect seeds from the nearest nursery.

Growing

Once you plant them out after 4 weeks, check if the plant seedlings are looking spindly. On noticing it, turn the heat down if you keep the plants in a propagator or a heat bench. Also, try to ensure as much sunlight as possible. If any of your modules have germinated 2 sprouts, you need to remove the weaker one. Pulling the thin seedlings can damage their roots and hence, the best way to take them out is by gently cutting with a scissor or nipping with your finger.

Watering and Feeding

Watering the seedlings properly is very important before transplanting. However, never overwater the plant seedlings as that can cause severe damage to the roots. In fact, underwatering brussels sprouts is way better than overwatering them when you plan to transplant. The reason is that plant roots search for water when you underwater them, which is considered a good activity for plant growth.

You need to use good compost but make sure the compost plug doesn’t dry out as that will make a crust on top and won’t absorb any moisture when you water the plants. The process of watering and feeding will depend upon the weather. On a very hot day, you may need to water your plants twice. Otherwise, watering every 2 days will be fine.

Hardening Off

If you are raising your brussels sprouts indoors, you need to make sure that the plants are accustomed to the outdoor weather before transplanting. Depending upon the weather, you can give them 7-10 days to get adjusted to the outdoor temperature. It can be best done if you have a cloche or a mini greenhouse.

On a frost-free day, you can leave the cloche off and then at night simply put them back. All you need to do to grow brussels sprouts in this phase is increase the time without the cloche. You may not need the cloche on some days when the weather is mild. If you plan to plant brussels sprouts in the windowsill, you need to keep them in an unheated room before you plan to transplant them.

Transplanting

Brussels sprout plants require a larger planting space than some other veggies. Hence, you need to transplant them once the seedlings are firm. For smaller varieties, provide a space of 70cm between each row and each plant. For larger varieties, providing a space of 90cm between each row and plant is essential.

Using a trowel, you need to make a hole that’s a little bigger than the root balls of the young plants. Then, plant the sprouts up to the first set of true leaves and push the soil. Instead of pushing soil from the top, pushing it horizontally is a better idea.

Maintaining

Besides watering the plants as recommended, feed them every 4 weeks. Brussels sprouts are leafy plants from the cabbage family, which need nitrogen-rich manure or seaweed food to grow healthily. Weeds can hamper plant growth and hence hoeing regularly is important. Another benefit of hoeing is that it breaks up the soil surface and creates tilth, which lets moisture and air to the plant roots. Also, staking can be done in October to protect the plant roots and leaves from diseases.

brussel sprouts planting

Harvesting

As you already know, brussels sprout is a slow-growing vegetable that is also known as brassica leracea. Some variants are suitable for early winter harvest whereas some are ideal for late winter harvest or fall harvest. You can start harvesting brussels sprouts of early varieties from August. The best time to harvest brussels sprouts of the late varieties is right after the light frost. To harvest sprouts, start picking the lower ones first when they are walnut-sized, tightly closed and firm. You can use a sharp tug to snap them off downward. When the season has ended, you can also harvest the sprout tops and the entire stalk.

brussel sprouts harvesting

Common Problems & Remedies

Here are some common problems that you might have to face while growing brussels sprouts. If you’re already facing such a problem, don’t worry though; as we have also provided the best remedy for each problem.

Club Root

You can identify this problem when you see that the roots have either distorted or swollen and the leaves have become yellowish or pale. Club root is a common problem and it should be taken seriously as your plant can also die from this disease.

Remedy

To prevent club root, you can make the soil more alkaline by adding lime to it. Also, improve the drainage system of the soil and never grow new plants in the affected soil.

Cabbage Root Fly

It is a white larva of 5cm size that lives below the soil and feeds on plant roots. Cabbage root fly can cause severe damage by stunting plant growth and can even cause death to many plants.

Remedy

You can use horticultural fleece to grow young plants and seedlings. You can also grow them under an insect-proof mesh to prevent this problem. Protect your seedlings as they are more vulnerable to cabbage root flies.

Birds

Pigeons and other birds can be a threat to your brussels sprouts as they feed on plant seedlings, vegetables, fruits, leaves and buds. Hence, you need to keep the plants safe from birds.

Remedy

You can cover the plants with a net and fleece to protect them from birds. Though there are various other remedies such as scarecrows, the best way to ensure protection is by using a horticultural mesh or fleece.

Caterpillars

Cabbage white butterflies are the most common among other caterpillars that sit and feed on brassicas and cause many problems. You can easily spot them or identify them by checking the holes on the leaves. The most disturbing damage they cause is when they bore into the heart of sprouts and cabbages.

Remedy

If your plants have been mildly attacked, you can pick the caterpillars off and save your plants. However, if the attack is severe, you can go for organic pest controls using coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells and other ingredients. Another way of protecting the plants is by using fine netting or insect-proof mesh that you will find online or at the nurseries. You can opt for a 5-7mm mesh to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs.

brussel sprouts harvesting
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Oliver Wright

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