Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that can be either loved or hated to grow. If you love them, then you know they can be a bit of a pain to grow, so they don’t tend to crop up too often in our gardens. However, if you hate them, you’ll know the struggles of growing them all too well. But what if there is a way to grow them organically and easily in your backyard garden.

What is Brussels sprout?

Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera is an edible, biennial vegetable in the family Brassicaceae grew for its small leafy buds, which are eaten as a vegetable. The plant develops from a dense cluster of leaves that extend from the base of a thick stem and has long stalks with large flat leaves. Keeping them for two seasons will produce small yellow flowers, which will give you seeds after bloom. The raw Brussels sprout has a strong bitter flavor similar to cabbages, but they are much sweeter and nutty when cooked properly.

brussels sprouts vs hand comparison

Where do Brussels sprouts come from?

The plant originates from a wild cabbage ancestor in the Mediterranean region. First records show that Romans cultivated “small cabbages” in Ancient Rome, but later plant was hybridized into the vegetable we know today in Belgium near Brussels. In the 18th century, the French coined the name of imported vegetables coming from Brussels. American gardeners started producing this plant at the beginning of the 18th century when French settlers brought a variety of plants to Louisiana. 

Why you should grow Brussels sprout in your garden?

Brussels sprouts are nutritious and versatile vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked. They are a good source of vitamin C, B6 K1, folate, Calcium, and potassium. The sprouts are also a good source of provitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is crucial for healthy skin. They are also rich in sulforaphane, which is found to be effective in preventing and treating various cancers and diseases. 

There are many significant health benefits in these tiny cabbage-like heads, including the potential to reduce the risk of cancer, decrease inflammation, improve bone health, protect skin and manage diabetes, so consider them for growing among other healthy vegetables in your garden.

organic brussels sprouts meal from my garden

How to grow 

Brussels sprout is a popular vegetable that you can grow in your garden. The sprouts are harvested when they reach about 2-3 inches in diameter and are ready to eat about 90 to 180 days after sowing seeds. This vegetable is best grown in cool weather and does well in well-draining soil. It is a slow-growing veggie, so if you start seeding too late in the spring, you may not have enough time to harvest matures before the second frost. You can plant them directly in the garden or in containers. Make sure the soil is moist before planting and keep them well-watered.

When to plant 

Brussels sprouts grow best in cool weather and need to be planted in the fall or early spring. You can plant seeds as early as 3 weeks before the last frost in spring and fall plantings as late as 4 months before the first fall frost. The best time to plant is when the ground has warmed up a little and the soil is moist.

You can direct seed or buy seedlings in garden centers and plant them directly in the soil. To ensure the best sprouts, keep the soil moist while the seedlings grow. If the soil dries out, the sprouts will be smaller and have a shorter shelf life. In a warm climate, you can plant seedlings in late summer for a late fall or early winter harvest.

brussels sprouts plantings

Sow seeds

Sow seed 15–20 days before the last frost date in your garden and 4 months before fall’s first frost. You can also grow them in a greenhouse or cold frame. To start indoors, sow seeds 0.5 in deep in small seed blocks (about 0.5 kg/block or 3 cups/block), ensure the seeds are well covered with soil, and place the seed blocks in a sunny window.

When seedlings have emerged after 3 to 4 weeks and are 3-6 inches tall, transplant them into final spacing 24 inches wide in a row. For the direct seeding method, plant the seed 3 to 4 inches apart and then thin them to 12 to 18 inches, keeping them 2 feet between rows. You can transplant the thinned plants but make sure they have 3 to 5 mature leaves and a well-developed root system.

Soil and watering

Brussels sprouts grow best in rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0–7.0 and on air temperature between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the ground well, adding organic material like compost and manure. In addition to rich soil, Brussels sprouts need ample sunlight, so plant them where they will receive full sun during at least 6 to 8 hours of daylight. As with most crops, apply a mulch layer around the plants to prevent the soil from drying out.

Mulching also prevents weeds from growing and helps keep the soil cool and moist. Brussels sprouts are very sensitive to overwatering and should be kept evenly moist. Water new seedling transplants daily and mature plants regularly every 2-3 days, and keep the soil around the roots moist. The plant needs around 16 gallons of water each week.

brussels sprouts in garden

Fertilizing

Brussels sprouts are the offspring of cabbage, and you can apply the same fertilizing principles to this veggie. Sprout plants are susceptible to low nitrogen and must have adequate nitrogen sources. That helps to stimulate the growth of large sprouts and leaves. It also helps prevent the plant from getting stressed out when temperatures get too hot.

One of the best fertilizers for brassicas is manure-based. Manure provides a lot of organic matter to the soil, improving soil structure and promoting soil life. In addition, animal waste contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for healthy growth. Blood and bone and liquid fish emulsion are some of the best organic fertilizers for this plant. If you don’t want to go organic, use 21-0-0 NPK ammonium sulfate instead.

Companion plants

Companion plants for Brussels sprouts include onions, beets, garlic, peas, beans, and carrots. They work well together because they’re all good at improving the soil and discouraging pests and diseases. Alliums, like onions and garlic, are a natural repellent for slugs. Beans can fix nitrogen, and peas will loosen the soil, making your plants thrive. You can also plant herbs and flowers aside like chamomile, rosemary, dill, basil, mint, and marigold, which will help keep away aphids, flea bugs, and other pests.

Avoid planting any of the following alongside Brussels sprouts: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and strawberries. These plants can take away nutrients from your sprouts and attract some pests.

organic brussels sprouts

When to harvest 

Brussels sprouts need to be harvested when the heads are still small, and the first leaves don’t start to turn yellow. Generally, they are ready 90 to 180 days from planting, depending on the plant variety and conditions in your garden. You can harvest when the first heads are firm and green and are 1 – 2 inches in diameter. Harvest them just after the first frost cause that will improve flavor.

If you are growing your sprouts in the garden, trim the sprouts when they reach 1.5 inches long. Trim the sprouts close to the ground to keep them moist and prevent splitting. You can remove the leaves from the stalk or leave them on, would be good to cut 2-3 leaves 10 days before harvesting to encourage the growth of heads.

Once the sprouts are harvested, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, which is recommended for keeping their taste fresh.

brussels sprouts ready for harvesting

Common problems

Brussels sprout’s common growing problems include discoloration, growth abnormalities, and poor root development. They’re easily remedied by regular watering, adequate nutrition, and proper care.

Common pests

  • Cabbage root maggot
  • Cabbage aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Cabbageworms
  • Thrips

 Common diseases

  • Alternaria Leaf Spot
  • Tipburn
  • Clubroot
  • White rust and White mold
  • Powdery and Downy mildew

mature brussels sprouts plant

Frequently asked questions

Why are Brussels sprouts bitter?

Brussels sprouts are bitter because of their high sulfur-containing compounds. Sulfur is a naturally occurring element found in the soil and can be used by plants to create glucosinolates, which are compounds that give plants their unique flavor. You can remove the bitterness by soaking them in cold salted water for 30 minutes.

Are Brussels sprouts a seasonal vegetable?

Yes, Brussels sprouts are a seasonal vegetable typically harvested during the fall and winter months, but thanks to the greenhouses and modern farming, we can enjoy them all year long.

Why are Brussels sprouts expensive?

Brussels sprouts are expensive vegetables because they take a long time to grow, and the total yield per plant is small. Developing a large production field also requires a lot of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. All of this affects the price and quality of the plant, so that’s why it is essential to grow organic ones yourself in your garden.

Are Brussels sprouts a root vegetable?

No, Brussel sprouts are actually a type of leafy vegetable from the cabbage family. When the plant is in the growing stage, they are often confused with broccoli because of their similar appearance.

Sources

Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284765#benefits

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802872/

Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Available at: https://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/HG_Garden_2005-02.pdf.