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Introduction on growing brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are very well known as a fall and winter vegetable. The sweet flavor, enhanced by a frost, makes the green balls a delicious treat for many people.
The brussels sprouts grown in your own garden have even more flavor than the shop-bought ones. Just try growing brussels sprouts at home, it isn’t all that difficult.
What are brussels sprouts?
The Latin name is Brassica Oleracea Var. Gemmifera. The plant is a member of the brassica-family, together with kale, radish and a lot of other vegetables.
The vegetable we eat is, in fact, a mini cabbage, which grows to the point where the leaves meet the stem.
Here in Europe, people started growing brussels sprouts in Brussels in the 19th century. The vegetable became well known in Europe in a very short time.
Where to grow brussels sprouts?
Make sure the soil you plant your sprouts in is of a ph around 7 (so neutral or a bit above) and has lots of nutrients. Brussels sprouts are a very greedy plant, so lots of nutrients are needed in the soil.
Just be careful not to overfeed with nitrogen as this can turn your sprouts into small roses.
If you want to use animal manure, don’t use any cow manure because this contains too much nitrogen.
You can use horse manure, but you have to make sure the manure is well composted before you plant your brussels sprouts.
Compost from the compost pile can be used anytime as long as the compost doesn’t smell too much as this can attract damaging insects like flies. Amending the soil can be done every two months.
Leave a space of about 60 to 70 cm (23 to 28 inches) because brussels sprouts grow big leaves and need the space to aerate between those leaves.
A good clay soil is the best to grow any kind of kale but if the soil is well-maintained, contains a lot of humus and compost, the plants will do just fine.
Taking care of your brussels sprouts
As mentioned above, Brussels sprouts need lots of nutrients, so amending with organic fertilizer will give nice, firm sprouts.
It’s good to start sowing Brussels sprouts about 4 weeks before the last frost. If you want to grow them in the greenhouse you can even start them up 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.
To be safe, you can plant out the plants a bit deeper, for instance, you can make small pits where you plant your brussels sprouts and fill them up as your plant grows taller, this way the plant will be sturdier and have fewer problems when there’s a lot of wind. After a while, it’s even possible to hill the plant so it doesn’t fall over. Because the plants will grow quite tall.
If the plants are already outside or in a cold frame, it’s recommendable to cover the plants with some kind of insect screen to avoid problems with insects like the cabbage butterfly. The larvae can be really destructive and can even kill the plants.
Avoid draught but don’t be too generous with water either as the plant needs to grow slowly.
Removing weeds gives the plants a lot less competition and keeps the plant airy and dry. Weeds can also attract certain unwelcome insects.
Transplanting Brussels sprouts, planting brussels sprouts
I always use small pots to start the seeds, these pots are easily removable or made from paper so they compost in the soil after transplanting. Another way to start seedlings is in a small seed tray but then you have to treat each plant by hand when removing the soil around the roots.
As soon as the last frost is gone, I plant my plants on their definitive spot. When planting out, try to cover them as soon as possible with the insect screen.
Harvesting Brussels sprouts
Harvest if the sprouts seem big enough.
Brussels sprouts tend to turn sweet once a small frost has passed (because of the sugars the plant produces to withstand the frost). As long as the temps aren’t going too low (below -2°C), you can leave the sprouts on the plants. Once temps go lower, it’s better to harvest all the sprouts and put them in the freezer.
Diseases and pests when growing brussels sprouts.
Plasmodiophora brassica or club-root is a common disease. The roots start to develop weird bumps and get deformed. The leaves start to turn towards a led color and start to wilt or are stunted. Once this fungal disease gets in your soil, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of it. There is no real antifungal product to save your plants.
leaf spot disease
Alternaria brassicae or leaf spot disease on Brussels sprouts shows itself with light, yellowish spots with brown speckles in the middle. This fungal disease is really difficult to treat biologically, you can try with copper-containing products
if allowed biologically but you’ll have to treat them several times. Watch out with fungicides because they can be detrimental to your soil life.
The bacteria Xanthomonas campestris PV. Campestris gives black rot to the plants. The leaves turn yellow and the leaf veins will turn black. Once again a fungicide could do the trick. It is treatable but severely damaged plants have to be removed and burned to avoid further contamination.
Mycosphaerella brassicicola or ringspot disease makes brown rotten spots with a yellow circle around. I haven’t had any problem with this disease and I don’t know which products to use against this fungal disease although I think that a copper-containing fungicide should do the trick. If I find more information, I’ll amend this message.
I know I didn’t write about all the diseases and pests for these plants but when I come across the right pictures, I will amend the post.
So this is it for this article on growing brussels sprouts. I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share on social media, with friends, and other gardeners.
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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.