European and Mediterranean in origin, brussel sprouts are a robust member of the Brassica family, which produces little cabbage-like heads that are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Brussel sprouts emerge from a thick and tall and leafy main stem and they are a delightful addition to the dinner plate. Growing Brussel sprouts requires a bit of patience for the gardener, as they have a long growing season and a particular fondness for cool temperatures. If the temperatures are too warm, the vegetable plant will bolt quickly.
Brussel sprouts are fun to grow and a late-season favorite when many crops have stopped producing. When harvested early, they taste a little sweeter than traditional cabbage. They tend to take on the flavors of what they are cooked, a particularly tremendous addition to stir-fried dishes. They are slow to produce but well worth the wait. Check out our detailed guide on growing brussel sprouts for a tremendous fall crop.
Ideal Soil Composition and pH for Growing Brussel Sprouts
Amend your garden soil with rich organic matter and well-decomposed compost. Brussel sprouts thrive best nutrient-rich, loamy, and well-draining soil. These brassica plants are an annual plant that enjoys a soil with an optimal pH range of about 6.5 to 6.8.
How Much Light Is Needed When Growing Brussel Sprouts?
When growing Brussel sprouts, it is best to plant them in gardens that receive full sun. Find a sunny location in your yard that will receive a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight for optimal growth.
Where to Plant
Brussel Sprouts in Raised Beds
Growing brussel sprouts in a raised bed takes a lot of the guesswork out of providing a nutrient-rich and well-draining soil for your plants. With a raised garden bed, you can best control the soil quality of your garden, and your plants and seeds will stay warmer earlier in the season than if they are planted in the ground. Raised beds are highly recommended for cold-season crops, especially when there are changing seasons and inconsistent temperatures.
Brussel Sprouts do well in backyard gardens as long as the soil is well-tilled, well, draining, and amended with organic material and well-decomposed compost. Mulching your garden can help with moisture retention, regulate soil temperature, reduce soil erosion, and prevent weeds in the backyard garden.
The Best Temperature for Growing Brussel Sprouts
Brussels sprouts grow optimally in cool weather, but they will grow when soil temperatures are between 45 and 80 degrees. Temperatures should ideally be under 70 degrees F to avoid problems like bolting.
Growing Brussel Sprouts from Seed vs. Buying Plants
These cabbage-like plants require an average of 80 days to mature, so plant accordingly. Plant Brussel sprout seeds a half-inch deep in small pots, indoors, four weeks before transplanting outdoors in cooler climates.
Consider planting your seeds indoors in biodegradable pots, 3-4 weeks before the last frost. The use of biodegradable pots allows you to plant the whole pot directly into the soil so that the shallow root system can remain intact.
In warmer climates, later planting is preferred. You should be able to direct seed in mid-summer for a late fall or early winter harvest.
Spacing Brussel Sprouts
Space brussel sprout plants 2 feet apart with 3 feet of space between garden rows. They produce small vegetables but the plant grows larger than you might expect. If transplants are leggy, consider planting the plant a bit deeper until the stem is buried just below the first leaf. This will help to avoid top-heavy plants. You may need to stake plants in the autumn months to support the plant.
Nutrient and Water Requirements
Brussel sprouts draw their nutrients from the soil after seedlings have been planted. Amend the soil around plants with well-decomposed compost. This cabbage-like veggie is a heavy feeder and should be side-dressed with fertilizer about three weeks after planting and again about four weeks later. Keep the soil in the garden bed moist, but use care not to overwater, as they have a shallow root system.
Brussel Sprout Plant Pests and Disease
Brussel sprouts are rather hardy and not very prone to disease as long as you rotate crops year to year.
What is eating my Brussel sprouts, is a common question you hear from gardeners growing Brussel sprouts for the first time. Brussel sprouts can be plagued by garden pests, just as their brassica cousins, cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Cabbage aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, are the most common pests for Brussel sprouts.
How do you get rid of brussel sprout pests? You can organically ward off some of these pests by companion planting with herbs like mint and basil. Marigolds and garlic can help to deter aphids, but if aphids are still a problem, spray a steady stream of water onto the plant to repel them.
Harvesting Brussel Sprouts
How do you harvest brussel sprouts? As the plant grows and produces low yellowing leaves, remove them. After approximately 80 days of growth, twist or snip off brussel sprouts when they are compact, firm, and deep green in color. Brussel sprouts develop from the bottom up and should be harvested accordingly. Usually, these vegetables are mature when they are about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter and offer the most robust flavor when the round crops are harvested after the cold weather and first frosts set in. Harvest crops before the leaves turn a yellow hue to avoid the unappealing bitter flavor.
Recommended Brussel Sprout Varieties
- ‘Jade Cross’ has a maturation period of about 90 days and produces high yields on compact plants.
- ‘Rubine’ has a maturation period of 85 to 90 days and showcases late-season purple plants with less yield than its green cousins, but with a more robust flavor.
- ‘Diablo’ has a maturation time of 85 days and is prided at being a heavy producer.
- ‘Falstaff’ has a maturation period of 85 days and has a vibrant reddish-purple color that maintains its hue even after it is cooked.
- ‘Oliver’ has an 85 day maturation period and produces crunchy 1-inch vegetables that are easy to pick and grow on compact plants.