Spotlight On Brussel Sprouts


Brussels sprouts are a fall vegetable, requiring about 3 months to reach harvest size. Brussels sprouts can easily bear light frosts and they can even take freezing weather if the thaw afterwards is gradual. However, it is best to complete the sprout harvest soon after the first frost.


Brussels sprouts grow best in full sun where temperatures do not exceed 80°F. Plant in well drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting. Brussels sprouts can be sown directly in the garden, but for best results you may want to start them indoors. Plant Brussels sprouts so that they come to harvest in the cool of autumn. For the best
planting date, count back from the average first frost date in autumn the number of days required to reach maturity for the variety you are growing; put your transplants in the ground on that date (when daytime temps are between 60-70 degrees.


Water and feed Brussels sprouts throughout the growing season. Keep Brussels sprouts evenly moist; do not allow the soil to dry out. Side dress Brussels sprouts with blood meal (high in phosphorus for strong root growth) and cottonseed meal (high in nitrogen for leaf and bud growth) when the sprouts first form. Sprouts form in each leaf axil (plants will continue to grow tall until temperatures stay below 40°F). For a large number of sprouts, let plants grow tall and continue to produce sprouts. For full, fat sprouts, pinch out the growing point to stop upward leaf growth and allow sprouts to form on the bottom 12 inches of the stem.

Harvesting and Storing

Brussels sprouts are most flavorful after the first frost in autumn but before freezing weather sets in for winter. Begin harvesting Brussels sprouts as soon as sprouts reach 1 inch in diameter. Do not let sprouts sit on the stem too long or the leaves will begin to open. Sprouts develop from the bottom up, so begin the harvest from the bottom of the plant or remove all of the leaves and harvest the whole stalk, cutting at ground level.

Common Problem

Keep an eye out for pests; handpick caterpillars that feed on foliage and spray away aphidswith a strong stream of water. It is normal for lower leaves to turn yellow; simply remove them to expose the sprouts to more sunlight. (The sprouts form in each leaf axil, but the leaves do not need to be present for sprout development.) Blackened stems are likely a sign of a bacterial or viral disease, both of which will likely kill the plants. When water-conducting tissues inside the stem become infected, rot sets in and soon after the leaves will yellow and turn brown and the plant will fail. Ants are commonly a sign of other insects feeding on the plant, such as aphids. Carefully wash the leaves to remove insects; avoid overwatering. If your Brussels sprouts are small, your soil may be lacking in phosphorus–or may be too nitrogen rich. Add plenty of aged compost to your garden twice a year