Plant of the Week – Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts seem to say cool weather to me. With summer in full swing, I always begin to think ahead to the fall, which means I am planning my late season plantings. We are about to order seeds for our fall garden and I have been looking at Brussels Sprouts. We have never done them in great numbers. This year we are going to plant some in one of our growbeds that will allow us to tall row covers allowing the brussels sprouts to grow to their full height.
Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea (gemmifera)) is from the family Cruciferae. Crucifera includes mustards, cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower, among many others. While technically a biennial, Brussels Sprouts are usually grown as an annual.
Cool Season Crops
Brussels Sprouts are one of the cool season vegetables. They need sun but can’t tolerate the extreme heat of West Texas Summers. However, those long sunny, cool days of fall in our area are perfect for this family of plants.
Brussels Sprouts can be started early in your greenhouse or even in your house with adequate lighting. Transplants should be set out after the first true leaves appear on the seedling. Transplanting should be done 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date.
Planting and Sowing
If planting seeds directly into your garden, plant the seeds shallow, no more than ¼ inch into the soil — space seeds closely and then thin the emerging plants to a spacing of 14 to 18 inches apart. Direct sowing should be done 8 – 10 weeks before the first frost date. The seedling should emerge in 6 to 14 days of planting. Follow our planting recommendations for both transplants and seeds.
You want to time your planting so that your Brussels Sprouts start to mature after the average temperatures get below 65 degrees. You may need to cover your young plants even in the early fall with shade cloth to protect them from the still hot early fall temperatures in West Texas.
Care and Feeding
Water carefully. Brussels Sprouts must have moist soil as the buds are forming or the sprouts will be small and deformed. When you begin harvesting your Brussels Sprouts, side dress your plants with a handful of good compost or drench with compost tea to encourage the plants to keep producing buds.
Pests and Problems
Aphids, cabbage loopers (the caterpillar of the white cabbage butterfly) are the biggest problem in West Texas. Brussels Sprouts may also suffer from black rot. Spray your plants with compost tea mixed with molasses and seaweed to control aphids. A late release of ladybugs will also help. Treating the soil around your Brussels Sprouts with cornmeal at 20lbs per 1000 square feet will help control diseases.
If the weather stays too hot through the fall, your Brussels Sprouts may bolt and not produce any fruit. IF this is a problem, remove the plants and start again. Brussels Sprouts can also be planted Early in the year for a spring crop. Plant in late January or early February. Be prepared to protect your tender plants with row covers if the weather turns extremely cold.
Most Brussels Sprouts take 90 to 100 days to mature their first sprouts. Mature sprouts are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Harvest carefully, so you don’t damage the plant or the stalk. Pulling down gently with a slight twisting motion is the best method. Brussels Sprouts need cool weather to produce the best fruits. IF the weather stays too hot as the spouts mature, they will become bitter.
See our Plant Selection Guide for our recommendations on which Brussels Sprout’s varieties are best in our area.