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Brussels sprouts Growing Guide – Unpopular But So Healthy!

Brussels sprouts Growing Guide – Unpopular But So Healthy!

Brussels sprouts are distinguished as one of the most unpopular vegetables amongst all age groups. The tarnished reputation makes them the least favourite pick when it comes to vegetables. 

While these mini cabbage-like sprouts are associated with bland taste and a stinky aroma, they are still eaten because of the nutritious value they hold. The size may be tiny, but it surely boosts in energy. Brussels sprouts have high levels of staple nutrients and have been linked to several health benefits.

Brussels Sprouts is Healthy

Brussels Sprouts is considered healthy as it contains high levels of staple nutrients

 

In this article, we will explore the gardening side of Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are comparatively easy to grow and require minimal space in any home vegetable garden. However, the long growing season of Brussels sprouts demands persistent patience. Similar to all other vegetables in the cruciferous family, such as cabbage, kale, and cauliflower, the nutty and buttery brussels sprouts are also a cool-weather crop. This winter-loving vegetable is observed to have an increased flavour when grown in the fall season, preferably four weeks before the last frost.

 

Brussels Sprouts

 

Where to Plant

Brussels sprouts prefer sweet soil conditions with slight alkalinity. The minimum soil pH should hit 6.0, however, a high pH (up to 6.8-7.0) is preferred for optimal growth. Like most other vegetables, these sprouts like a generous amount of organic matter for moist soil to nurture healthy and speedy growth. A fairly well-drained and heavy soil makes a good choice.

Planting Brussels sprouts in the same location consecutively for two years is strongly discouraged. The reason is that the soil needs time to regain is fertility in order to prevent nutrient depletion and diseases. Therefore, crop rotation must be strictly ensured when planting this vegetable.

To improve your soil, avoid adding fresh manure as it contains harmful bacteria that accelerate weed problems. Instead, you may add well-rotted manure or compost for better soil quality.

 

When to Plant Brussels sprouts

The ideal time to plant Brussels sprouts is in colder climates so that the harvesting may begin in autumn after the first frost. Areas that experience hot climatic conditions where the freezing temperatures are rarely approached are not considered suitable for the growth of Brussels sprouts. Therefore, schedule the planting such that the harvest comes around two weeks after the first frost.

For an easier understanding of the temperature range for Brussels sprouts, please note that anywhere between 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 67 degrees Fahrenheit serves suitable for the growth. Similarly, temperatures shooting above 70 degrees Fahrenheit not only threaten the growth but also cause the bolting of sprouts.

 

Seeding and Transplanting Brussels sprouts

Brussels Sprouts Seedling

Brussels Sprouts Seedling

There are two ways to seed brussels sprouts; indoor seeding and direct seeding.

Start sowing the seeds indoors in June. Be sure to use seedling mixture and embed the seeds at a depth of ¼ to ½ inches and keep them moist for better growth. The germination period of these seeds should be around two weeks approximately. On the emergence of seedlings, turn on the grow lights. Transplant when the seedlings reach a height of around 4 inches and display few leaves. Allowing the seedlings to become root-bound will prevent the plants from growing when transplanted.

While transplanting Brussels sprouts, be careful not to make the soil compact but leave it firm while patting it lightly so that the sprouts can grow better.

Directly seeded plants require three more weeks to mature when compared to indoor seeded plants of Brussels sprouts. The sprouts will mature around 80 to 90 days after the transplantation and around 100 days after sowing the seeds. Mature Brussels sprouts must be nurtured under controlled temperatures (not over 80 degrees Fahrenheit), or else they’ll develop a bitter taste while causing the cabbage-like structure to loosen.

 

Fertilizing

Start the application of fertilizers as the seedlings start to develop further. For starters, use a 50% concentrated solution once every week. Once a few more fully-grown leaves are seen, increase the application of fertilizer to twice a week. If your soil is naturally nutrient-dense with good fertility, then you may only use a small dose of slow-release fertilizer once a season, and it will feed the plants for the entire season.

It is observed that areas experiencing heavy rain cycles or have sandy soils, require the soil to be supplemented with a nitrogen-dense fertilizer for nurturing the growth in a controlled and healthy environment.

 

Watering

A moisturized soil with a strong water retention quality is essential for the growth of Brussels sprouts. It is, therefore, important to keep the soil around the sprouts conveniently moist. If the plants do not receive one-inch water every week, it tends to dry out, producing ill-tasting sprouts with a damaged structure. If your soil is more towards a sandy appearance, you will have to water the sprout plantation than once a week. However, as the seedlings approach maturity, slow down the water supply.

 

Harvesting Brussels sprouts

The harvesting cycle begins right when the sprouts are an inch in diameter. These inch-sized sprouts at the bottom of the stalk are the tenderest as they mature their way upwards. When sprouts mature, the leaves around tend to turn yellow, remove these leaves as they fade to allow the sprouts to grow. Pinching the plant tops accelerates the maturing period of sprouts, and all of the sprouts on the stem will harvest at once. One plant produces up to 100 sprouts. Remove them in a twisting direction until they detach from the stem completely.

If a severe freeze is expected before the harvesting ends, then it is recommended that you uplift the entire plantation while removing the remaining leaves. Place it in a frame in a shed area, allowing the harvest to complete for a few more weeks. The cool weather will sweeten the taste of sprouts, further making them nuttier and buttery when cooked.  However, the early harvest of sprouts may not be as decadent as the last ones.

Brussels Sprouts Harvest

A successful Brussels Sprouts harvest

 

Common Brussels sprouts Problems

 

Club Root

Club root is a commonly found infection in the plants from the Brassicaceae family. This fungal infection penetrates the roots causing them to swell up and distort, leading to stunted growth. Club root tends to affect the soil when its moist and warm.

For a Brussels sprout plantation affected by club root you may observe:

  • Adversely affected the growth and yield of plants, with badly affected plants dying.
  • The underground root system is swelling massively with finer roots losing a life.

Improving the drainage of soil and maintaining the alkaline pH by adding lime solutions helps tackle the club root problem.

 

Birds

Pigeons religiously eat on the seedlings, leaves, and buds, causing a lot of damage to the plantation. These birds visit the garden in the early hours of the morning and nibble the foliage, ripping of the portions of planation randomly. You may observe the following signs:

  • In case of severe attacks, a large portion of planation will be affected, leaving behind leaf stalks only.
  • Growth of seedlings slow, or no crop is produced at all.

Scaring devices or bird repellent sprays and substances guard against bird grazing.

 

Cabbage Root Fly

This 5 cm long white larvae feeds on the roots lying just under the soil surface. This stunts the growth of Brussels sprouts and, if not controlled in time, causes the plants to die.

Some common observations of a cabbage root fly feedings are:

  • White maggot tunnels into the individual buttons of Brussels sprouts, making them inedible.
  • Plantation goes under long periods of poor growth.

The plantation can be protected by growing it under a layer of an insect-proof mesh. Secondly, crop rotation should be practised strictly, so that root flies don’t reside permanently in the same soil.

 

Bolting

One of the main Brussels sprout problems is bolting. This phenomenon is described as the growth of flowers by plants leading to seed production. This prevents the plants from forming a cabbage-like structure. This is majorly caused by excessive nitrogen content in the soil and an extensive growth rate.

To control bolting, add mulch and ground cover to the area. You should also water regularly as this helps in maintain the soil temperature to a consistent range.

 

Blackleg

Blackleg is a common fungal disease for Brussels sprouts that leaves sprouts encircled in a clustered and causes the soil to rot. The common sources of blackleg are cutworms and cabbage maggots.

This disease can be tackled by the removal of infected plants and ensuring the garden has a debris-free ground. You should also add organic matter to planting beds while keeping the soil bed well-drained at all times.

To read more about the common problems that prevail when growing Brussels sprouts check out Harvest To Table.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS RELATED TO BRUSSELS SPROUT

 

How to determine the ideal time to plant Brussels sprouts?

The ideal time for Brussels sprouts plantation can be determined by the date of the first frost and then counting in reverse the number of days it takes the sprouts to mature. Since it is a long season crop, the maturity takes up to a minimum of 110 – 130 days. Brussels sprouts can be planted from spring all the way to the last frost.

 

What are the suitable fertilizers to use for Brussels sprouts plantation?

Provide slow-release fertilizers to the sprouts as they are a long-term plant. As heavy feeders, Brussels sprouts require a constant supply of nutrients for uninterrupted growth. A rotten supply of poultry manure proves an ideal pre-plant fertilizer for the sprouts. However, if you have packaged organic fertilizers, they are equally suitable.

 

Should I be afraid of insects and pest diseases in my Brussels sprouts plantation?

There is a wide range of insects that attack Brussels sprouts. These include cabbage loopers, moths, cutworms, maggot, aphids harlequin bugs, and many others. Amongst these, aphids are high up on the scale of difficulty to control. It is therefore suggested that plant inspection is conducted as soon as the leaves are 2-3 inches in size. You should also follow proper sanitation procedures to control any growth of pest diseases.

 

When are Brussels sprouts ready to be picked?

Learning the harvesting pattern of Brussels sprouts requires a thorough understanding of some critical points. Picking is ideally done right before the sprout leaves transition into a yellow color. Having a size of approximately an inch or two, the sprouts should feel firm and tender. It also depends on the planting duration; you must wait for the plantation to have been hit by at least two frosty nights so that the sprouts have developed a sweeter taste. Start picking sprouts from the bottom of the plants and check daily for more sprouts that are ready.

 

What is the recommended spacing for planting Brussels sprout plants?

You must space Brussels sprouts approximately at a 2 ft distance and a 3 ft gap between each row of the plantation. This will boost up the plant growth without clustered roots competing for oxygen, water, and other nutrients under the soil.

 

How often should I water the plantation?

To nurture the growth of tender, sweet and pleasant-flavored sprouts, you must water the Brussels sprouts at least once a week. The sprouts approximately require once each water every week, enough for the soil surface to not dry out.  Water the plantation until the seeds have sprouted well. And make sure to water with a fire hose nozzle or use a watering can that has a narrow misty spray.

Brussels sprout is a miniature vegetable with a flavour that’s both assertive and sweet. Making to the Christmas dinner as a staple side, this miniature vegetable may be resented by many but holds a great nutritional value. In addition to its fibre, minerals, and antioxidant properties, Brussels sprout has added health benefits. These including the potential to ease down the risk of cancer, maintaining blood-sugar levels, and decreasing inflammation.

Accommodate them generously in your vegetable garden just as you accommodate them in your belly on Christmas, and you’ll have a happier healthy life ahead.

Happy Gardening!

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