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When to Plant Brussels Sprouts
Cool-season crops like Brussels sprouts may be planted as soon as frost is no longer expected in early spring; these crops often fade, and may die altogether, during the heat of summer. A second window for planting cool-season crops opens up in late summer and early fall; once mature, these species can actually survive a light frost (in mild climates, they may even continue producing into the winter months). Keeping their long growing season in mind, plant Brussels sprouts for a fall or early winter harvest—just count four months backward from the estimated first frost date in your area.
How to Plant Brussels Sprouts
Small-seeded crops like Brussels sprouts are more difficult to grow from seed—instead, buy seedlings grown in a commercial greenhouse from a local nursery or garden center, where you’ll find different varieties to fit your needs.
- Pick the site. Brussels sprouts are quite finicky when it comes to soil conditions (they need a soil pH of between 6–6.8) and temperature. Find a place with at least six hours of full sun and good drainage.
- Prepare the site. Brussels sprouts need fertile soil: A week before transplanting seedlings, work compost or organic matter like manure into the top layers of soil.
- Plant. Use your hands or a small trowel to create a hole in the soil no bigger than the root mass of the seedling. Position the plant—seedlings should be 12 inches apart—and cover the roots with soil (making sure not to cover any part of the stem in the process, which is a death sentence for many types of plants), and press it firmly into the earth. Make sure to water everything thoroughly.
How to Care for Brussels Sprouts
- Water. Water Brussels sprout plants consistently, about 1 inch a week, more in particularly hot weather.
- Remove leaves. Any yellowing leaves can be removed to make way for more sunlight on the stalk.
- Control weeds. Mulching or covering the base of the plants with cut sheets of plastic bags will help control weeds and soil temperature.
- Practice companion planting. Companion planting can deter aphids, as can a quick leaf rinse with soapy water if you spot the bugs on the leaves themselves. Small green caterpillars called cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, maggots, and flea beetles wreak havoc on the leaves as well. If feasible, they can be picked off by hand, or treated en masse with Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural insecticide. Using floating row covers just after planting will also help protect young plants. Find our complete guide on brussels sprouts companion planting here.
- Prevent infection. Clubroot, a common fungal infection in the cabbage family, manifests on Brussel sprouts as fast-wilting leaves and misshapen, gnarled roots. In this case, the entire plant and root system will need to be dug up quickly to prevent spreading.
How to Harvest Brussels Sprouts
Some gardeners find that Brussels sprouts taste even better when harvested after one or two light frosts, but in general, when the lower sprouts are about 1 inch in size, they’re ready. Harvest sprouts from the bottom of the plant up.
If you want to harvest the full Brussels sprout stalk, it can be pulled up, roots and all, after the first frost. Remove the roots and any remaining leaves, and hang in a cool, dry space for up to a month before using.
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