How to Grow Brussels Sprouts

Nicknamed "tiny cabbages," Brussels sprouts are a hearty addition to any vegetable garden.

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

Picking Brussels sprouts should begin when the sprouts are 1 inch in diameter. Harvesting Brussels sprouts is best done when maturity occurs in cooler weather. The plant will withstand frost and can be harvested until freezes occur.

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Picking Brussels sprouts should begin when the sprouts are 1 inch in diameter. Harvesting Brussels sprouts is best done when maturity occurs in cooler weather. The plant will withstand frost and can be harvested until freezes occur.

Brussels sprouts—people either love or hate them. They were the vegetable your parents begged you to eat as a child, but one many people grow to appreciate as an adult. Easy to grow, Brussels sprouts taste sweetest after a few hard frosts and can be roasted and stir-fried as well as boiled.

How to Grow

Brussels sprouts prefer a sunny site and neutral, moist, well-drained soil, improved with well-rotted organic matter. However, avoid very rich soils, which produce loose, open sprouts. They also benefit from a sheltered site and firm soil to prevent the laden stems being blown over in the winter. Sow seeds in trays or modules under cover in early spring, or outdoors into a seedbed in mid-spring. Thin direct-sown seedlings to 3 inches (7.5 cm); plant out indoor-sown plants in mid-spring, when 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) high, spacing them 24 inches (60 cm) apart. Plant deeply, with the first true leaves level with the soil surface to ensure the plants won’t blow over when their crop develops. Water well during dry spells, and cover with netting as the first sprouts form. Earth up around the stems to provide extra support, or stake plants growing on exposed or windy sites.

Start harvesting in the fall when the sprouts are firm, working from the bottom of the stem up, removing a few from each plant at a time. Alternatively, dig up the whole plant when it is covered in sprouts, and hang the stem in a cold, frost-free place (or stand it in a bucket of water), and pick as required. 

Varieties of Brussels Sprouts to Try

Most Brussels sprouts are green, although a few varieties produce red (R) ones. Being more colorful, they are a good choice for mixed planting designs. Consider these varieties: ‘Abacus’ F1, ‘Bosworth’ F1, ‘Clodius’ F1, ‘Falstaff’ (R), ‘Igor’ F1, ‘Maximus’ F1, ‘Montgomery’ F1, ‘Red Delicious’ (R), ‘Trafalgar’ and ‘Tozer Selection’ (R).

Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases

All brassicas, like cabbage and kale, suffer from similar pests and diseases. Pigeons devour the leaves, weakening the plants, and may also damage young sprouts. Cover plants with netting in the summer. Caterpillars, especially those of cabbage white butterflies, will also eat the leaves, causing serious damage. Use fine netting to deter them. Be sure to also check for eggs under the leaves, pick off caterpillars, or spray with insecticide.

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