Do you ever wonder what it’s like to grow your Brussels sprouts? Well, it’s a great feeling to eat fresh food from your garden without worrying about going to the store for groceries.
Brussels sprouts are plants that grow well in cool weather, usually in the fall. It is a slow-growing and long-bearing crop that belongs to the Cole crop family (Brassica oleracea). This family consists of other plants such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.
How much space do you need to grow Brussels sprouts? If you are planting in a container, you can plant one sprout in an 8-inch container. That allows for enough space between the sprouts. In a garden, plant them 5 to 10 inches apart when sowing, then after the seedlings have grown to about 6-inches tall, thin them to 25 to 35 inches apart.
Growing Brussels sprouts in your garden are easy if you know what you are doing. Here is a guide to planting, growing, and caring for your Brussels.
How to Grow brussels sprouts from seeds
When to plant
When you start planting sprouts, you must consider the maturing stage during the cool weather. Since they mature well in the frost period, the time to start planting should align with the growing time.
Brussels sprouts have a growing period of about 80 days or more. So, the best time to start planting is in early to mid-summer, so you can harvest it during fall or early winter. In areas with mild winters, plant it mid to late summer to harvest the plant in late winter.
Where to grow?
Sprouts are known to be hardy plants, but they can grow in most areas. They don’t like areas with high winds that can blow the plant. The soil should be fertile, well-draining, and firm to hold the sprouts.
Selecting a planting site
A planting site for your sprouts can be in a garden or a container. If you are planting in a garden, use a raised garden to ensure the plant can withstand the temperature changes. You should place the plant in an area that receives enough sunlight.
The planting site can have other plants, but avoid placing them in a garden with strawberries or tomatoes (nightshade family).
Starting sprouts from seeds can take more time than buying seedlings; however, with seeds, you choose the healthy plants from your seedling bed and leave the weak ones. Start sowing your seeds 20 days earlier to ensure you have a correct timeline for harvesting.
First, you need a seedling tray, potting soil, seeds, and a heat bench. Pour the potting soil into the seedling tray to ¾ full. Then water the soil until it is moist. Avoid soggy soil.
Sow seeds into the tray. Place two seeds 2 cm deep per module. Cover the seed with soil lightly. Add a small amount of water, then place the tray in an area with access to indirect sunlight. The seeds should get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight in a day.
Also, place them on a heat bench to warm the soil. Keep the temperatures at 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The seeds will start to germinate in 7 to 12 days. After four weeks, the seedlings should be ready when the seedlings are about 12 inches tall. Thin the plant by removing the weak seedlings and leaving healthy ones to grow.
The best way to thin is to nip with your fingers or cut with scissors. Pulling out can cause damage to the roots of the healthy plant. Water it till the soil is moist.
Hardening off Brussels sprouts
Hardening off is training the seedlings to adapt to external conditions after transplanting. When you sow a plant indoors and decide to transplant it outdoors, you must start it slowly. Sudden changes in the conditions can cause stress to the plant, and it will die.
This process of hardening off Brussels sprouts will take at least ten days. You start by taking the plant outdoors for 1 hour and returning it to its normal conditions. The next day, take it out for two hours and then return it to its normal condition. Continue the process until it can stay outdoors for 10 hours on day 10.
If the weather doesn’t allow it, you can leave them indoors until it is suitable for planting. However, you don’t need to take ten days if you have excellent outdoor conditions. You can start with more prolonged periods than 1 hour a day for consecutive days until it adapts.
Transplanting Brussels sprouts is the same process as other plants. However, it requires more space because it is big.
So, how much space do you need to grow Brussels Sprouts? Plant them 35 inches between other plants for large sprouts and 35-inches between rows. For tiny sprouts, you can place them 25-inches between plants and 25-inches between rows.
When planting, make a large hole, place the seedling into the hole, and cover it with soil to the level of the first true leaves. Push the soil around the plant with your fingers to ensure it leaves space for air circulation.
Ensure the soil around the plant is firm to hold the plant. The idea of planting it to the level of the first true leaves is to make sure the leggy stems stay in the soil to regrow and become strong. The first set of true leaves is the second leaves produced after the first round of leaves.
Check the soil is dry before you water it. Sprinkle water lightly around the soil and ensure it is always moist. Don’t overwater the plant, and it’s better to underwater the plant than to overwater.
How to care for Brussels Sprouts
Even though Brussels can work well in cool, frosty conditions, it requires sunlight when it starts to grow. It only doesn’t need the sun when it matures because it loses its taste. The best-tasting Brussels mature in the cold.
Ensure it grows in an area with access to at least six hours of exposure to direct sunlight. Indoor plants require artificial lighting to improve its growth.
Brussels sprouts require high-quality soil rich in nutrients and is well draining. To add nutrients to the soil, you can mix the soil with compost before you start planting. Also, ensure the soil pH is between 7.0 and 7.2.
Water is essential to the growth of sprouts. The soil is supposed to be moist. Soggy soil comes about if you overwater. The best way to ensure you are giving the plant enough water is to leave a period between the watering for the soil to dry.
To avoid inconsistently watering the plant, give it around 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Also, apply mulch to maintain moisture and to ensure the roots are cool.
Pruning is not essential with this plant. Pruning can help remove leaves affected by pests and diseases. Removing affected leaves ensures it doesn’t spread to other parts.
Also, you can prune the lower leaves to make the plant use its energy in growing the plant to become taller and develop more sprouts at the top rather than at the bottom. But, if you want to harvest the whole plant, cut off the terminal bud at the top about 3-4 weeks before you start harvesting.
You need to stake your brussels sprouts. In areas with strong winds and heavy rains, this can help your sprouts grow in an upright position, and they don’t fall over.
Pests and diseases
Like other plants in the cabbage family, sprouts are prone to attack by pests and diseases. The common pests that attack them are;
- Cabbage root fly
- Cabbage caterpillars
- Cabbage root maggot
The diseases that attack the plant include;
- Black rot
- Downey mildew
- White mold
To prevent an attack by fungal diseases, ensure the roots and the plants have sufficient air circulation. Also, avoid watering the plant. Sprinkle the water around the plant on the soil.
Planting brussels sprouts isn’t complicated, especially if you follow the correct procedures. Now that you have a simple guide to growing Brussels from seeds, you are ready to start.
Remember, you must give Brussels sprouts enough space to grow and to have proper air circulation.