Growing Brussels Sprouts 101
Growing Brussels sprouts is like growing tiny, snack-sized cabbages on miniature palm trees. A cool-season crop that's relatively easy to grow, Brussels sprouts are nutritious, cruciferous (Brassica oleracea / Cruciferae) vegetables related to kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and (of course) cabbage plants. But, while its pedestrian vegetable cousins grow on the ground in plump, round balls, Brussels sprouts grow on huge, crazy stalks that can tower over other fall vegetables.
If you're ready to give growing Brussels sprouts a try, remember that there are two main varieties: late-maturing cultivars that are taller and easier to harvest and early-maturing dwarf varieties that take up less space but are harder to harvest. (If you're a must-have sprouter eager to grow Brussels sprouts in your garden throughout the year, try growing dwarf varieties during warmer months when there's less room available in your garden, then switch to taller, later-growing Brussels sprout cultivars in the fall, when you have more room.)
Here are some quick-and-dirty tips for growing Brussels sprouts in your garden:
- Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart, and space plants in rows 24 to 36 inches apart.
- For a fall harvest, plant mid-to-late summer in the North and late summer in the South (after heat has passed).
- Remember that Brussels sprouts are cold-weather crops whose flavor sweetens after a frost. So, for best flavor, pick bright green and firm sprouts after a light frost or two.
- Pick lowest sprouts first (as Brussels sprouts plants mature from the bottom up). To harvest, break off the leaves below the lowest sprouts, then snap off mature sprouts.
- To speed maturity, pinch off the tops of plants when they reach between 15 and 20 inches. Sprouts will grow a bit smaller, but they'll mature in just a couple weeks after pinching.
While kids may crab about having to eat these tiny cabbage cousins, there are plenty of nutritional benefits to eating and growing Brussels sprouts. Like other Brassica vegetables, Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, B vitamins and more. Plus, they're an atypical food source for vital nutritional needs like omega 3 fatty acids, iron, protein and calcium. Want to turn your garden into a DIY vitamin factory? Grow Brussels sprouts!
For growing specifications for growing Brussels sprouts (like preferred soil pH, planting depths and germination rates), check out the Gardening Guides page.
(Images graciously provided by nkzs, msm and debsch. Thanks!)