How to Grow Brussel Sprouts
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
A vegetable with big flavor and nutrition value, Brussels sprouts are loaded with fiber and important vitamins! Native to the Mediterranean area, they come from the cabbage family. And though they can be eaten raw, they taste less bitter (and much better) when cooked!
To help ensure your Brussel Sprouts thrives, I’ve put together this video and transcript to make it easy as I walk you through how to grow brussel sprouts at home..
Together, we'll explore:
Varieties of Brussel Sprouts available
Starting your Brussel Sprouts seeds
Caring for Brussel Sprouts at all stages
Fertilizer and/or Mulching
Transplanting best practices
Companion Plants do’s and don’ts
Pests, Diseases and what to do about them
Harvesting and storing your Brussel Sprouts
Listen to this Article:
Ready for a growing horticulture adventure in brussel sprouts crop growing? Lets dive in!
Brussel Sprout Varieties
It's not just a matter of how to grow brussel sprouts, but also which ones to grow! :)
An heirloom variety that grows self-supporting, voluminous stalks. These plants are shorter than other varieties at only 24 inches tall. They take about 90 days to mature.
Similar Varieties: Dagan This variety is known for its early-maturing plants. It’s tall, dense, and produces medium to large Brussels sprouts. Plants take about 100 days to mature.
Churchill A flavorful variety that’s easily grown in a variety of climates. It’s also known to be ready for market early in the season. Plants mature in about 90 days.
Diablo These plants are tall, heavy and produce medium- sized sprouts that are ready for harvest in the late fall and early winter. Plants take about 110 days to mature.
RED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Varieties like Redarling produce purple-red sprouts and stems, and are typically sweeter than most green varieties. Plants are slow to mature, needing about 140 days to reach maturity.
Planting Brussels Sprouts
How to grow brussel sprouts from seed or transplant
Keep in mind that Brussels sprouts are more successful when transplanted as opposed to directly seeded.
The ideal soil temperature for direct sowing your Brussels sprouts is between 50-85°F (10-29°C). While they can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F, you won’t see the same success rate as you would with soil temperatures that are between 50-85°F.
When it comes to the air, their temperature tolerance is between 26-75°F (-2 to 24°C). Keep in mind that prolonged air temperatures below 50°F will promote flowering (which you want to try and avoid!).
Now, for their soil needs! Brussels sprouts prefer well-drained, fertile soil with good water retention.
Your soil pH should also be between 6 and 7 for them to thrive. You can add organic matter like well-rotted manure or compost to your soil at the end of the season in the fall, or at the beginning of the season in the spring.
About 5-7 weeks after you’ve started your seeds indoors, you can transplant them.
If you’re using pots or trays, sow 3 seeds per pot/cell about a quarter of an inch deep. You’ll want to use starting soil to give them a good foundation!
Make sure to also grow your Brussels sprouts in full sun – they need about 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Caring for your crop
How to grow brussel sprouts once you have a seedling through to a mature plant
In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know about watering, staking, fertilizing and mulching! We’ll also talk transplanting, companion planting, and your growing structure options.
Brussels sprouts need consistent moisture to properly produce their tight, flavorful sprouts with a nice texture.
If you don’t get at least one inch of rain each week, give your plants a minimum of one good watering per week, making sure to soak the soil.
Avoid overhead watering, and water your young transplants either every day or after the top 2 inches of soil has dried.
If grown in sandy soils, Brussels sprouts will need to be watered more than once a week.
Brussels sprout plants grow to about 30 inches tall and can become quite heavy when their sprouts start to form.
Because of this, you’ll want to monitor your plants - if they start to bend or collapse, stake them using wooden, bamboo or metal stakes, and tie them up gently using soft cloth to avoid causing any damage.
A process that’s done about a month before harvest (one month before the first fall frost) if you’re planning to harvest all your Brussels sprouts at once.
To top your plants, cut the top growing point (which is the top few inches) off of each plant.
This will stop the plant from growing upward, and your plant will then redirect its energy to producing its fruit!
FERTILIZING AND/OR MULCHING
How to grow brussel sprouts with the right food and protection
FERTILIZING BRUSSEL SPROUT PLANTS
NOTE: The following are general fertilizer practices to use, but you might have to adjust your fertilizer based on your soil’s specific needs.
Make sure not to apply any fertilizer to your crop that has weed suppressers. Also, you’ll want to avoid fertilizing after mid-summer (July).
That’s because high nitrogen levels can result in loose Brussels sprouts that are brown on the inside.
After transplanting, dissolve 1 tablespoon of a 20-20-20 (20% Nitrogen, 20% Phosphorous, 20% Potassium) fertilizer in 1 gallon of water. Apply 8 ounces to each plant after they’ve been transplanted.
You’ll want to fertilize again about 2 weeks after planting, by side-dressing with composted manure or an all-purpose, granular NPK fertilizer that has an equal ratio, doing so about once a month until the beginning of July.
To side-dress, simply apply your fertilizer around each individual plant, about 6-8 inches from the stem.
Mix the granules into the top layer of soil, being careful not to damage the roots of your plant. Then, water around your plant to activate the fertilizer.
ADDING MULCH FOR BRUSSEL SPROUTS
Apply a thin layer of mulch (only 1-2 inches) to suppress weeds and improve water retention. You can use organic materials like straw, hay, or grass clippings as a mulch for your Brussels sprouts.
TRANSPLANTING BEST PRACTICES
How to grow brussel sprouts once you're ready to transplant
You can transplant outside about 5-7 weeks after sowing indoors. First, though, you’ll need to harden-off your plants!
Get your seedlings adjusted to the outdoor conditions in order to minimize their stress.
Bring your pots or trays of seedlings outside at least a week before transplanting, leaving them in a sheltered spot where they’ll be protected from wind and direct sun.
If there’s any threat of overnight frost, bring your plants inside, then take them back out in the morning.
You want to slowly introduce your seedlings to direct sun, giving them more time in the sun each day, until it’s time to transplant.
Once they’re ready, after the last spring frost, find a spot with well-draining, rich soil that has good water retention and gets full sun. Plants should be spaced about 18-24 inches apart, in rows that are 30-36 inches apart.
Dig holes deep enough so that the roots are covered and the top of the root ball is level with the soil. After the roots are covered, gently firm the soil around your plant. Then, be sure to give it a nice thorough drink of water.
GROWING STRUCTURE OPTIONS
How to grow brussel sprouts
Brussels sprouts can be grown in garden beds, raised beds, and large containers. They need about 12-18 inches of soil for root growth, and your containers should be about 24 gallons (90 L) and only hold one plant each.
For any of the three growing structure options, it’s important that your soil is well-draining, so if you’re growing in containers, make sure they have holes in the bottom. You can also place some small to medium sized rocks in the bottom to improve the drainage.
Your Brussels sprout plants might also need to staked. If they start to bend or collapse as they grow and mature, use bamboo, wooden, or metal stakes to prop them up and prevent breakage.
Tie each plant to their stake using a soft material like cotton or nylon to prevent chaffing and scarring.
This last step is important, since wounds can be potential entry points for bacteria and fungus.
BRUSSEL SPROUT COMPANION PLANTS
How to grow brussel sprouts surrounded by the right plant friends Companion plants for Brussel Sprouts
Plant your Brussels sprouts alongside bush beans, carrots, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, pole beans, spinach, and Swiss chard.
Beets also benefit the soil around Brussels sprouts, adding magnesium which is crucial for growing healthy sprouts.
Aromatic herbs like dill, mint, sage, rosemary and thyme help repel pests from the Brussels sprouts.
Also, members of the onion family can enhance the flavor of Brussels sprouts as they mature.
Don't plant brussel sprouts near:
Avoid planting your Brussels sprouts near zucchini squash, butternut squash, or spaghetti squash.
Also, strawberries and Brussels sprouts compete for space, so they shouldn’t be planted together.
Finally, members of the nightshade family like tomatoes and peppers are heavy feeders – just like Brussels sprouts.
Planting them together would not only reduce nutrients in your soil, but unwanted the competition would also stunt each plant’s growth.
Common challenges and their solutions
There are a few issues, pests, and diseases that can potentially harm your Brussels sprouts. Not to worry – we’ve outlined them below, as well as how to either avoid or fix the problem!
How to grow brussel sprouts disease free
If there’s too much nitrogen in the soil, especially after the head/sprout development, is can cause the sprouts to become loose. Only fertilize as recommended, and don’t fertilize past the beginning of July.
This can happen if your plant goes through a period of very rapid growth. This issue is exactly what it sounds like: the insides of stems (and sometimes heads) either collapses or cracks, leaving them hollow.
Hollow stems are either caused by high temperatures and/or high nitrogen levels. Be sure to start your plants early in the season, and don’t over-fertilize them.
NOTE: It’s common for leaves to turn yellow later on in the growing season. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have a nutrient deficiency – in fact, it’s a rather common occurrence in Brussels sprouts! That’s because the plant is allocating more energy to its fruit development, rather than to forming its leaves.
How to grow brussel sprouts free from pests Thrips, loopers, flea beetles, aphids, maggots, earwigs, cutworms, crickets, leafminers, snails and slugs, nematodes, and moths are all potential threats to the success of your Brussels sprouts.
Pests can be controlled and prevented by using insect netting on young, immature seedlings.
Be sure to properly water your Brussels sprouts – keeping the soil moist, but not soaked. If you need to water your plants, do so in the morning, and take care that you water the soil, not the tops of your plants.
Keep your soil weed-free. Weeds tend to attract unwanted bugs, and can provide a cover for larvae. Check the undersides of leaves for pests and remove any that you find.
Also, remove and destroy any severely damaged leaves.
How to grow brussel sprouts wile avoiding diseases
Caused by prolonged wetness, this white fuzzy fungus typically grows at the base of stems and on the leaves of Cole crops.
A fungal disease that creates round brown to black spots on the leaves of Brussels sprouts. If the disease gets bad enough, plants will start dropping their leaves.
Solution: If you see any evidence of ringspot, you’ll want to immediately remove and destroy your infected plants.
Spores will appear on the undersides of leaves after heavy rains or fog. At first, irregular yellow spots show up on leaves and will eventually turn brown, while white fluffy patches might also appear.
Solution: It’s important to maintain good airflow through your crops while also allowing them to dry between waterings. Be sure to remove and destroy any infected plants that you find.
This disease causes the stunted growth, yellowing, and wilting of leaves while roots can also be affected and distorted. Clubroot is typically more common in acidic soils.
Solution: Make sure that your soil is well-drained, and amend it with organic matter and/or lime to increase its pH level.
A bacterial infection most common in coastal regions. Tiny dark spots will grow on the leaves and eventually will take on a water-soaked appearance. Old spots might turn a light brown while being ringed in purple.
Solution: Plant certified disease-free seeds and transplants whenever possible, and avoid overhead watering.
How to grow brussel sprouts for your favorite dinners
You’ll want to wait to harvest your Brussels sprouts until after the first fall frost, as this improves their flavor.
For continuous harvesting, you can harvest sprouts from the bottom of the stalk upward (in the direction that they mature) as you need them. Simply cut or snap off the leaf below the sprout and then twist off the sprout.
Make sure you only harvest sprouts that are about 1 inch in diameter.
If you want to harvest all the sprouts of a plant at one time, cut the top growing point of the plant off when the bottom sprouts are about half an inch in diameter.
Usually, this is about a month before harvest, before the first fall frost. In order to harvest the whole plant, cut the main stem just above the soil line.
As a sprout grows larger, you can remove the leaf just under it, channeling all your plant’s energy into the sprout. The leaves are also edible and can be enjoyed either raw or cooked!
Great news: the main stalk of your plant is also edible! After harvesting the plant of its sprouts and leaves, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer ‘skin’. The inside stalk can then be cooked and eaten like a broccoli stem.
Delicious tip: thinly chop the stalk and bake it as chips!
After the fall sprout harvest, you have the option to leave your plants in the ground until spring, wait for them to flower, and then harvest their edible flowers. Keep in mind, though, that this can’t be done if you topped your plants.
When it comes to storage, make sure not to wash your Brussels sprouts before storing - only wash them before use. Then, you can simply store your sprouts in a plastic bag in the crisper of your fridge!