We’re recording this in late June, so in many climates it’s either too late to plant Brussels or it is getting down to the wire, as they’re a long season crop. Depending on the variety, they can take between 90-110 days to mature. We have had some requests for an episode on the topic from members of our Slack group and there are some Brussels growing cultural practices besides just how and when to plant, that are worth discussing this time of year.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- How Brussels sprouts grow and why they can be tricky to grow
- Techniques to help improve the quality and quantity of your harvest
Brussel sprouts are a cool season biennial.
Like winter squash, people associate Brussels with a fall harvest, but also like winter squash, they need to be planted early enough so they have enough time to mature.
Brussels is that they are very cold hardy, and many people say they actually taste better after they’ve been exposed to a frost.
Brussels are best transplanted. They should be spaced 18 inches apart. 1 plant will yield around 1-2 lbs of sprouts, so we suggest planting at least 4 plants.
Like all long season brassicas, Brussels are heavy feeders, so you should fertilize at planting time at then again 3 and 6 weeks after transplanting. In addition to that, they’ll benefit from a few feedings of kelp-based liquid fertilizer throughout the season.
Late in the summer, just as the sprouts are beginning to form in leaf axils, you’ll notice a small, cabbage-like head starting to form on the top of your plants. Cut this head off about 6-8 inches from the top of the plant. This helps redirect the plant's energy into the formation of the sprouts. The top head that was removed can be eaten! They’re delicious sautéed and roasted.
Brussels sprouts live in the garden for a long time, so the lower leaves on the plants will inevitably start to turn yellow and brown. This is totally normal. Remove these leaves to improve air circulation and help sunlight reach the sprouts on the stalk. The sprouts start to form from the bottom of the plant up, so they’re sort of forming in tandem with the leaves that are yellowing and will be removed. Eventually, you’ll end up with a stalk the resembles Beaker from The Muppets, with only a few leaves on the top of the plant and the rest of the stalk exposed to the late fall sun.
Brussels sprouts should be harvested when the sprouts feel tight and dense.
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