Brussels Sprouts

October 15, 2005

Brussels Sprouts can be a challenging crop for production in the home garden. They require a very long growing season, are heavy feeders, and can be tempermental when it’s time to produce sprouts for harvesting. On a positive note, they are extremely nutritious, unbothered by most insect pests, and your home grown sprouts will provide flavor, tenderness, and quality that surpasses what you typically find at the grocer.

Growing Brussels Sprouts in the Home Garden

If you’d like to grow Brussels Sprouts obtain transplants, which are sometimes difficult to locate at the proper planting time. The other option is to raise your own plants from seed. Mid-spring is usually the best time to start your plants although this depends on your climate. The goal is to have mature plants and harvestable sprouts after the fall frosts arrive.

Brussels Sprouts are heavy feeders so they should be planted in soil that’s been enriched with compost, well aged manures, or a balanced organic fertilizer. The plants should also be provided with sufficient moisture to ensure strong and rapid growth.

Sidedress or apply an organic foliar fertilizer, once every few weeks throughout the growing season. Then cross your fingers and look for the sprouts to start forming in the fall when temperaturs cool off.

rubine brussels sprouts imageThe plants are heavy and grow tall, so they will need to be staked in order to keep them upright. The sprouts will form all along the main stem, just above where a leaf has grown off of the plant.

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

There are a couple of harvesting options. You can twist the sprouts off as soon as they reach a harvestable size, working your way from the bottom to the top of the plant. This method will provide you with a few sprouts at a time from each plant over a longer harvest period.

Some gardeners prefer to top their plants by breaking off the growing tip at the top of the plant when it reaches about four feet in height. This causes the the plant to discontinue its vertical growth and forces all of its energy into developing the maturing sprouts. The result is more harvestable sprouts will all mature and be ready for picking at one time, but the length of the overall harvest period will probably be shorter when following this strategy.

Another trick is to delay your harvest until after the plants have been hit by fall frosts, which improves the flavor and sweetness of the sprouts. The picture above is of a unique variety of Brussels Sprouts called “Rubine.” This variety has an unusual dark reddish coloration of the leaves and sprouts which adds to the ornamental appeal in the garden, and undoubtably provides nutrients that are not present in the common green varieties.

For more information on growing your own gourmet fruits and vegetables at home, visit my website at

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  • Scott

    hello, i live in chicago, and grew Brussel Sprouts for the first time. the plants have small sprouts now. how long can i leave them in the ground in this climate? we have not had frost yet, but it is chicago, so its coming>>>
    thank you for any help.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Scott, Brussel Sprout plants are very hardy so it isn’t a problem to leave them out and frost will actually improve the quality of the sprouts. When did you start the plants? They do require a long growing season so there is no guarantee that there is still enough time for the sprouts to size up and fully mature but the cold will not be the problem. Next year you might want to give them an earlier start and feed them heavily.

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