Learning how to grow Brussels sprouts is easy: few other vegetables are as happy in cold climates as the humble sprout, and, if you're clever about staggered planting, you can enjoy Brussels sprouts from your garden for a very long period: from September all the way through to February.
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One thing to know about growing Brussels sprouts is that it takes time. The plants can take up to 31 weeks to produce sprouts ready for picking, so you'll need to think ahead. Basically, you'll be sowing your new crop of sprouts in February, as soon as you've harvested the last of the previous crop. Read on to get more tips on growing these vegetables successfully.
How to grow Brussels sprouts: sowing
Sow seeds indoors in seedling trays, 15cm apart, between late February and early May. If you sow them every month during this period, you'll have a continuous harvest between September and early February.
Seedling will take between one and two weeks germinate in a bright, sheltered spot. If you get two plants from one seed, remove the weaker one. Water your seedling tray when the top soil is dry, but not too often.
How to grow Brussels sprouts: planting out
When seedlings are 10 to 15cm in height and have proper leaves (usually seven per seedling), they're ready to plant out. This is usually four weeks after germination. Choose a sunny spot in the garden and make sure that the soil is rich, fertile, and alkaline. If the soil in your garden is acidic, you can mix in some lime to balance it out.
Plant the young plants 60cm apart: if you're growing a particularly tall variety, make this 90cm. You'll be surprised how big and tall sprouts will grow, so you do need to space them out.
In autumn, support your plants with stakes and mound the soil around the base of the plants, or they'll blow over in autumn winds. Fertilise regularly with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser.
When to harvest Brussels sprouts
Your sprouts will be ready between late August and early February, depending on when you planted them. Start harvesting from the bottom of the plant: sprouts that are ready to picked are about the size of a walnut and are tightly closed. Frosting them before eating improves their flavour. The tops of your sprouts will be ready to harvest at the end of the season, in winter.
Brussels sprouts: common problems
The most common problem with sprouts is club root, which will result in the plant yellowing and wilting. If this is happening, your soil is too acidic and needs lime mixing into it. However, you shouldn't plant any more sprouts in the affected spot the same year.
Sprouts are beloved by pigeons and caterpillars, so protect from both with horticultural mesh. It doesn't look great, but is the only thing that will keep hungry birds and insects away in the longer term.
Which variety of sprouts should I grow?
The most commonly grown variety is the 'Brigitte', but there are many other tasty cultivars: try 'Chronos', which is club root-resistant, or 'Bosworth', which can be picked all the way into February.