How To Grow Brussels Sprouts
Growing Brussels sprouts is very similar to growing cabbage, as they both share a common ancestry originating from wild cabbage. Other members of the brassica family include kale and broccoli.
The whole family is very nutritious, with Brussels sprouts having high quantities of vitamins C and A, as well as dietary fibre and folic acid. Eating Brussels sprouts regularly is thought to provide a degree of protection against colon cancer.
Although the vegetable is named after the capital of Belgium, the Netherlands is actually the world’s biggest grower of Brussels sprouts.
There are three main types of Brussels sprouts according to their harvesting time: early, mid, and late varieties.
This makes it possible to have a continous supply of sprouts from late summer to early spring. The iconic colour of sprouts is green, but there are also red and purple varieties.
How To Grow Brussels Sprouts – Introduction
I grow Brussels sprouts the same way as I grow cabbage. In the picture above you can see my cabbage at the front of the picture and my sprouts at the back. They look extremely similar but brussels sprout stems will grow taller, and the very tallest may need staking for protection against strong winds. To ensure you eat the crops, and not the birds, I recommend using a net for the duration of the growing cycle.
How To Grow Brussels Sprouts – When To Sow
The answer depends on the type of sprouts you want to grow and whether you have a cold frame or growhouse to keep seed trays warm and cosy during early spring weather. Early sprouts should be started this way for a harvest from September onwards. I prefer to wait until warmer weather in April and grow sprouts to be ready for mid Winter, and especially for Christmas dinner.
Brussels sprouts are slow growing, so I also recommend transplanting your seedlings through weedguard fabric. From personal experience it is no fun crawling under a net around brussel sprout plants removing weeds.
It is a good idea to grow all your brassicas together and rotate their position each year. This helps to prevent the build up of diseases that attack the brassica family. It is also recommended to dig up the whole plant at the end of the growing season, and rather than throw on the compost heap, to burn or dispose of the whole plant – again with the intention of minimising the risk of cultivating diseases.
How To Grow Brussels Sprouts – Harvesting
When harvesting Brussels sprouts the most important thing to remember is to pick the sprouts from the bottom of the plant upwards. That way the more immature sprouts higher up have a chance to fully develop. The picture above is of a sprout plant in mid February.
Many people choose to store their sprouts over the winter simply by leaving them where they grow. An alternative method, perhaps suited to areas with very cold winters, is to dig the whole plant up and suspend from a ceiling upside down in a cool and dry place.
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