Brussel Sprouts? It Must be Christmas!

AlanGardenMaster
Published on December 22nd 2019
6
A hand picking Brussel Sprouts
No other veg has quite the association that Brussel sprouts do with Christmas. Love them or hate them, we're continually finding new and better ways to grow and cook them around the festive season.

Getting started

  • Growing sprout plants from seed is easy, by sowing outside in rows or directly into tray modules.
Sprout seedlings in tray modules
Sprout seedlings in tray modules
  • Seeds can be sown from March onwards, but late sowing can lead to disappointing results as sprouts are slow to develop.
  • Young sprout plants should be established in their final growing positions by late July at the latest.

Planting out

  • Thoroughly hardening young plants off before planting outside is essential to their survival.
  • Hardening off plants that have protection should include exposing them to brighter sunshine, wind and colder temperatures over a week or so.
  • Sprouts grow into tall and large plants so wide spacing between plants is needed.
  • Most varieties will require spacing at 60 x 60 cms apart.
A Brussel sprout plant
A well grown Brussel sprout plant
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  • Young plants need to be firmed in well. Firming the soil appears to influence the number of sprout buttons when they are formed in late summer.

Soils

  • Sprouts grow well in most soil types but do best where the soil has some clay or silt content.
  • Light sandy soil or those with a lot of organic matter rarely produce the best sprouts. They tend to grow very 'leafy' and soft. Often they form a loosely attached root system, and plants can then blow over.
  • Firming plants after planting is essential.
  • Soil that is alkaline and has a pH above neutral suit sprouts well and make them less susceptible to clubroot.

Problems that might occur

  • Flea beetle can be a problem as they attack very young seedlings. Growing in modules undercover avoids this.
  • Cabbage root fly larvae may eat the roots and cause severe stunting of growth. Collar barriers will prevent egg-laying at the base of the stem.
A cabbage root fly collar
A cabbage root fly collar
  • Whitefly and Mealy cabbage aphids can attack the whole plant and can be prevented by regularly spraying with garlic.
Mealy cabbage aphids on a cauliflower plant
Mealy cabbage aphids
  • Caterpillars can devastate your plants but can be stopped with an insect-proof net. Garlic spray will also reduce the likelihood of an attack.
Cabbage white caterpillars on sprout plants
Cabbage white caterpillars on sprout plants
  • Pigeons will eat newly planted crops and also established plants during cold periods. Netting to exclude them can be very useful.
netting covering cabbages
Bird netting protection
  • Slugs and snails will eat young plants and may also get into the top of older plants. Many control measures can be used, including hand picking.
  • Staking might be necessary during autumn to prevent tall plants falling over.
  • When the older leaves turn yellow, they should be removed.

Varieties to grow

  • Hybrid varieties dominate the seed trade. These are bred to produce sprouts that are all ready to harvest at the same time so that entire stalks can be sold.
  • Good hybrid varieties include 'F1 Brigitte', 'F1 Brodie', 'F1 Crispus' and 'F1 Maximus'.
A person sitting at a table with Brussel sprouts on a stalk
Brussel sprouts on a stalk
  • Open-pollinated sprout varieties (not hybrids) mature over a more extended period, spreading the harvest time. Sprouts at the bottom of the stem are ready to harvest first.
  • Good open-pollinated varieties include 'Darkmar 21' and 'Bedford Fillbasket'.
  • Some purple coloured varieties are available but will become green after cooking. 'Red Ball' is the most widely available.
Purple Brussel sprout plant in a garden
Purple Brussel sprouts are available
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Kalettes

  • A new hybrid between kale and Brussel sprouts is currently popular.
  • Sometimes called flowering sprouts, these loose buttons have a flavour midway between both parents and are well worth growing.
Brassica plants inside an insect proof net tent
Plants inside an insect proof net tent
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