Brussels sprouts are one of the few crops usually harvested in late fall – late September through late October, depending on your location. Flavor improves with cooler fall weather and they can stay in the garden as long as temperatures remain above 20°F. Read more about how to grow and enjoy this late season vegetable.
Julie Harris, Master Gardener
As a ‘winter” plant, seeds can be planted indoors in June. They can be hardened off when the seedlings have 3 or 4 leaves (about 3 weeks). They can be planted outdoors about a week later. Direct seeded plants need twice the time to mature as seeds started indoors. You can also plant transplants.
Brussels sprouts belong to the Brassica family. They are of the same species as broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi. Plant brussels sprouts in areas where they, or plants in the same family, have not been planted recently. Brussels sprouts require well-drained but moist soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Plant seeds 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep every 18 inches; thinning to 1 after they have germinated. Transplanted plants should be placed 18 inches apart.
Brussels sprouts must have good soil moisture to mature properly. The amount of water needed will depend on your soil (clay, sandy or loamy) but keep the soil moist. Brussels sprouts plants are tender and you may need to protect them from wind and insects with a lightweight but secure row cover. Mulching is encouraged.
Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages and grow on the stalk of a tall, leafy plant. The sprouts develop where each leaf joins the stem, beginning at the bottom and moving up.
Cut off the top 1 or 2 inches of the plant when the lowest sprouts are 1 inch in diameter. This will cause the sprouts at the top to grow also.
Harvest brussels sprouts by removing the leaves and cutting the plant off at the ground. Keep the stalks in a cool cellar and harvest the sprouts over a few weeks. They are generally harvested from the stalk when the sprout is 2 inches or less. Sprouts will also keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
Brussels sprouts are high in nutrients, fiber and vitamins and have a number of health benefits. They are especially rich in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone health. They are also high in vitamin C, which helps promote iron absorption and helps with tissue repair and immune function.
What type of Brussel Sprouts should you look for? In recent University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener vegetable trials, the top 3 rated varieties were: Gustus, Hestia, and Diablo. Brussels sprouts can be cooked in many ways but roasting is a common method. They can be frozen or pickled.