Home GardenOrganic Vegetables The Cabbage Family’s Small Jewel: Brussels Sprouts

The Cabbage Family’s Small Jewel: Brussels Sprouts

by a Friendly Gardener
Brussels sprouts cabbage

Forerunner sprouts that were native to the Mediterranean region were most likely cultivated in ancient Rome, but sprouts as we know them, take their name from Belgium’s capital city Brussels where it appears there were cultivated as early as the 13th century.

Today’s Brussels Sprouts are a member of a cultivar group of cabbages known as the Gemmifera or Brassica oleraceaand are part of the Brassicaceae family. These tasty vegetables are slow growers and need a lengthy growing system and patience. They are related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and are called cruciferous vegetables.

Appearing as petite cabbage heads, they develop enveloped in broad cabbage-like foliage on thick stalks that can grow to approximately 30 inches in height. The foliage is also edible and should be prepared like other greens.

Brussel sprouts can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 9 but benefit from cool weather, and ideally can be harvested even after a bit of snow or frost. If you live in a cooler climate you can plant at the beginning of summer for an autumn harvest. In warmer regions, they can be planted at the end of summer for a stunning winter harvest.


Growing Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts in a plate

Germination is reliable and sprouts grow well from seed or purchased transplants. However, it’s important to keep a close eye on your crops during the different Brussel sprouts growing stages.


Growing from Seed

Green brussels sprouts field

If you reside in a cold climate with harsh winters, begin your seed indoors about three weeks before your final frost is expected. Place them in containers filled with seed starting soil about one-half-inch deep or use compost pots and plant the entire pot directly in the ground when it’s time. Seeds should be positioned in a location that receives sunlight. The soil must be kept consistently moist.

The challenge will be doing so early enough so that you still have sufficient cool weather for them to mature outdoors. Northern residents can sow seeds as early as the middle of June for a Thanksgiving harvest.

Transplant your seedlings to your outdoor garden when they reach three inches in height, but do not allow them to become outbound or they will stunt. Space them approximately 19 inches apart. Seedlings should be gradually hardened outdoors before the transplant takes place if you live in a colder climate. Milder climate gardeners can skip this.

In milder climates where temperatures do not usually go below freezing, begin seeds outdoors in the early summer or at the end of fall if you prefer a winter harvest.

There is no reason to begin seeds indoors for autumn unless your summers are scorching hot. If so begin them indoors and keep them inside for about six weeks.

Southern gardeners will do better with a fall crop that will most likely harvest in December.


Using Purchased Seedlings

Till your soil and amend the soil with compost for better drainage and moisture retention.  Prepare holes a little larger than the containers, spacing them approximately 19 inches apart. Choose a location with full sunlight. The shade will slow maturity. Remove your seedling from its container unless in compost pots and position it in the holes. Fill around your seedling with soil and water.

Applying mulch will assist in moisture retention and weed resistance.


Planting Brussels Sprouts

This cabbage cousin needs at least 80 days if not more to grow. The flavor will improve if your crop has the benefit of light frost.


Brussels Sprouts Care

Brussels sprouts plant


Brussel Sprouts like a soil bed that is a bit acidic to neutral, moist, well-draining, and fertile amended with lots of organic matter. The soil pH should ideally measure 6.5 and 7.0. Generous amounts of organic matter should be worked into the soil and will help with retaining moisture. Sprouts like a firm soil bed that is not, however, compacted. This can be achieved by patting down the soil bed lightly.



Brussels Sprouts grow best in full sunlight and need approximately six hours a day. The shade will prolong the growing season and slow down getting to harvest.


Water and Humidity

Brussels Sprouts do better in a consistently moist soil bed that is not wet or waterlogged. The crop will need approximately 1.5 inches of water weekly.



Brussels sprouts growing with leaves

This crop needs temperatures of 45° to 75° Fahrenheit. They can resist a few days below freezing and may contribute to better taste. This is not a crop for warm weather, because if they mature in hot weather, the taste will become more bitter.



Brussels Sprouts will benefit from two fertilizations with nitrogen a season, one when the plants grow to about a foot high, and the second treatment one month later.


Harvesting Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts plant in garden

From the moment of transplanting your sprouts to harvest, expect three to four months to pass. First plants will grow to be quite tall, and then they will begin to develop sprouts. Sprouts will develop in the foliage joints. Maturation begins at the bottom of the plant, so harvest lower sprouts first when they reach the size of an oversized marble. Do not allow them to grow too big as they may crack and will have a bitter taste.

To harvest easily, move the leaf below the sprout first, then twist the sprout off. You can opt to cut instead of twisting and pulling. Single plants will produce approximately a quart of sprouts.

Once you have harvested, a second sprout production may begin at the plant’s lower leaves. This second group of sprouts will not be as compact or tight as the initial harvesting, but they are edible and should be enjoyed. Snip off the plant top to speed up the second crop.

This crop’s harvest can be extended into winter by mulching plants with straw or with row covers. You can remove entire plants and pot them to be stored in a root cellar.


Storing Brussels Sprouts

Fresh brussels sprouts to eat

Brussel sprouts will keep for roughly a week in the refrigerator. You can place them in a plastic bag or airtight containers and put them in a crisper drawer.

Freezing is a possibility, but they need to be blanched first, and you can pickle your sprouts, too. Drying Brussel sprouts in a dehydrator is less common but is a nice option


Pests and Diseases

Caterpillar on a leaf

Brussels Sprouts share the same problems that cabbage and broccoli are prone to.  They are subject to pest infestations from

  • Aphids
  • Cabbage loopers
  • Cabbage root maggots
  • caterpillars
  • Flea Beetles
  • Harlequin bugs
  • Imported cabbageworm
  • Slugs and snails


The best solution is to use row covers to protect your plants. Plants should be examined regularly for signs of pests before the development of sprouts.

Also expect local wildlife to visit, including birds, deer, mice, and rabbits. Fencing and wire caging can prevent this.


Diseases include

  • Blackleg
  • Black rot
  • Clubroot
  • Downy mildew
  • Leaf spot


To protect from disease crop rotation is a good prevention tool as is keeping weeds at bay. Clubroot can be impeded by raising soil pH to 7.0. Also, avoid watering leaves, do so at the soil level.


Brussels Sprouts Varieties

  • Bubbles Fl– Requires 85 to 90 days to mature and will tolerate drought and heat. Sprouts are resistant to rust and powdery mildew.


  • Jade Cross Fl and Jade Cross E Fl – This variety needs 90 days for maturity. Both varieties are compact and great for windy areas and have good disease resistance.


  • Long Island Improved OP – This is a small variety that yields abundantly that tolerates freezing and wind. It needs 90 days to mature.


  • Oliver Fl –A compact disease-resistant variety that produces one-inch sprouts that can be picked in 85 days.


  • Royal Marvel Fl – A prolific crop that requires 85 days to mature, it resists tip burn and bottom rot.


  • Rubine – The Rubine needs 85 to 95 days for maturity. It is late in maturing and yields less than green varieties, in fact, it’s purple.


  • Tasty Nuggets – resists lodging or tilting and falling over.


A Final Thought

Brussels sprouts cooking

If you have time, patience, and the right environmental temperatures, go for it! These healthy little cabbage jewels can be prepared in so many tasty ways to tempt even those that are convinced they don’t like them.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More