Gardening > Grow Your Own... Brussels Sprouts

Grow Your Own... Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts © Elena Elisseeva & Dreamstime
Sprouts, a traditional Christmas vegetable probably have the worst reputation of any vegetable. Unfortunately, sprouts are often over-cooked mushy and unpleasant. This is often due to the fact that sprouts bought in the shop are over blown and poorly stored. Also sprouts do not freeze particularly well and yet frozen sprouts are often served in restaurants. Sprouts picked fresh from the garden and properly cooked are an altogether different experience.

Brussels sprouts seeds should be sown in a prepared seed bed. They will be transplanted to a permanent bed 3” high.

Prepare the permanent bed in the Autumn before sowing. Choose a sunny yet sheltered position and dig over in the Autumn working in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. Check that the soil is not acid and add lime in the Winter if it is.

In the Spring tread the prepared bed down so the soil is firm not loose. Rake the surface over to remove dead leaves etc. to a depth of 1/2” leaving 6” between rows. Sow the seeds very thinly. Do this between March and late April depending on whether a late or early variety is being sown.

Transplant Brussels sprouts into their prepared permanent bed when the plants are no more than 3” tall and space them to 3' apart in rows 3' apart. Sprouts can be grown in a smaller space (20” apart in rows 20” apart) but smaller sprouts will result.

Make the holes for the sprout plants with a dibber. Firm in well and then water. Water again in a few weeks time.

Keep weeds down by regular hoeing and water the plants in dry weather.

At the end of the Summer it is a good idea to earth up the the sprout plants and stake them to give the added stability against strong winter winds.

In the Autumn pick and compost all yellow leaves.

Pick the sprouts when they are about walnut sized, tight and firm, and pick firm the lower end of the stem first. Take a few sprouts from each stem rather than stripping off a whole plant in one go.

Brussels Sprout Problems:


Birds, especially sparrows, will attack the young plants and pigeons eat the sprouts during the Sprout plants need to be protected from birds like sparrows and then when the sprouts appear pigeons will try to feed on them. 

'Blown' Brussels Sprouts

These are just a cluster of loose leaves instead of firm, tightly packed leaves. They should removed immediately they become apparent.

Not enough well-rotted manure/compost dug in in the preceding Autumn.
The soil has not been firmed enough and the plant has not been firmed into the soil sufficiently.
Lack of water during dry periods.
Planting sprout plants too close to each other.

Caterpillars and Aphids

Caterpillars and aphids can be a menace to sprout plants. Caterpillars can skeletonize the leaves of Brussels sprout plants and an attack of aphids can undermine the health of the plants.

Keep the plants well-weeded and healthy. Use a fine netting product to keep away butterflies and moths so they can't lay their eggs on the Brussels sprout leaves. Try to encourage ladybirds and hover flies into the garden to get rid of aphids.