Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, and an excellent source of protein and vitamins. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest Brussels sprouts in your garden!
They require a long growing season (80+ days to harvest), and are generally more successful when grown for a fall or early winter harvest, as they only increase in flavor after a light frost or two.
Brussels sprouts are a cultivar (cultivated variety) of Brassica oleracea, which is the same plant species that cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and a number of other popular foods stem from. Over generations and generations, this versatile plant has been bred in different ways to highlight its different features: flowers, leaves, and root.
Due to Brussels sprouts’ need for a long growing season, plant them with a fall or winter harvest in mind.
When to plant Brussels sprouts
To determine planting time, count backwards from your first fall frost date. Direct sow seeds into the garden about 4 months before the first fall frost. (See local frost dates.)
In regions with cold winters, where temperatures are regularly below freezing, start seeds indoors about 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date for an early fall harvest.
In regions with mild winters, where temperatures are occasionally below freezing, start seeds outdoors in early to mid-summer for a mid-fall or early winter harvest.
In regions with warm winters, where temperatures are rarely or never below freezing, start seeds outdoors in late summer for a mid- to late winter harvest.
How to plant Brussels sprouts
Raised beds are especially recommended for cold-season vegetables, especially when seasons are changing and temps are not consistent.
Work several inches of aged manure and/or compost into soil a few days before planting or transplanting.
If direct sowing seeds, plant ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart.
Plant transplanted seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart.
Water well at time of planting/transplanting and with 1 to 1 ½ inches per week thereafter.
Thin plants to 12 to 24 inches apart when they reach 6 inches tall.
Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich product after thinning. Repeat every 3 to 4 weeks.
Mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil temperature cool.
If growing during hot weather, be sure to keep the plants well watered.
Do not disturb the soil around the plants; roots are shallow and susceptible to damage.
Remove yellowing leaves to allow for more sunlight on the stalk and focus plant energy on healthy growth.
To encourage plants to head up faster, cut off the top leaves 3 to 4 weeks before harvest.
To harvest leaves during winter, leave top leaves intact; they provide protection from snow.
Cover plants with 10 to 12 inches of mulch if you plan to harvest into the winter.
Cabbage Root Maggots
How to harvest Brussels sprouts
Sprouts mature from the bottom of the stalk upwards. Harvest sprouts from the bottom when they reach about 1 inch in diameter.
If desired, after a moderate frost, pull up the entire stalk, roots and all. (Remove leaves first.) Then hang stalk upside down in a cool, dry basement or garage or barn.
Store stalks (no roots) for about 1 month in a root cellar or basement.
How to store Brussels sprouts
Do not wash the sprouts before storing them, only right before use.
Keep fresh-picked sprouts in a plastic bag for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
‘Jade Cross’ is a high-yield compact plant, resistant to some diseases and known for its tolerance for hotter weather.
‘Oliver’ and ‘Long Island Improved’ are early-maturing varieties with shorter growing season requirements (80–90 days).
‘Churchill’ is an early maturing plant, adaptable to most climates.
‘Diablo’ is known as a heavy producer.
‘Falstaff’ has a red/purple hue that holds when cooked
‘Long Island Improved’ is an heirloom and a compact plant that prefers a cool summer.