Brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts, a member of the Brassica family, are a nutritious and versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in various culinary dishes. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on planting, growing, harvesting, and storing Brussels sprouts, ensuring you can savour this delicious vegetable year-round.


Days to Grow85-110 days
Square Foot Garden Spacing1 plant per square foot
Gardening EffortModerate
When to Plant12-14 weeks before frost
Yield1-2 lbs per plant
Frost ToleranceLight frost tolerant
Hours of Light Needed6+ hours of full sun
Soil ConditionspH 6.0-6.8, well-draining

Gardening Shortcut Links

Square Foot Gardening Section

Introduction to Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts, a member of the Brassica family, are a nutritious and versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in various culinary dishes. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on planting, growing, harvesting, and storing Brussels sprouts, ensuring you can savour this delicious vegetable year-round.

Planting Brussel Sprouts: Choosing the Right Time and Location

  1. When to Plant: Brussel sprouts are a cool-season crop, which means they thrive in moderate temperatures. The ideal time to plant them is during early spring for a summer harvest or in late summer for a fall harvest. Plant Brussels sprouts about 12-14 weeks before the first expected frost.
  2. Selecting the Perfect Spot: Brussel sprouts require full sun exposure for at least six hours daily. Choose a location in your garden with well-draining soil and a slightly acidic pH (6.0-6.8). To improve soil quality, amend it with organic matter like compost or aged manure before planting.

Preparing the Soil and Planting Brussel Sprouts

  1. Soil Preparation: Till the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches and remove any rocks or debris—mix 2-4 inches of compost to improve soil structure and fertility. If your soil is too acidic, add lime to raise the pH level. Conversely, if the pH is too high, incorporate sulfur to lower it.
  2. Planting Seeds or Seedlings: Brussel sprout seeds can be sown directly into the ground or started 4-6 weeks indoors before transplanting. Plant seeds 1/4-1/2 inch deep, spaced 3 inches apart. For seedlings, transplant them when they reach 4-6 inches in height, spacing them 18-24 inches apart in rows 24-36 inches apart.

Growing and Caring for Brussel Sprouts

  1. Watering: Brussel sprouts require consistent moisture to develop correctly. Water your plants regularly, providing 1-1.5 inches of water weekly. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to keep the soil evenly moist and prevent diseases caused by excessive moisture.
  2. Fertilizing: Feed your Brussel sprouts with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer at planting time. Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are about 12 inches tall to promote healthy growth. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of sprout development.
  3. Weeding and Mulching: Keep the area around your Brussel sprouts free of weeds, which can compete for nutrients and water. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch, like straw or wood chips, to suppress weeds and maintain consistent soil moisture.
  4. Pest Control: Brussel sprouts may attract pests like aphids, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control these pests. Encourage beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, by planting flowers that attract them.

Brussels sprout on long legs in the garden, close-up, growing

Harvesting Brussel Sprouts

  1. When to Harvest: Brussel sprouts are ready to harvest when they reach 1-2 inches in diameter and are firm to the touch. Begin harvesting from the bottom of the stalk as these sprouts mature first.
  2. How to Harvest: Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the sprouts off the stalk. You can also remove the entire stalk by cutting it at the base and then plucking the sprouts off it after harvesting.
  3. Extended Harvesting: Brussel sprouts can withstand light frosts, which can improve their flavour. You can continue harvesting sprouts until a hard frost occurs, or you can remove the entire stalk and store it in a cool place for later use.

Storing Brussel Sprouts

  1. Short-Term Storage: Place the unwashed sprouts in a perforated plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They will keep for up to two weeks when stored properly. Wash the sprouts thoroughly before using them in your favourite recipes.
  2. Long-Term Storage: For more extended storage, you can freeze Brussel sprouts. Blanch the sprouts in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, then immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat the sprouts dry before placing them in airtight freezer bags. Frozen Brussel sprouts can be stored for up to one year.
  3. Storing on the Stalk: If you harvested the entire Brussel sprout stalk, store it in a cool, dark place with high humidity, such as a root cellar or unheated garage. Hang the stalks upside down and cover them with a damp cloth to retain moisture. Check the sprouts regularly for signs of rot or mould, and remove any affected sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are grown in open organic soil

Staking Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts can grow quite tall and may require staking to provide support and prevent the stalks from toppling over, especially in areas with strong winds. Here’s the best way to stake Brussel sprouts:

  1. Choose the Right Stake: Select a sturdy stake, such as a wooden or bamboo stake, that is at least 1-2 inches in diameter and 4-6 feet tall.
  2. Install the Stake: Place the stake about 3-4 inches away from the base of the Brussel sprout plant. Drive the stake into the ground until it is secure, taking care not to damage the plant’s roots.
  3. Attach the Plant to the Stake: As the Brussel sprout plant grows, gently attach it to the stake using soft ties, such as strips of cloth or garden twine. Ensure the ties are loose enough to allow for growth yet snug enough to provide support.

Trimming Brussel Sprout Leaves for a Better Crop

Properly trimming Brussel sprout leaves can help improve air circulation, reduce the risk of disease, and direct the plant’s energy towards sprout development. Here’s how to trim Brussel sprout leaves for the best crop:

  1. Remove Lower Leaves: As the plant grows and sprouts begin to form, remove the lower leaves, starting from the bottom of the stalk. This encourages the plant to focus its energy on the developing sprouts and helps prevent diseases by improving air circulation around the base of the plant.
  2. Trim Damaged or Yellowing Leaves: Regularly inspect your Brussel sprout plants for any damaged, yellowing, or diseased leaves. Remove these leaves as soon as you notice them to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
  3. Top the Plant: About 3-4 weeks before you expect to harvest your Brussel sprouts, cut off the growing tip at the top of the plant. This encourages the sprouts to mature more quickly and uniformly by redirecting the plant’s energy towards the remaining sprouts. This practice is beneficial if you live in an area with a shorter growing season.

Properly staking and trimming your Brussel sprout plants can promote healthier growth and enjoy a more abundant, high-quality crop.



Subscribe Northern GardeningMailing List

Sign up for our email newsletter and receive information, articles and promotions on gardening in Northwest Ontario.

A member of the

Northwest Ontario Outdoors


You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This