Gardening with Laurie: Brussels sprouts like cooler weather
Sept. 29, 2011 at 4:29 a.m.
By Laurie Garretson
Fall vegetable gardens can produce many healthy and great tasting vegetables. Among those vegetables are Brussels sprouts. I have enjoyed eating these tiny cabbage-like vegetables for years. It seems to me that the rest of the population just recently acquired a taste for it. The past couple of years, I find more and more gardeners buying Brussels sprouts transplants.
Brussels sprouts need a long, cool, growing season. That's why fall is the best time to grow them. The best quality sprouts are produced during cool sunny days and cold nights. They can be grown from seeds, but are more often grown from transplants. They grow best in a soil that's very high in organic matter. Incorporate lots of compost and natural fertilizer into your garden soil for best results.
One Brussels sprout plant can produce about two pounds of sprouts. Many gardeners plant several more transplants they can use this season and freeze the rest for a later time. The sprouts do keep in the freezer very well.
Each Brussels sprout plant should be planted about two feet apart. You want to grow healthy plants and that means giving each plant enough room to grow and not be crowded. Plant each transplant a little bit deeper in your garden than it was in its container. Mulch the area to help hold in the moisture. Keep a close watch on all your tender young plants for heat stress, and keep them well watered.
Cabbage loopers and aphids will be the two main pests to watch for. The loopers will eat the foliage, stems and sprouts. Keep your bacillus thuringiensis spray handy to spray on the plants at the first sight of worms. Aphids can be washed off the plant with a strong blast from the garden hose, or you could use an organic insecticide.
Expect your Brussels sprouts to produce in a few months time. How long you will be able to harvest from your plants will all depend on the weather.When it's too hot, you will find loose open sprouts instead of compact tight heads.
Watch for the lower leaves of each plant to begin turning yellow, and this should be the sign that you need to start harvesting. Brussels sprouts start maturing at the bottom of the plant upwards. Each sprout should be about one to 2 inches in diameter when picked. Left on the stalk for too long, your sprouts will become bitter tasting.
When harvesting from the plant, remove the leaves that are just below the sprout. You can then easily cut the sprout from the stalk or just twist it as you pull to remove it. As lower leaves and sprouts are removed, your plants will continue to produce new leaves and sprouts at the top of the plant.
The leafy tops of the plants are also edible and are cooked as greens. Cutting these tops off each plant is a good way to speed up the development of the remaining sprouts at the end of the season. I highly recommend them.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.