FLORIDA — I tried growing Brussels sprouts a few years ago. To be honest, I wasn’t too happy with the results – nothing like starting an article on a positive note.
Actually, I couldn’t decide if the results were worth the effort. Before I completely discourage you from trying this vegetable in your garden, I better give you some of the positives.
Brussels sprouts are fairly easy to grow and are related to cabbage, requiring about the same growing conditions and care as cabbage. However, instead of forming one large head, as cabbages do, they form many tiny heads along their tall stems. The round sprouts are about the size of walnuts. Each sprout resembles a miniature head of cabbage.
They are not grown widely in this country, according to retired University of Florida Extension vegetable specialist Jim Stephens. He says that Brussels sprouts are produced commercially in some areas of California and New York. But in Florida, they are almost exclusively a backyard garden vegetable.
Brussels sprouts are considered a cool-season crop. As such, they require cool weather for the best growth. Now is a good time to plant this crop. Brussels sprouts are quite hardy and can withstand even heavy frosts without damage.
Brussels sprouts can be started from seeds or small plants. But, as Jim points out because this vegetable does not enjoy wide popularity, it may be hard to find plants for starting.
Seeds can be planted directly in the garden or germinated in flats. If you start seeds in flats, plant about 25 seeds to a foot of bed and cover them with about half an inch of soil. When seedlings emerge, thin them to about an inch apart. They’re ready to plant in the garden when they’re about three or four weeks old. Plant them 30 inches apart in rows that are three feet wide.
Jim suggests using a basic garden fertilizer such as 6-8-8 or 8-8-8. Apply about six pounds of fertilizer for every 100 feet of row and work it in well. An additional six pounds should be placed in a shallow furrow alongside the row. More nitrogen will be needed about every two weeks.
Your sprouts will be ready to harvest when they reach walnut size and feel firm. Jim suggests not leaving them on the stem too long, or they’ll become yellow and tough.
Usually, the first sprouts, near the bottom of each plant, are ready within three months.
Keep in mind they will still be producing in the spring when it’s time to start planting your spring garden. The length of time it took to get a decent amount of Brussels sprouts was probably what I disliked the most about this crop.
Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email email@example.com.