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Old August 4, 2019   #1
GoDawgs
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Default Anyone Grow Brussels Sprouts?

I really dislike not being able to grow something so tricky stuff gets at least three tries before the "never again" decision is made. Brussels merit a fourth strike because I really like them and they're not inexpensive in the grocery. Failure to successfully grow brussels sprouts in the fall/winter just sticks in my craw!

Yeah, I'm not in the best geographical area to grow them because of our variable winters; mild a few weeks, cold a few weeks, rinse and repeat. The plants themselves do well as do all of my brassicas. I've even gotten them to grow a stalk at times and small sprouts start to form but that's when it all goes to pot. What sprouts form are small and very loose, basically useless.

Does anyone here successfully grow these things here in the South (or anywhere else)? And if so, do you have a trick in your hip pocket that you'd be willing to share? I'm getting ready to start my fall collards, kale, broccoli and cabbage seeds in two weeks. There's time to order brussels seed because it's sure not available around here.

I sure would appreciate any help!
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Old August 5, 2019   #2
b54red
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Dawg I have been growing them somewhat successfully for about 15 years now. It took me a while to figure out the tricks to growing them successfully down here and even doing everything right you can still end up getting very few sprouts if things don't go right.

First pick a variety that has a low DTM. I have been using Hestia lately and it has been a really good sprout for down here.

Start the seeds inside in the air conditioning as soon as mid July or early August. Keep them in the air conditioning until the nights cool down a good bit and feed them weekly. They grow much slower early on and it takes a while to get them large enough to set out in the garden.

As they get to 4 or 5 inches tall start hardening them off gradually but don't leave them outside too long if it is really hot and don't set them out in the garden before the days cool down some and the nights get into the low 60s or even better the 50s.

Prepare the area or bed you are going to plant them in with a good dose of compost and I like a heavy dose of cottonseed meal and alfalfa pellets added a few weeks before the plants are ready to set out. I also add a small amount of high mineral and trace element fertilizer to the bed when preparing it.

Mulch the bed and water it well to get the stuff added to the bed to start breaking down so there will be no problems when the plants are set out.

** Most important! When you set the plants out give them a lot of room. Set them out at least 3 feet apart when cool weather gets here. I have had to wait as late as December and have set them out as early as the first week of October but it all depends on the weather. If you have to set them out late due to a long hot dry fall then you will not make as many sprouts unless you luck up and get a good long cool spring. They are extremely heavy feeders and need to grow as fast as possible during the winter to be ready to make a lot of sprouts in the spring. I have had BS get up to six feet tall and 3 ft or more in diameter although getting that big is rare.

Feed them every week after they get established with Urban Farms Vegetable formula or Miracle Grow. Remember they need a lot of food to grow and they need to grow as big as possible for the best results. They will not grow fast until the days and nights get cool and if it gets too cold during the dead of winter they will slow down also.

They can take pretty cold weather but if it is going below the mid 20s you need to be ready to cover them well and you may have to do this several times. They can survive some pretty cold weather but they can be damaged and their growth stunted significantly if they get too cold. They still might produce but not nearly as much. I make a hoop over the bed with PVC conduit and just cover the whole bed with 4 mil plastic sheeting and secure it to the sides of the bed with staples. When it warms up I just remove the staples on one side and flip it over the hoops and role it up on the side of the bed until it is needed again then flip it back over the hoops and re-secure it with a few staples.

You know how our winters are so they can start producing as early as mid February and if we have a spring like in 2018 they can still be producing sprouts into June but they won't taste as good once it gets hot, hot. The first few sprouts at the bottom should be removed early as well as the lowest leaves. The first row or two of sprouts are rarely good ones and frequently have insect damage. You will just have to feel the sprouts to tell when they are firm and some will never get firm so just pull them off before they make a big loose mess. It is easier if you remove the leaves as you pick them.

You may need to put a stake down to keep them growing straight up as they can sometimes start leaning too much and that isn't good. They will produce better and more evenly if kept growing fairly straight up. I usually go through and stake mine when they are around two feet high. I just push or pull them upright and push a 1/2 inch metal conduit stake down right beside the plant so it will support it in the upright position. You don't want to use stakes too long as they will get in the way of covering the plants if it gets too cold.

You will need to constantly dust them with BT to keep the caterpillars away but other than that they rarely have any disease issues. Some of the sprouts especially when it is hot and humid will get this black mold like stuff growing in and on them and they aren't good so watch for that when cleaning them.

To clean them I just drop them in some salt water and cut the bottom off so it is easy to remove a few layers and peal them. I then let the cleaned sprouts dry off and then bag them put them in the refrigerator and they will keep a few weeks. You can also blanch them and freeze them.

It took me years of trial and error before I figured all this out. It was over thirty years ago the first year that I successfully grew Brussels sprouts I planted a six pack of sprouts from Bonnie's that I got in the fall. We had a long mild winter with no super cold weather and then a long cool spring and i made a ton of sprouts. Then for the next three or four years I made next to nothing or nothing so I started my own seeds in late August but that was a bit too late that year although I did make some sprouts so I kept experimenting and found July to be the best time on average to start my seed. I would try two or three different varieties each year and invariably the ones with the shortest maturity date did far better. Frequently I would get only a few mature sprouts from some of the later maturing varieties if we had a short hot spring and since those are the most common springs down here I started concentrating on the shorter maturing varieties. I also found that the varieties that produced the smaller size sprouts usually did better.

If you have any questions just give me a PM.

Bill
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Old August 5, 2019   #3
kath
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Gustus F1 was the winner in my area after lots of failures with other varieties over the years. Grew from early April in the garden until frost in October and just as tasty & mild from beginning to end. Never topped the plants, they just kept growing and setting and reached over 6' tall.
No special tricks needed here- looks like Bill pretty much covered that for you!

Kath
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Old August 6, 2019   #4
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I'm sure I posted a reply to this last night but I don't see it. Hmmm...

Bill, thank you so much for taking the time to post all this great information! I really appreciate it. The cole plants will be started next week so I need to order some seed today and that reminds me to check my other fall seed this morning to see if I need anything else. If it's just Brussels needed I'll go with Long Island Improved since the DTM don't seem much different from Hestia and I can get one pack of the LI from Baker Creek without shipping charges.

After getting cauliflower tips here I managed to produce a small head or two this spring, enough to make me do it again this fall for a much more climatically fair trial. It had been on my "never again" list too so there's hope for the Brussels!
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Old August 6, 2019   #5
greenthumbomaha
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I've tried everything but they don't head for me. A huge local market grower has beautiful"trees" so I know its me.
You should be able to buy off a local seed rack. I don't see much variability between mail order and catalog varieties.

- Lisa
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Old August 6, 2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greenthumbomaha View Post
You should be able to buy off a local seed rack.
- Lisa
Here in Georgia, where half the folks don't even know what brussels are and where groceries *might* carry them, I can't find brussel seed. I think I once saw some in the WalMart spring seed displays but they don't do fall veg seed displays. My local feed 'n weed doesn't carry it spring or fall.

While I was putting in the order for the brussel seed I just had to get another variety of tomatillo for spring, just the regular old tomatillo verde. Couldn't help it!
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Old August 7, 2019   #7
b54red
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoDawgs View Post
I'm sure I posted a reply to this last night but I don't see it. Hmmm...

Bill, thank you so much for taking the time to post all this great information! I really appreciate it. The cole plants will be started next week so I need to order some seed today and that reminds me to check my other fall seed this morning to see if I need anything else. If it's just Brussels needed I'll go with Long Island Improved since the DTM don't seem much different from Hestia and I can get one pack of the LI from Baker Creek without shipping charges.

After getting cauliflower tips here I managed to produce a small head or two this spring, enough to make me do it again this fall for a much more climatically fair trial. It had been on my "never again" list too so there's hope for the Brussels!
I hope the Long Island Improved works better for you than it did for me although it did do fair for one year the next was pitiful. It could have just been the conditions that year but Hestia has done good three years in a row. I may try another variety if I hear about another one being as dependable as it has been. I have had other varieties do good for one or even two years but Hestia is the first to go three years with great results. I grew one called Bubbles that was the earliest I have ever grown and it did pretty good for two years but the third year was a flop and it tended to have too many sprouts that stayed soft. Another that did well but was slow to make was Diablo. It made huge beautiful sprouts on enormous plants but if spring was a little short the production would be way down. Churchill did really good once but the next time it did awful.

Good luck.
Bill
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Old August 7, 2019   #8
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You got me curious so I looked back in my garden records. I have tried Bubbles, Falstaff and Catskill and at one time I think I have a memory of trying a red or burgandy colored one.

There's no problem getting the plants to grow; just getting them to set sprouts. I read a tip somewhere (here? elsewhere?) about topping the stalk when sprouts start to form so that all energy is directed into making sprouts. I'm going to try that too but I still think it's about variable weather.
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Old August 7, 2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoDawgs View Post
You got me curious so I looked back in my garden records. I have tried Bubbles, Falstaff and Catskill and at one time I think I have a memory of trying a red or burgandy colored one.

There's no problem getting the plants to grow; just getting them to set sprouts. I read a tip somewhere (here? elsewhere?) about topping the stalk when sprouts start to form so that all energy is directed into making sprouts. I'm going to try that too but I still think it's about variable weather.
I read that too somewhere but don't do it.
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Last edited by clkeiper; August 8, 2019 at 02:40 PM.
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Old August 8, 2019   #10
b54red
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoDawgs View Post
You got me curious so I looked back in my garden records. I have tried Bubbles, Falstaff and Catskill and at one time I think I have a memory of trying a red or burgandy colored one.

There's no problem getting the plants to grow; just getting them to set sprouts. I read a tip somewhere (here? elsewhere?) about topping the stalk when sprouts start to form so that all energy is directed into making sprouts. I'm going to try that too but I still think it's about variable weather.
You are correct; it isn't getting them to grow. It is getting them to grow enough before the spring warm up that they will make sprouts. I usually top my plants but not until I have been picking sprouts for quite a while. I usually do it once the weather turns. You know what I am talking about when the nights go from nice and cool to "uh o! summers nearly here". Once that weather turns you only will have a short few weeks or even days before the sprouts will stop forming tight heads. Below are two pictures taken in mid March of a bed of Brussels Sprouts showing the hoops still in place before being removed shortly after this because of no danger of a hard freeze anymore. The other picture is of the sprouts formed on the plant and ready to be picked. At the time these pictures are taken the plants still have anywhere from a month to over two months of growth and production left in the season before it gets too hot.

Bill
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File Type: jpg Brussels Sprouts 3-15.jpg (287.7 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg Stem with sprouts 3-15.jpg (201.6 KB, 22 views)
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