Guide to Growing Brussels Sprouts
Guide to Growing Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts – Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
The Brussels sprout vegetable was known and cultivated in Belgium, particularly in areas around Brussels nearly 800 years ago.
For best results provide an open, airy situation, with wide spacing, to ensure good sprout development. A long season of growth is required. For a really heavy crop highly fertileis necessary.
Deep, early cultivation should be carried out to allow the soil to become sweetened and well weathered. Firm ground is needed for good sized, tight sprouts cannot be obtained from hastily prepared, loose soil.
Brussels sprouts do best where they follow a well manured and deeply cultivated crop. Where this is not possible farmyard manure and well rotted , say a bucketful to a square metre, should be worked into the ground in late autumn or winter. A dressing of an organic fertiliser such as fish manure, hoof and horn, or bone meal will be useful; hoof and horn in particular, supplying slow acting nitrogen, or one of the reliable compound fertilisers can be used.
Sowings can be made under cloches or cold frames early in the year. Theshould be pricked out 8cm apart in prepared beds under other cloches or frames, but must not be coddled. Subsequently move to prepared open ground sites.
The main outdoor sowings should not be attempted before good weather in early spring. These can be followed by two or three sowings at fourteen day intervals. Open ground sowings can also be made in summer. Improved modern strains make autumn sowings unnecessary so long as early spring sowings are made in succession. Thin the seedlings out early to ensure sturdy growth followed by firm sprouts.
As soon as seedlings are 10 to 13cm high move them to their final position. Choose a showery period for the job or water the plants in. Space them 75cm apart for the dwarf sorts and 90cm for the tall, strong growing varieties. This spacing allows an early catch crop of, radish or to be grown between the rows.
The Brussels sprouts plants can be helped by an occasional top dressing of organic fertiliser. Do not give this after mid-summer, otherwise, leafy growth will develop and the sprouts will be loose and of poor quality.
Brussels sprouts like firm root conditions. Always remove loose, blown sprouts but do not cut off the top of the plants until all the sprouts have been picked. The head of the plant gives protection and helps in the growth of the sprouts.
Picking commences from early autumn on wards and provided successional sowings of the right varieties have been made, sprouts will be available until well in spring.
A very easily cultivated vegetable, and suitable for every amateur’s garden. Plants are easily raised from seed sown in drills outdoors or broadcast on a nursery bed in April. They prefer to grow in a deep, rich, well- drained soil, but almost any garden soil can be brought into good enough condition for the crop by deep digging, manuring and liming. Lime is very important, as with all green crops.
Seeds can, if preferred, be raised under glass in March and pricked out into shallow boxes or the cold frame as soon as large enough.
Plants are ready for setting out in permanent positions when they are 6 in. high.
Deep digging and a good dressing of well-decayed manure are advisable before planting.
A succession of outdoor sowings can be made from April to the middle of June.
After planting, no special treatment is required, apart from keeping the hoe going between the rows, although an occasional dusting of fertilizer, well washed in by rain or clear water, will improve the crop.
It should not be necessary to provide any support for the stems, which, if they are well grown, will stand firmly enough on their own.
In gathering the buttons, they should be cut from the bottom of the stalk first. All large leaves on the plants that turn yellow should be carefully removed from time to time and put into the compost pit. The top head should not be cut until all the sprouts have been gathered.
On the show bench, the detached buttons should be shown with the rough outside leaves removed and the buttons piled in a pyramid on the dish. Unless especially stated in the schedule, it is not advisable to stage whole stems.
Reliable varieties include: Early Half Tall, extra early; Peer Gynt, a good new variety with medium sized sprouts of fine flavour; King Arthur, a tall growing, mid-season hardy sort; Focus, medium sized sprouts of exceptionally good flavour; Roodnert Seven Hills, small tight sprouts of first rate quality, superseding Cambridge No. 5; Bastion, a very late variety with medium sized sprouts.
There is also a variety with red coloured sprouts, although this is not widely grown. A reliable USA variety is Jade Cross Hybrid.
Useful varieties for home and exhibition are ‘Covent Garden’, ‘Dwarf Gem’ and ‘Darlington’.
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