Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
Named for the city in Belgium where they first attained popularity, Brussels sprouts have been grown there since the early 1300s. Gardeners usually refer to them as a cole crop.
• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing
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Coles are members of the mustard, or Cruciferae, family. They are all varieties in the same genus, Brassica. Brussels sprouts are grown for the cabbagelike buds that develop around the stems at the bases of the leaves.
WHEN TO PLANT
This cool-weather crop takes a long time to mature. To get a good start, set out transplants from a garden center just before the average last frost date for your part of the state – select transplants that are young and vigorous, not tall and woody (hardened-off transplants that have been in the containers too long will not develop properly).
WHERE TO PLANT
Plant Brussels sprouts in a location that receives full sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice). Plants in shade will be weak and may fall over; the sprouts will be smaller and more widely spaced on the stems. Any well-drained garden soil is satisfactory.
HOW TO PLANT
Apply a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at a rate of 11/2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden. Spade or rototill the garden. (See “Soil Preparation” in the introduction to the vegetable garden.) In rows, space the transplants about 18 inches apart, with 36 inches between rows. In beds, space the plants 16 to 18 inches apart, which will allow 2 or 3 plants across the bed. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
With such a lengthy time to maturity, Brussels sprouts require careful attention. Apply sufficient water to keep the plants growing throughout the summer; they require about 1 inch of water per week. Side-dress the plants with a complete fertilizer when they are about 1 foot tall. Sprouts develop in the leaf axils starting at the bottom of the plant, and many growers remove the leaves a few at a time as the sprouts develop. The thought is that the sprouts will have a better chance of developing if there are no leaves to interfere; this may or may not be true. In any case, healthy, full-sized leaves must be left at the top of the stem to provide nutrients for the plant. Without leaves, the plant will cease growing. When the plants have gotten between two and three feet tall, pinch out the growing tip so that the energy goes into the sprouts instead of leaf production. Disease and pest control are important parts of care. Prevent infestation of cabbage worms with a biological worm spray or dust, available at most garden centers. Harvest sprouts before hot weather which can make them bitter. Pick or cut the sprouts as they attain full size, 11/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Brussel sprouts planted in August will produce better than spring crops, as long as the small plants are kept watered during early growth in hot weather. These very cold-hardy plants can stand a freeze, and Brussels sprouts can be left on the plants to be harvested as needed all winter if the weather is mild. Store harvested sprouts in the refrigerator until ready to cook within a few days.
Days to Maturity
Produces red sprouts, but not as productive as green types
Jade Cross E
Large sprouts, easy to harvest
Long Island Improved
Open-pollinated, old-time variety
Productive; tight sprouts
Sprouts Uniform, Smooth