Brussels Sprouts

This vegetable is quite easy to grow, but occasionally, problems can occur.

Many of these problems can be avoided if the correct growing techniques are used.

Brussels sprouts can be grown on a variety of soils but they grow best on well-drained, loamy soil enriched with organic matter.

Sandy loams are preferred for early crops.

Adjust soil pH to 6.5 or higher for maximum yields, and avoidance of club root.

Overview:

Loose soil or excessive nitrogen fertiliser is often blamed for blown/fluffy sprouts.

This is probably true, however it is more probable that cheaper, open-pollinated cultivars have been grown rather than the more costly but reliable F1 hybrids.

As mentioned above loose soil can be a factor in blown/fluffy sprouts.

There are those that say compacting the soil around young plants at planting time alleviates this problem.

This might be so, but the writer has found that the timing of soil preparation is also a reliable method of achieving the same results, particularly in light soil.

Preparing the planting area in autumn allows the soil to settle naturally rather than treading it in at planting time.

Then at planting time all that remains to do is only disturb the soil to make the planting hole rather than the whole bed.

Ecavate the hole, plant the seedling,drench the hole with water and this will compact the loosened soil to a similar state as the surrounding soil.

Another reason for loose sprouts might be wind rock which affects mostly the taller growing varieties.

This can be alleviated by drawing soil around the growing plants up to 250mm (10”) up the stems as the plants grow and should eliminate the need to stake the plants.

Cultivation notes:

Week 12-13: Sow seeds in containing proprietary seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 13°C (55°F)

Germination should take around five or six days.

Week 13-14: Prick out seedlings in 75mm (3") pots of potting compost when large enough to handle.

Between now and planting out time prepare beds for planting out by raking in a top dressing of general fertiliser at a rate of 75gms per sq metre (3oz)

Do not dig the soil at this time for reasons (compaction) mentioned above!

Week 16: Place pots in coldframe to harden off.

Week 20-21: Plant out 500-600mm (18"-24") apart in rows 600mm (24") apart.

Fit proprietary discs at this stage to deter cabbage root fly.

Cover the transplants with small mesh net, this will deter pigeons rabbits, and egg-laying cabbage white butterflies.

Canes topped with plastic drinking cups or pots make excellent supports for the nets

.

Week 26 onwards: Brassica crops are constantly under attack from insects and other types of pests, so prompt action is needed to protect them.

Control mealy aphids by spraying with a suitable insecticide.



Regularly hoe along the rows and water in dry weather.

If water supplies are limited, apply one heavy soaking every week rather than a little daily.

Tall-growing Brussels sprouts should be given some extra support by earthing up the base of the stems during the growing season.

Week 44: Pick early Brussels sprouts, starting from the base of the stem, and remove any blown buttons that often attract insect pests such as mealy aphids.

Collect and remove any leaves that have dropped off to prevent them becoming a source of disease or hiding place for pests.



Pests and Diseases:

Pest and diseases are the same as any other member of the brassica family so always be vigilant for them, and treat them accordingly

The most common are; Aphids, Cabbage root fly, Caterpillars Clubroot, and Downy Mildew.

Leaf diseases often lead to severe foliage loss in wet seasons this in turn can affect the final yield.

There are currently no fungicides approved for home use in controlling these diseases, growing the plants at a wide spacing and growing resistant cultivars can reduce the severity of these infections.





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