“How about writing a blog on growing Brussel Sprouts?” Sarah, our web adviser suggested a short while ago.
“But I’m not an expert on growing Brussel Sprouts”, I replied, “and how many of our design clients want to know how to grow them?”
“It would be seasonal and fit in nicely with our Christmas greeting” she insisted. “Although they are notoriously difficult to grow…”
Well, that’s another fine mess I’ve got myself into, I thought – as my husband and I sat in bed one night frantically Googling Brussel Sprout jokes in an attempt to make this blog amusing – conscious that it is most likely to be read long after the Festive Season is over. But the best one we could find – well, the best one that is suitable for reproducing here is “What’s the most popular Christmas wine? I don’t like Brussels Sprouts!”
So, without more ado, here are our top tips for growing Brussel Sprouts:
- Brussel sprouts grow quite tall, so pick a sunny or partly shaded site sheltered from strong winds
- They must have a firm soil to provide anchorage and prevent wind rock.
- They are happy in most soils, particularly alkaline ones, but avoid very acid soils.
- They like the cool moist conditions that are typical of a British winter.
- Like all brassicas they are hungry feeders and need lots of nitrogen to grow well. So, the ground should be well prepared before planting – dig over and add plenty of well rotted manure and compost.
- They grow particularly well if they follow on from an early crop of beans or peas as these are nitrogen fixing, and will help fertilise the soil. If you use this method, the sprouts can be started in a seedbed and then transplanted to their final growing position in late June.
- Choose a mix of early and late varieties to give a long picking season.
- In addition to the spouts, the tops can be eaten as a crop in their own right.
- Tradition has it that they taste better when harvested after a hard frost – a view with which the RHS agrees.
If all else fails…
But it has to be said that Brussel sprouts are not the prettiest of plants, although they do perhaps have a certain quirky, exotic architecture about them.
They are also very susceptible to a number of problems, which are solvable, but which perhaps make them a faff to grow unless you are very fond of them or a keen veggie grower.
But give them a go – and rest assured, when you get fed up of struggling with wind rock, bird damage, caterpillar devastation, and the problems of cabbage root fly and club root, there is always one failsafe solution: the veggie section at Waitrose!
Image credit: krgjumper