How to Grow Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts flavor improves when the weather cools and gets better still when exposed to frost. Because of the way temperature affects the flavor of the sprouts, timing is important. Exposure to warm weather makes the sprouts large and loose. Later in the season, when the weather gets colder, the buds on the same plant will be smaller, tighter and better tasting.
Brussels sprouts need a long growing season. The earliest varieties require 85 days from seed to harvest. Late varieties can take up to 180 days, depending on variety and weather conditions. Traditionally, they are started in outdoor seed beds 10 to 12 weeks before the first fall frost. Plant seeds ¼-1/2 deep, 3-4 apart. When the plants are about 6 tall they are moved into their permanent location, planted 18-24 apart. The soil should have high fertility and good moisture retention, both of which can be improved with the generous use of compost.
Brussels sprouts, like cabbage, have sensitive roots that can be damaged with cultivation. To suppress weeds and retain moisture use mulch instead. Also like cabbage, to prevent your soil from harboring insects and disease, rotate your crops on three or four year rotations.
The sprouts are ready to harvest when they are 1 1-1/2 in diameter. Work from the bottom of the plant upward. As the plants develop the lower leaves turn yellow. Remove these to keep the bed tidy and to stimulate growth along the upper stem.
Brussels sprouts are usually eaten fresh off the plant but they can be stored for approximately a month in cool, moist conditions.