Late spring is best time to plant Brussels sprouts

Last Updated: 
June 17, 2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you love to eat Brussels sprouts, the time is fast approaching to plant these cabbage-like vegetables that are rich in vitamin C and cancer-inhibiting agents. Gardeners claim if they're home-grown, they're even sweeter and nuttier than the store-bought varieties.

"Late May into the first half of July is the perfect time to plant Brussels sprouts for fall harvest and overwintering," said Deborah Kean, horticulture faculty research assistant at Oregon State University. A cousin to cabbage, Brussels sprouts take from three to six months to grow and mature from seed, depending on the variety.

They can provide a continuous supply of nutritious vegetables from mid-fall to late winter in mild-winter areas of western Oregon. Seeds can be started directly in the ground in late May or planted as seedlings through early July. Ultimately, each plant needs at least a 24- by 24-inch area in which to grow up to two or three feet.

"Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized at least twice during their growing season," Kean said. "Fertilize them when they are first planted with a high phosphorus fertilizer. After several weeks, apply another dose of fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen. Liquid fish, blood meal or a commercial fertilizer high in nitrogen works well."

Early varieties mature in about 80 to 125 days from seed and are ready to eat in the fall and early winter. Gardeners in western Oregon might want to try some of the late varieties, which can take from 125 to 200 days to mature and can be harvested from December to April, depending on climate.

To encourage lateral buds to develop earlier, Kean recommends topping the plant (removing the apical bud) when the plant has reached its full height and the lateral buds have begun to expand.

In colder climates east of the Cascades, Brussels sprout plants should be pulled from the ground before the temperature drops below 10 degrees in the late fall and stored in the basement with roots buried in a box of damp sand.

The OSU Extension Service recommends the following varieties of Brussels sprouts as performing well in Oregon: Jade Cross "E," Oliver and Tasty Nuggets.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Deborah Kean