Growing Brussel Sprouts – A Cool Weather Crop

Growing Brussel Sprouts – Easy and Hardy but They Don’t Like the Heat.

I live in zone 7b so I am able to start gardening fairly early.  I did not get a crop of brussel sprouts last year but I am hopeful that my plants will be full of sprouts this year.

How to grow brussel sprouts

Image adapted from one found on Wikipedia Free Media Repository. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

I spent most of today hand tilling my garden bed.  It was tilled with a rototiller last fall, but winter weeds have taken over the area where I had my garden. Oddly enough, the front part which was tilled into lawn to enlarge the vegetable garden is relatively full of weeks.

I planted broccoli, brussel sprouts and head lettuce today.  They were seedlings since I did not get my seeds until last week.  Those will have to wait until fall to be planted again.

Brussel sprouts are easy to grow as long as you pay attention to the fact that they really do not like heat.  If you get them in too late in the spring and your summers are hot, they will bolt and the sprouts will end up bitter.

How to grow Fabulous Brussel sprouts.

  • Soil:  They will tolerate most soil conditions, but prefer  a sweet or slightly alkaline soil.  The soil PH should be at least 6.5 for best results.  Adding a lot of organic matter to the soil will help them to maintain the moisture they need for best growth.
  • Sunlight:  Like most vegetables, brussel sprouts like full sun. 6 – 8 hours a day or more is preferable. In the hottest climates, they will appreciate partial shade in the afternoon.
  • Watering: They need even moisture. Dry soil will make the sprouts bitter.
  • Timing:  Timing is everything with brussel sprouts especially if you live in zones where the summers are very hot.   They take about 85-90 days to mature, so it depends on your zone as to when to plant.   The main factor it to remember that the sprouts will ripen in the temperatures are higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  They love 60 – to 70 degrees and will have best flavor if they are allowed to grow during several periods of frost. This is because the frost converts the starches in the plant to sugar and makes the sprouts sweeter.
  • Spacing:  18″ – 24″ is best if you have a long growing season that is not too hot (northern climates)  I planted mine about 14″ apart since I doubt this spring batch will give me many sprouts. In the fall, I will space them wider, since I can over winter them in NC.
  • Harvesting:  The sprouts form at the axil or leaf joint.  (you can see how the grow in the first photo above.)  They look like tiny cabbages. They mature from the bottom upwards, so you should start harvesting when the lower sprouts start to get to the size of large marbles.  Also trim the bottom leaves as the plant grows.  Be sure to leave several leaves at the top though. Doing this will tell the plant to put its energy into making sprouts rather than making big leaves.  The leaves are edible and lovely sauteed with garlic and spices.  At the end of the season, or before it gets too hot, you can cut the top leaves off, and it will speed up the development of the remaining sprouts.
  • (Recipe to use the removed leaves):  Sauteed Brussel Sprout Leaves
  • Storage: Brussel sprouts will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator. After this they will begin losing flavor.  For long term storage, blanch for a few minutes in boiling water and plunge into ice water.  Freeze on cookie sheets and then transfer to freezer bags.

American Meadows - Vegetable Seed Packets! Low Prices, Fast Shipping!This photo is a picture of brussel sprouts which were harvested by my sister Judy, in Maine, in October.  I drooled when I saw them.  I can never get mine to this stage.  I do have hope for some that overwintered for me this year.  I planted them in late summer as seedlings. They produced mainly leaves but I am going to start trimming them from the bottom to see if I can get them to sprout early this spring.  If they do they should be wonderful, since they went through the whole winter and several frosts.


What has your experience been like for Brussel Sprouts? Did they grow well for you?  Where do you live?  Please leave your comments below.

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  10 comments for “Growing Brussel Sprouts – A Cool Weather Crop

  1. beth borden
    08/25/2013 at 2:05 pm

    I want to try to grow brussel sprouts this fall starting October im in florida and that seems to be the coolest time of the year. What do you think???

  2. Tony
    09/18/2013 at 11:16 pm

    We grow brussel sprouts every year. We live north of Spokane Washington and we get temps in the 80-90s for most of the summer. It is now mid September and quite cold at night. We plant as soon as it warms enough. This year was June. Our sprouts are always wonderful flavored. We get a large amount of each plant. We have never trimmed off leaves. We never knew we should. We fertilize our garden in the late fall with horse manure from last winter. We produce enough veggies that we no longer need to buy any from the store. We use no pesticides.

    • admin
      09/19/2013 at 8:10 am

      Hi Tony….thanks for sharing. My sister lives in Maine and has similar results with hers.

      I have no luck at all. I’ve tried both spring and fall printing. I thought i might get some this spring because they started forming but as soon as the warm weather hit, they all shriveled up.

      I did not realize about removing the leaves either until recently. next year I am going to try only in the fall and see what happens.

      Wish me luck!

  3. woody keel
    09/15/2014 at 12:36 am

    I planted brussel sprouts this year in april. Beautiful plants but here it is Sept. 14 and no sprouts. We have hot summers. I just cut bottom leaves off last week thinking that might help. I had a great crop of cauliflower that I planted at the same time. Live and learn. Try what you think will work, then try again if needed.
    Thanks for your nice informative article.


    • admin
      09/15/2014 at 12:45 am

      Hi Woody. They do hate the heat. I had a crop last year that looked promising but they shriveled up. My sister has great success with them in Maine though. Carol

  4. Jane
    06/09/2015 at 12:01 pm

    I live in Central Florida and am a Master Gardner. I love to experiment with most anything. I have raised beds and I planted 6 brussel sprout plants in late Oct. 2014 and 3 of them produced sprouts, that were very good. I did begin to wonder if I could do it, I will be planting again this winter, because they are so much fun

    • admin
      06/09/2015 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Jane. I have tried and tried to grow them with no luck. I thought planting in the fall would do the trick to, but alas not. Glad you have had good luck with them!


  5. Lili
    09/19/2015 at 5:44 pm

    I planted brussel sprouts this year for the first time. Although the sprouts aren’t very big, i am impressed they grew, i really didnt have much hope for them! I have 5 plants, almost 1.3m tall. We have really hot summers, i hope they didnt get any bitterness.
    Atm am waiting for december to harvest! I live in Europe, Romania.

    • admin
      09/19/2015 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Lili. I keep planting them but the heat here in North Carolina always gets to them. Good luck with yours. Carol

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