Brussels Sprouts

Normally, when this vegetable is mentioned people screw up their faces and go yuk! This cabbage-like vegetable probably evolved from a primitive non-heading Mediterranean cabbage, after its progression to northwestern Europe. The plant received its name from the City of Brussels, where it was first reported to be grown. The plant develops leafy buds resembling miniature cabbage-like heads in the leaf axils along the single, tall, unbranched stem. A ½ cup serving of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 80% of the dally recommended allowance of vitamin C, as well as significant amounts of vitamin A,  thiamine, iron, potassium, phosphorous, and calcium. They are low in fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and calories. A three ounce cooked portion contains only 36 calories. Like all green vegetables, they are valuable to the body for bulk and fiber. The Brussels sprout is a cool season crop, belonging to the cabbage family, and closely related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, etc. Brussels sprouts grow best when planted in mid to late summer for late fall or early winter harvesting. The plants are relatively tolerant of cold temperatures and can withstand slight freezing. For firm, good-quality sprouts plant about 120 days before the first expected hard freeze. Hot weather results in soft open sprouts which are undesirable. The plants are heavy users of plant nutrients and produce  good yields when provided with supplemental fertilization. They require a fertile, well-draining soil, and a constant supply of water for proper development.

Seed can be sown indoors some weeks before planting out. You will need a cool, bright room or fluorescent lights. Sow the seed six weeks before the plants are to be  set in the garden and harden them off before they get their permanent home. You should prepare the soil before planting, Brussel sprout plants may be grown successfully on a wide variety of soils; however, it performs best on a medium to heavy soil that is high in organic matter and fairly high in nitrogen. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.8. Plants may also be direct seeded. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart. Keep the seed bed moist. Brussels sprouts

is a crop that should have uninterrupted growth. Any delay in growth will cause disappointing yield and quality of sprouts. A soil high in organic matter so that it will hold a lot of moisture is necessary to keep the plants growing vigorously. After the plants are up and growing an application of 1 to 1.5 inches of water every 7 days is advisable. I attach a paper cut worm collar while the seedlings are small and remove it later in the season when the stalks begin to outgrow it. You should cultivate only to control weeds and then be sure that the cultivation is very shallow. Side dress with manure or fish fertilizer when the plants are around three weeks old. Should you pinch or cut the top out of Brussels sprout plants to make them produce more? This is up to you. Pinching or removing the growing point of the plant will hasten the development of the sprouts resulting in earlier harvest, but reduces the yield by about one third. If you expect temperatures to drop much below 20 ºF, which might kill the plant, pinching out the top in early fall will probably increase harvestable yield. This is done when the sprouts are well formed. I personally dont do this, but I do remove the bottom leaves, a few every day to allow the sprouts more room to grow. The sprouts begin maturing from the bottom upwards. The sprouts can be picked several times or harvest can be delayed and the whole stalk taken at once. In picking, the leaf below the sprout is broken away from the main stem. Harvesting should start before the lower leaves begin turning yellow and when the sprouts are about 1 inch in diameter. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed, the plant continues to grow upwards producing more leaves and sprouts. The plant will withstand frost and can be harvested until freezes occur. The best quality sprouts are produced during periods of sunny days and light frosts at night. Some of the more damaging insects on this crop are Harlequin bugs, cabbage loopers, diamond back moth, imported cabbage worm, cutworms, cabbage maggot, thrips and web worms. Aphids are especially difficult to control. Clubroot is a disease which causes overgrowths or swellings of the underground stem and roots of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc. Once the organism responsible for this disease is introduced into a field or garden, it will remain troublesome for three to seven years even though no cruciferous crops are grown during the period. The swellings or "clubs" on the roots interfere with the ability of the plant to take up food from the soil and as a result such plants never produce a crop. Use only plants whose roots show no suspicious swellings. Rotate crops so that closely related crops do not follow each other on the same soil each year.

Sprouts keep well in storage at 32o F and high humidity (95 to 98%) for six to eight weeks. For home use the whole plant may be stored in a cool cellar and the sprouts removed as needed. Bring the plants indoors just before severe freezing occurs. In addition to the sprouts, you can eat the leaves. They are prepared much like collards. Harvest only the young, tender leaves as mature leaves often have an off- flavor.


In most situations, birds are welcome in the garden. They eat many insect pests, and if you provide them with shelter, water, and food, they'll stay nearby and help you in your pest-control efforts. Sometimes, however, birds are a bother; they eat seedlings and peck at ripening fruits and vegetables. To keep them away from newly sprouting seedlings, cover the plants with floating row covers. In small beds, poke brushy twigs into the ground where seeds are planted; this maze of brush acts as a barrier. Netting can be draped over trees or vegetable plants as the crop ripens. Shiny strips of reflective material twist in the wind and may scare birds away.


The most effective insecticide that instantly kills flying and crawling insects on contact but does no harm to mammals or birds is the dried and crushed flowers of the Pyrethrum Plant. This brown powder will kill or stun the insects the moment it touches them but does no harm to pets when sprinkled on their coats. This member of the daisy family is a beautiful ornamental and will compliment any garden or flower bed. While very effective, the dried powder only lasts for a few days. You can prolong its use throughout the year by freezing fresh flower heads in zip-lock bags and drying and crushing them as needed.


It is important to water newly planted trees every  week. They will not show water stress quickly,especially evergreens, and so are easily forgotten. Give a deep soaking once a week for the first month and then every two weeks after. A light sprinkling is a waste of time. You should not let your grass grow up to the base of your tree for at least the first three years. It is best to put permanent mulch under your trees.


Gypsy Moths

The moth female is white, males are gray. Their wingspan is about 5cm. They are a nocturnal pest. Larvae are hairy caterpillars gray and brown, with ed spots and are about 5 cm long. Their eggs are tan colored and covered with hair. Egg masses have about 400 eggs in them. Eastern United States but these guys have managed to hitch rides on campers and boats and transported to southern Canada, and many other states as well. The caterpillars feed in masses on tree foliage at night and during the day hide in leaves and other debris on the ground. They cause major destruction on trees by defoliating them eventually the trees will die. Apple, cherry, oak are among their favorites but they will attack any tree in their range. They have one life cycle per year.


1) Sticky Barrier Bands

Spray tanglefoot or other sticky traps on the bases of the trees and that should trap the caterpillars and the female moths

2) Remove Eggs

Eggs are easy to spot in the spring on the trunks of trees.....scrape them off and destroy them. Put burlap around the base of trees to lure females to lay eggs under then you will localize the egg laying.

3) Parasitic Wasps

Parasitic wasps eat eggs

4) Remove Garden debris

Keep the areas around your trees free of leaves and other garden debris as this is where the caterpillars hide in the day. Rake it all up and burn it to ensure killing the caterpillars. You can later add the ashes to your compost.

5) Bt

Bt sprayed on the caterpillars works well.....but you must spray them directly.



*There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogs."




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