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Brussel Bosworth is a superb second early variety for late Autumn to Christmas harvest. It has excellent holding ability allowing picking over a couple of months and high yields. Bosworth produces well spaced buttons with sweet flavour, suited to picking as required or as complete stalks.
Thriving in cooler conditions, brussels sprouts are hardy plants well suited to growing across the UK. Depending on the variety, crops can be harvested through autumn and winter, giving you tasty fresh sprouts as well as sprout tops when other home grown food is scarce.
Site and soil:
Full sun to partial shade suits sprouts, ideally with shelter from winter winds. They need neutral to alkaline soil, firm enough to hold top heavy crops upright through winter. Reduce risk of pests and disease by leaving four years before planting where other brassicas have grown. Brussel Sprouts need lots of nitrogen so growing in succession to a nitrogen fixing pea or bean crop will give them a good supply.
Prepare soil in autumn by digging in compost or well-rotted manure, covering with weed matting to prevent heavy winter rain leaching nutrients away. Sprouts don’t like acid soil so check the pH a few weeks before sowing. If pH is below 6.5, add lime, watering in to avoid loosening soil structure by further digging.
Growing: Sow seeds late March through to mid-April. You can sow singly in modules for transplanting, or in a well-prepared seedbed. Outdoors sow in drills 2 - 3 cm deep and about 10 cm apart. Thin them to 6 – 7 cm once a few cm tall. By mid-May to early June plants will be 6 – 10 cm tall and have developed several leaves, ready to be planted out in their final position.
Sprouts can grow up to a metre high with a spread around 50 cm, so allow 60cm between plants, 75cm between rows. Keep weed free taking care not to disturb the shallow roots, watering if soil dries out. A late summer nitrogen feed will boost the crop. In autumn mound soil round stems for stability in strong winter winds.
Depending on your chosen variety sprouts start budding at the bottom of stems from September onwards. Later varieties are harvested through to March. Sprouts are ready to pick when firm and around 3cm diameter, simply twist them off the stem.
If left until leaves begin opening they’ll be edible but past their prime. Pick any yellowing lower leaves off the plant and cropping the tops (also edible) encourages your sprouts to grow.
Problems and pests:
While easy to cultivate, sprouts need protecting from a range of pests. In particular, netting plants prevents them being eaten by something other than you.
Caterpillars of the Large White and Small White butterfly thrive on brassicas including sprouts. If you spot them remove by hand. Fine netting prevents eggs being laid.Birds like pigeons and magpies can quickly strip plants – another reason to keep them covered.Cabbage root fly can be deterred by a brassica collar around each plant to stop female flies laying eggs at the base of the stem.Club root is a fungal infection that distorts roots and stunts growth. Ensure alkali soil and crop rotation to reduce risk.
I was a bit worried growing sprouts as so many people say they have problems. However, I followed all the guidelines, firm soil etc and have had a very good crop of firm sprouts. They are a good size and flavour. They are still cropping in January!
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