Brussel sprout seedlings
I’ve been picking Brussel sprouts for a month or so now and my one row will provide regular feasts of solid hearted sprouts well into September. To have any success with this cool season crop seed must be sown during November and early December so that seedlings can be put out into their final position during January or at latest the first week in February as the plants have to be fully grown by mid to late April.
It's depressing to see Brussel sprout seedlings being sold by garden centres and big box retailers as I write this in mid-June. It is worse than useless to plant these seedlings now as all they will do is run up to seed next spring. There is absolutely no chance winter planted seedlings will produce a crop. And any way most Brussel sprout seedlings sold are grown from the very cheap Long Island Improved seed strain. This so-called Heirloom variety is long since past its use by date. It will rarely if ever produces a decent crop or any kind of crop at all for that matter even it is well grown.
I always raise my own seedlings from F1 hybrid seed. These are not genetically modified just a cross between two strains of Brussel sprouts.
I don’t use any chemical pesticides in the garden and I’m often asked by visitors why my brassicas aren’t shredded by Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars. Well from when I see the first Cabbage White in spring to when I see the last Cabbage White in autumn, I make a solution DiPel and water in a watering can and drench the brassicas with the solution every Monday and Friday. DiPel, sold in powder form, contains a naturally occurring bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which is harmless to all but leaf chewing caterpillars. My watering can is a Haws which has a very fine rose but spraying would work just as well. I’m not sure that I need to drench twice a week but I’m in the habit of doing so and I can’t see any reason to change this regime.
I buy DiPel in bulk from our local produce store as the small retail packs are very expensive. If kept dry DiPel has a long storage life.
The only other problem I have with my sprout crop is a small black aphid which hides itself en masse under the outer leaves of the sprouts. It’s not a real worry as stripping the outer leaves off and rinsing under the cold water tap cleans them up.
Brussel sprouts were a very important vegetable when I was a child growing up in an English village during the 1950s. Both of my grandfathers and my mother grew substantial numbers. From Christmas until April, it was just about the only green vegetable to find a place on our table.
Across the road from where we lived there was a small market garden where strawberries, peas and Brussel sprouts were grown. My mother would often help pick the crop and I’d do my bit. I remember one day, when I was 7 or 8 years old, going out with my mother in the morning after a fairly heavy snow storm. The snow covering the tops of the metre tall plants had to be kicked off before the sprouts could be picked. I still remember the hot aches pain in my fingers. Hot aches are caused by exposure to cold which stops the blood flow to the fingers. As the hands warm up blood flows back into the fingers causing intense pain.
During winter I eat Brussel sprouts nearly every day. If they are eaten freshly picked they won’t have the off smell that less fresh sprouts develop.