Thanks for taking the time to read our article on how to grow brussel sprouts for beginners in the UK. Now we know that this vegetable is truly a love or hate relationship, but for those who enjoy the taste, they are certainly a vegetable that you should try and grow at home or in your allotment.
They are best known for being on our plates for the Christmas dinner. However, if you get your timing right, you can enjoy brussel sprouts from late September and all the way through to March.
For beginners, it is important to understand that brussel sprouts are easy to grow as long as you grow them in firm soil which has a good amount of humus in it. There are also a variety of pests to watch out for.
Varieties that grow in the UK
There are two main varieties of brussel sprouts:
- Standard varieties - if you are a beginner to growing Brussels sprouts, we would recommend staying away from these standard varieties. They are just harder to grow as they lack the uniformity of the hybrid variety explained below. Some experienced gardeners still prefer the standard varieties such as Bedford, Noisetts, Rubine, Early Half Tall, Roodnerf and Cambridge No 5 as they do produce slightly larger sprouts and some of them have excellent flavour.
- F1 Hybrid varieties - These are a much better choice for beginners as they have a nice compact growth and the size of each sprout is almost identical. Unlike the standard varieties, these sprouts tend to mature at the same time which is better suited for most gardeners. That is good especially if your plan is to harvest and freeze them. The main varieties are; Peer Gynt, Achilles, Citadel, Fortress, Perfect Line, Rampart, Welland, Widgeon and Zid Fasolt. By far the best one for beginners is the Peer Gynt as it has great flavour with medium sized buttons.
Brussels sprouts are grown from seeds and the Hybrid varieties are easier to grow.
Germination time of seeds
No of seeds per ounce
Life expectancy of seed
Expected yield per plant
Ease of Growing
You can sow an early variety outdoors in March and plant out in May and they will provide sprouts during October and November. If you want sprouts as early as September, you will need to sow in early March in a greenhouse or under a cloche and then plant out in May.
For a later crop that will harvest between December through to March, sow a later variety (Citadel) in April and plant out in June.
Best Soil & Planting Tips
All types of Brussels sprouts varieties need to be planted in firm soil. The main reason these fail for gardeners is that they are planted in loose soil. Like all vegetable gardening, prepare the bed in Autumn.
Pick a reasonably sunny spot where there is shelter from high winds.. In the Autumn dig compost into the soil. When Spring comes add a fertilizer, and we would also recommend raking in some Bromophos as this gets rid of cabbage root fly, which like to attack Brussels sprouts.
Do not fork over the surface before planting the seeds, but tread down gently, and rake very lightly to remove any surface debris.
Sow thinly about 3" apart at 1/2" deep in rows that are 6" apart.. You can transplant when the seedlings get to between 4-6" in height. Always water the rows the day before transplanting. Plant firmly with the lowest leaves just above the soil surface. Leave 2.5 feet between each plant and water after transplanting.
Hoe regularly and water the young plants when there are dry spells. When the plants get bigger they don't need a lot of watering as long as you ensured the soil was properly prepared and firm.
Watch out for birds as they will go after these plants and you can use netting to help with that. Likewise caterpillars and aphids are fond of these so use a crop saver spray such as Provanto to deal with those.
In Autumn, earth up around the stems and stake any tall varieties to protect them from high winds.
Brussels Sprouts Pests and Problems
Generally speaking Brussels Sprouts are easy to grow as long as the soil is firm. They are however prone to some diseases and pests. All brassica crops are hit hard by fungal pathogens in particular
Slugs & Snails
A slug is basically a snail without a shell. They can devour seedlings in a very short space of time. The best way of controlling these is to just pick them out of the bed and get rid of them. If you don't like the idea of that then slug pellets works really well.
All birds are fond of these especially when the plants are young. Bird netting is the only effective method of dealing with that problem.
This is the main one to look out for when growing broad beans. Blackfly will go after broad beans in the Spring. We use Bayer Garden Provado Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer to control that as it is very effective.
Caterpillars like brassicas and Brussells Sprouts are in that category of vegetables. You can pick them off if you can see them, but they are usually more active underneath the leaves of plants.
A spray repellent is more effective and there are lots of these on the UK market. Grazers, Provado and Garten Gluck sprays are used by most gardeners.
Cabbage Root Fly
This is a popular problem and is noticed when the leaves start to get a blue tinge to them. Transplants are at the biggest risk. If you see any sign of this use a crop saver as quickly as possible. To prevent it initially apply some Bromophos around the base of the plants after transplanting.
This is a popular problem and is noticed when tiny black spots appear on the leaves. These can very rapidly expand and join up and kill off the leaves. That will spread quickly to the sprouts as well. With sprouts you can normally just pick off the outer leaves. We would recommend using a fungicide to deal with this problem.
This is absolutely the one to avoid as it will kill off your plants quickly. There is no fix for this. You will need to dig out all of your plants and burn them. The first signs of this root rot is the leaves develop yellow splotches at the edges of the leaves. The splotches get bigger and turn brown in colour but at this stage it is already too late.
The only way to prevent black rot is to buy disease-free seed, and never to plant somewhere where you’ve had brassicas growing in the past three years. Black rot pathogens spread in water so carefully water around the roots and try to avoid splashing and excessive amounts of water.
Hopefully we have given you enough information to be able to grow Brussels sprouts in the UK. As a beginner we would recommend trying these as they are easy to grow as long as the soil is firm.