Brussel sprouts can be tricky to grow in a cold climate with a short growing season like Zone 3. They take a long time, are prone to bug pressure, and take up a lot of space. However, the taste of an organic, homegrown brussel sprout roasted to perfection makes it worth it!
It’s taken me four tries to finally grow Brussel sprouts worth eating, and now I’m going to share with you how I grow them from seed. My advice will work best for those who garden in Zones 2, 3, and 4, but the bug pressure advice should work for any gardener in any zone.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video below for a glimpse of my Zone 3 garden and a bit about how I grow (almost) bug-free Brussel sprouts:
Are Brussel sprouts easy to grow from seed?
Yes, but in a short growing season, you’ve got to get the timing right. The bulk of my garden typically gets planted around the May Long weekend in Canada (sometime around May 20th), but Brussel sprouts need to be both started from seed and put outside much sooner than that.
The Brussel sprout seedlings below were started 10 weeks before our last frost date–around the first week of March.
Since Brussel sprouts love and can handle the cold, I put them out in my raised beds under frost cloth and hoops around the beginning to middle of April. This step is the key to my Brussel sprout growing success.
The Brussel sprouts in these photos thrived in the cooler spring weather and were not stunted in size by staying in a seed starting pack for a longer time. The frost cloth kept them warm enough, but it was okay if there was a killing frost overnight, because Brussel sprouts can handle colder temperatures.
It’s key to remember this fact in the fall.
When it’s the beginning of September and the first frost comes, don’t worry about covering your Brussel sprouts–they’ll be totally fine. In fact, if your Brussel sprouts are still on the small side, just keep them in the ground until the temperature drops to around -10°C/14°F or lower. At the time of writing this post, it was the beginning of October and my plants (except the one I pulled in the video) were still in the ground.
RELATED: 6 ORGANIC WAYS TO KEEP BUGS OUT OF BROCCOLI
Can you Grow Brussels Sprouts in Raised Beds?
Yes! In fact, if you watch the video, my Brussel sprouts were living quite happily in raised beds. I gave them around 18 inches of room that year, but the following year I gave them closer to 24 inches. If you’re a square foot gardener, that means that you’ll plant each Brussel sprout seedling in the middle of four squares.
P.S. If you need help with the spacing in your square foot garden, I personally love and use the Seeding Square, and you can also get four of my free plans below:
Get 4 Free Square Foot Gardening Templates
Start your square foot garden the easy way!
You'll get 4 4x4 plans for
- Salad Garden
- Beginner's Garden
- Salsa Garden
- Kid's Garden
Plus a mini email course that gives you short, actionable tips for keeping your garden alive.
What insects eat Brussel sprouts? (And what do I do about it?)
One of the things that make Brussel sprouts so difficult to grow is that so many bugs like to eat them! Flea beetles, slugs, aphids, and more all love to get into them. It’s also frustrating, because of the way Brussel sprouts leaves overlap each other. Once the bugs get in they can’t really get out, and it’s very difficult to get rid of them.
Sadly, the best way to “get rid of bugs” from Brussel sprouts is to prevent them in the first place. To do that, I keep the frost cloth over the plants as long as possible, as they also keep out most of the bugs. You can replace the cloth with actual bug cloth if you wish once the risk of frost is over.
The only downside of preventing bugs this way is that you need to make the hoops really tall. Mine were only about 2-3 feet tall, which was not nearly enough. Now I make them at least 4 feet tall, so I can keep them on through most of the bad bug pressure.
Unfortunately, the bug fabric won’t keep out the slugs. For that, I set out pie plates with beer and copper tape. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try slug bait or a spray (I use ones like Sluggo that are safe for pets and wildlife).
Finally, if aphids are the bug plaguing your vegetables, you can buy a colony of ladybugs from your local garden centre. Lady bugs eat aphids, so they’re a great natural pest control.
TO MAKE YOUR OWN HOOP SYSTEM FOR KEEPING OUT BUGS, READ THIS POST FOR CREATING ONE IN ROWS, OR THIS POST FOR A RAISED BED VERSION.
How to Harvest Brussel Sprouts
If you’ve never grown Brussel sprouts before and have only seen them in the grocery store, you might not know that they grow along tall stems with big leaves stretching out. To harvest Brussel sprouts, pull out the plant and cut off all the branches. Then rip off the individual heads and clean them.
If you watch the video up above, you’ll see how easy it is to snap them off.
In the kitchen, wash the Brussel sprouts off, cutting off the ends and any sketchy-looking bits. Then either eat them that evening or put them in a bag to freeze. As for eating them, I like to keep it simple and roast them in the oil with a little salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder.
RELATED: EASY WAYS TO PREVENT BUGS AND DISEASE IN THE GARDEN
And that’s how you grow Brussel sprouts from seed! All it really takes is knowing the right timing and protecting your sprouts from bugs from day one.
If you liked this blog post, find me on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram for more cold-climate vegetable gardening tips, delicious recipes, and cut flower goodness! I also make weekly videos over on my YouTube channel. I hope to see you there!
P.S. If you love the content I create for Shifting Roots, consider joining our community on Patreon. Your support means the world to me and I am grateful for each and every one of you!
NEED HELP IN THE GARDEN?
Green thumbs aren’t just given out at birth. They’re a combination of learning about gardening and trial and error. If you wish you knew more about gardening and had more confidence in your abilities, you need the Growing Roots Gardening Guide. It’s an e-book plus 6 bonuses–everything you need to go from complete garden newb to confident in one growing season. Get all the details of what’s inside here!
Join the conversation