My first garden season has come to an end and truthfully I’m a bit sad about it. Our little raised bed was such a fun experiment for me over the past few months- trying and failing, improving and harvesting. I love cooking with and sharing fresh veggies that I put my time and effort into growing.
Towards the end of the summer, we only had two promising crops left in our garden: tomatoes and brussel sprouts.
First off, our tomatoes blew me away. Starting in the beginning of August the plants exploded. For two straight months we had an amazing harvest of plum tomatoes, a handful of steak tomatoes, and more cherry tomatoes than we knew what to do with. I’m still harvesting cherry tomatoes and it’s the end of October! It’s unbelievable! We can’t give them away fast enough.
While I wish I had been able to give both our tomatoes and our brussel sprouts more space, I think it’s the brussel sprouts that really suffered. I had one really awesome plant that sprouted tall and high right away. Keep in mind, I planted these back in late May/early June, on a whim. I had no idea how to grow brussel sprouts. Since then, I’ve learned a tip or two.
Tip 1 – Keep in mind that brussel sprouts need space.
Brussel sprout plants get BIG. They get tall and they need to be secured in their spot early. Note: transplanting won’t kill your plant, but it won’t stand up straight afterwards.) My advice would be to plant seedlings in a line with two feet or more between them.
Tip 2 – Plant your brussel sprouts in a spot with ample sunlight.
Now, brussel sprouts might be fall loving-cold weather crops, but as seedlings, they love the sun. The plants I put in more sunlight grew at least double, in half the time. They do need a good amount of water but that’s easy to supply.
Tip 3 – Watch out for aphids.
In the end, I was spraying my plants down with a dish soap and water solution almost daily. The aphids totally attacked my plants and while I’m not sure it hurt the growth of my sprouts, no one wants those little bugs crawling around their garden. I probably should have been a little more pro-active with my defenses, but hey, there’s a learning curve.
Tip 4 – You need to care for your plants a bit in the fall.
This part was fun. I knew my brussel sprout plants didn’t look like I’d seen on the internet during my research, so I googled a bit and found out I needed to do some work in preparation for harvesting. It’s suggested that as soon as your sprouts are about an inch in diameter, you should cut the leaves off the bottom third of your brussel sprout stalk. Then, a week later, cut the middle third of leaves off the stalk. Removing the majority of leaves will actually cause the plant to target the sprouts, helping them grow larger in the last few weeks of their life. Then, after the first frost, it’s time to harvest.
Even though next spring is half a year away, I’m already brainstorming what I’m going to do when it’s time to plant again. It’ll be a bummer that I won’t be able to go out in the backyard and pick fresh produce, but there’s also a balance to it that I kind of like. Maybe one day I’ll have a big green house to take me through the winter. For now, I’m counting down the days til next May.