Growing Brussels Sprouts in Tasmania
I am an avid fan of what seems to be the controversial Brussel Sprout. Autumn to winter sprouts steamed with some butter is all I need; however my wife turns them into some delicious sides for dinner.
Like other vegetables in the Brassicaceae family such as Broccoli and Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts do taste better after the first frosts. Thus aiming for the sprouts to form in April is my aim. This means in Tasmania generally sowing seed in December depending on the type of Sprout variety grown.
Most are surprised when they come to market in late March looking for Brussels sprouts and I say it is getting late, plant in Dec or Jan. The aim is to grow a tall plant with a long stem as it is this stem that produces the sprouts. Small stem means small yield of sprouts (perfectly fine if you don’t want many). Summer is tricky in Tasmania. Some are quite warm; some are quite cool. The current growing season (2021/22) I sowed early December and I feel this was a tad early given the higher average temperatures in Jan to March. Whereas the previous year I did the same and had perfect sprouts from the base up.
Currently it is April 5 2022, and the current season sprouts have grown to about 1.5m tall, and the bottom sprouts are loose due to the warm weather. Perfectly edible, but not tightly packed. Thus I am rethinking the best time to sow the mid-season variety (Dagan F1) may be later December to early January. The late season variety Divino F1 however is perfectly good, packed with small sprouts. Generally, the aim is to sow 3 to 4 months before your first frost (around mid to late April on average at my location).
Brussels sprouts prefer temperatures between 7 and 23 Celsius. They can handle below freezing for a short time. Tasmania fits neatly into this preference.
When planting the seedling (I raise in my hothouse due to my seedling business) I add some compost, water in with Seasol or Charlie Carp, and then give a decent drink of the same with Gogo juice or similar when they are about 30cm tall. I also put a stake in the ground at planting and tie at 30cm high, then 1m high. This ensures they are not blown over! I also water daily, sometimes twice over the warm January to March period so they are not stressed (This is one reason aphids can hit). Cabbage White butterflies abound during this period. Either net or spray weekly with the organic bacteria sold as Dipel by Yates (Natures Way).
Personally I would prefer open pollinated varieties, but after growing most of the available ones in the past decade, the current hybrids far exceed for yields and quality. Long Island produced 1/10th of the yield to Divino last winter so I just stick to the hybrid option until I find an OP variety that has not gone backwards.
Brussels Sprouts are very rewarding to grow and I do not put them in the very hard category. They just need timing, water, good soil at planting and a little attention from Jan to March. Add plenty of quality organic compost to your bed before planting and you will be off to a good start.