Growing Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are very popular in England; however they are thought to have been first grown in Italy, though in modern times they were cultivated in large amounts in Belgium as early as 1587, hence the name. When cooked, sprouts should be tender but firm, this way thy will retain the vitamins, over cooking also ruins the texture of this delicious vegetable. They contain vitamins A and C; in fact sprouts contain twice the amount of vitamin C as an equal amount of cabbage, they also contain potassium. They contain a wealth of anti-cancer compounds and another wonderful food, which is ideal for weight watchers, as they contain only 31 celeries per average serving. They are one of the traditional vegetables served with the turkey during the Christmas feast.
The sprouts can only be grown satisfactorily in firm soil, where they can be given a good depth of manure and plenty of room to develop.
The soil must be prepared in the previous autumn, adding a spades depth of manure and compost at the rate of one and a half bucketfuls to the sq. yd. Leave the soil rough for the winter frosts and winds to act upon it, then in the spring fork it over an inch or two deep, adding either fish manure at 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of two parts hoof and horn, one part sulphate of potash, four parts bone meal, at a rate of 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd. The plants are planted out in late May or early June.
Sow the seeds in a sheltered position in a seedbed during March or April, in drills not deeper than ½ in. (12mm) about 6 in. (15cm) apart. Cover them with cloches to give them warmth and protection. As they grow begin to thin out to give them room to develop.
Begin to plant out when the seedlings are about 4 - 6 in. (10cm - 15cm) high in the position they are to mature in; continue until the middle of August. It is a good idea to water them well the day before you intend to move them. The ground where they are to go must be firm and the plants well firmed in. Plant about 3 ft. (90cm) apart with their lowest leaves just above the soil level. After they have been trans-planted they must be well watered. As they grow it might be necessary to stake them if there is high winds.
Remove leaves when they turn yellow and gently remove any sprouts that are open. It is better to cut off the sprouts, as they are ready with a knife rather than attempting to break them off as this could lead to tearing or their roots to be dislodged from the soil. Start at the bottom of the plants and work up gradually. In the south the harvest may begin, as early as September but in the north it is likely to be October before any are ready to pick; the crop may continue through to the following spring. The heads of the plant should not be removed until the end of February, for they protect the sprouts forming below and they manufacture sap, which will feed them.
When the plants are finished fruiting, pull them up and put them onto the compost heap; do not leave them on the ground, as they will take up valuable nutrients.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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