Brussels Sprouts: Pest And Disease Problems
The most common problem with Brussels sprouts is aphid infestation. Aphids are small insects which feed on the leaves of plants and cause them to wilt or die. They do not harm humans but they may ruin your garden if left unchecked. You can control aphids easily using insecticides such as pyrethrum, carbaryl, or permethrin (brand names include Diatom).
These products kill the adult insects, but they don’t affect the larvae which live inside the plant. Once these tiny critters become established, they will continue to reproduce and eventually destroy your garden.
Another pest that attacks Brussels sprouts is spider mites. Spider mite eggs hatch into tiny maggots within two weeks and then develop into adults within three months. Adult spiders lay their eggs on the surface of the leaves and feed on the plant’s sap. If left untreated, spider mites can severely damage your garden.
Spray with insecticidal soap before eating Brussels sprouts to prevent infection from occurring.
A third pest that affects Brussels sprouts is cabbage stem rust fungus (CSCF) which causes black spots to appear on the stems of your Brussels sprouts plants. Overfertilization can increase the risk of CSCF developing. This fungal disease affects the plant’s vascular system and causes the green parts of the plant to turn yellow and die. CSCF reduces the overall quality of the vegetable and is rarely found in well-managed Brussels sprouts fields.
A fourth disease that affects Brussels sprouts is grey mold (botrytis). This fungal infestation develops when conditions are too wet for the plant. Wet leaves are prime breeding grounds for grey mold which enters the plant through the leaves and eventually causes them to rot. Leaves with grey mold should be removed immediately and disposed of, but not near your garden as the mold can spread to healthy plants.
A fifth disease is flavescence dorée (FD). FD is a viral infection that causes yellowing in the plant’s leaves which then turn brown and die. The fruit itself may also develop a pattern of yellow markings. At present, there is no control for this disease and plants that become infected should be immediately discarded.
A sixth disease called black leg causes soft, blackened areas on the stem of the plant and is usually only seen in sprouts that have been damaged in some way. This disease is not particularly common but is easy to spot once it develops.
Finally, a seventh disease is downy mildew (DM). If left untreated, downy mildew can cause nearly complete white patches on the leaves of your plant as they develop. This fungal disease attacks when conditions are too wet for the plant but allow for sufficient air-flow. If the weather is particularly humid, you may need to increase the space between your rows of Brussels sprouts plants to prevent the spread of this disease.
Brussels sprouts can be harvested any time after they reach the size of a golf ball. Begin checking your plants every couple of days after they reach this size and harvest any that have reached the size you want. Ideally, wait until at least some of the leaves have started to turn yellow as this indicates the plant is ready for harvest.
Harvest your plants regularly to encourage the plant to keep producing sprouts. Overgrown sprouts are bitter and you don’t want to waste time waiting for them to reach their ideal size when there are plenty of smaller sprouts available for harvest.
When harvesting, cut the stem just below the point where it joins the main stem of the plant. Any Brussels sprouts that fall off while you are working can be placed at the bottom of the main stem. These will be the sprouts you harvest last as they will be the ones that are most developed.
Brussels sprouts can take up to 80 days to mature. However, 55 days is more typical and this is how long it takes in warmer climates.
Brussels sprouts can be stored for up to four months if kept at temperatures of 32 degrees F. (0 degrees C) and 95 percent humidity. Store them in perforated plastic bags to ensure they don’t become dried out and keep them away from heat and sunlight as this causes them to lose their vitamin C content.
If you live in a very cold climate, you can harvest your sprouts over a longer period of time. This means that you will need to provide some frost protection for your plants. You can do this by covering them with a thick material such as blankets during the night and removing them during the day. If you are growing your plants on a windowsill, you may need to move them outside during the coldest nights to protect them.
You can enjoy your sprouts fresh off the plant or store them in the refrigerator for up to three days. They should be stored in a sealed container and placed in the coldest part, such as the bottom of the vegetable drawer.
Brussels sprouts do not freeze well when stored whole so if you want to preserve them, it is better to cut them into small pieces and blanch them before freezing. This preserves their color and taste. You can also can them, pickle them or dry and powder them.
Brussels sprouts are a delicious addition to fall and winter meals. They can be steamed and tossed in butter or olive oil, or cut up and added to casseroles and stews. They will keep for three days when stored in the refrigerator so enjoy them fresh until you are ready to cook them!
Cabbage (Brassicaceae species)
Cabbage is a cool season vegetable that can be harvested from 70 to 90 days after planting. It is in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower. It is native to Europe and Asia, but was brought over to America by the first English settlers and quickly became popular. There are many varieties of cabbage, including early growth, late growth, round headed and flat headed cabbages.
The most popular variety in the U.S. is the smooth green cabbage.
Cabbage grows best in cooler weather and can tolerate both cool and warm temperatures, although it grows best when the temperature is between 65-75 degrees F. It prefers full sunlight, but can grow in partial shade. It has a high nutritional value and is a good source of potassium and vitamins A, B and C.
The main growing season is during the spring and summer months, but you can harvest cabbages in fall and early winter.
To begin, you will need to select a good location for your plants. You want to pick an area that has full sun for most of the day. It should be level ground with loose soil that is high in organic matter. Avoid planting in areas that have recently had chemicals or pesticides applied.
Prepare the bed where you will be planting by using a spade to cut through the top layer of soil and digging up about a foot deep of the area you plan to plant. You can use the spade to turn over the soil. Also, you can mix in some rotted manure with the soil that you dig up. If you are planting more than one row, dig out rows that are two feet wide and eight feet apart.
Once you have dug up the soil, you can fill in the bottom of the hole with some sand or gravel. This allows for better drainage and reduces the amount of water that is absorbed by the soil. It also improves the quality of the bottom of the root. If you are planting more than one row, use the spade to dig out a two foot wide row between each row.
This allows you room to walk between the rows.
Plant your seeds once your prepared rows are full of soil. Each variety of cabbage will tell you the spacing of the seeds and how many per foot, but they are all relatively the same. Plant the seeds at least half an inch deep. Once you have planted your seeds, gently push the soil in around them to ensure they aren’t going to shift during growth.
Water the rows well to settle the soil and ensure good contact with the seed.
You should prepare and fertilize your soil one to two months before you plan to plant. This will give the soil time to settle and ensure that it is ready for your plants when you are planning to put them in. Your county extension office can tell you what types of fertilizer work best in your area.
Once your rows are planted, keep the area free of weeds. Water regularly, but don’t over water. One good soak a week is enough for most gardens.
Your plants will start to grow quickly and begin to form their cabbage heads. Once they reach this stage, the most important thing is to not let them get too much water, which causes them to split and ruin. They don’t need as much water once they have formed heads.
Harvest time can take place from fall to winter, depending on the variety you planted. Once your heads are big and round, you should be able to pull them out of the earth easily with some effort. They should be ready to eat soon after harvesting.
Once you have picked your last head, leave the plants in the ground and mulch over them with some wood chips or leaves. Come spring, these will rot and you can till the bed to prepare it for next seasons growing.
All varieties of cabbages are ready to eat once they have fully formed. You can eat them raw or cooked. Raw, they taste best in a slaw or shredded into a salad. Cooked cabbage can be boiled, steamed, or even turned into sauerkraut.
You can store your cabbages in the fridge for up to two months if you put them in a plastic bag and remove any extra air before sealing it.
Cabbages can be eaten at most meals and compliment almost any food. They are high in cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants, and vitamin C.
Growing your own cabbage is a great way to save money on groceries and give yourself a fresher, healthier food option.
Sources & references used in this article:
Influence of crop background on aphids and other phytophagous insects on Brussels sprouts by JG SMITH – Annals of Applied Biology, 1976 – Wiley Online Library
EFFECTS OF INTERCROPPING WITH SPERGULA ARVENSIS ON PESTS OF BRUSSELS SPROUTS by J Theunissen, H Den Ouden – Entomologia experimentalis et …, 1980 – Wiley Online Library
GC-EAG-analysis of volatiles from Brussels sprouts plants damaged by two species of Pieris caterpillars: olfactory receptive range of a specialist and a generalist … by HM Smid, JJA van Loon, MA Posthumus, LEM Vet – Chemoecology, 2002 – Springer
Some effects of weed control on the numbers of the small cabbage white (Pieris rapae L.) on Brussels sprouts by JP Dempster – Journal of applied ecology, 1969 – JSTOR