Growing up, my parents always planted some sort of garden come springtime. They would plant strawberries, zucchini, tomatoes and a variety of flowers. Nothing too crazy, just a little something. And, as I’ve mentioned before, that was the extent of my gardening experience. So, of course, as I have embarked on my own gardening journey, the idea of a winter garden never crossed my mind, until I started seeing all the different fall and winter plants popping up at Home Depot. Once that happened the husband and I went all in on planning and executing a winter garden.
Now initially, I had planned to document and share my cold season gardening experience. We planted corn and beets and greens and peas and, well as the title gave away, Brussels sprouts. But, if you follow this blog, this fall and winter was a nightmare for me and many of my plans sadly went out the window.
I’m still struggling to get my life back on track and it’s now mid-February which means, winter gardening is wrapping up and spring planning is in full swing. It no longer feels right to talk about my winter garden, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity entirely and decided, I’d at least share my experience with one of my more interesting and frustrating winter crops.
I am the weirdo that really likes Brussels sprouts, always have, so I was super excited to try my hand at growing my own. I’ve seen them at farms before and think they are just the most bizarre looking plant, which was just a bonus.
We didn’t start our plants from seeds, instead started with small established seedlings from Home Depot. We planted two, together in a raised bed with our corn (a single row that was a semi-failed experiment and a whole other story) and planted the other plants in grow bags, two I believe.
The growth of our Brussels sprouts was slow, but it was encouraging and exciting to see until our first obstacle/challenge arrived, cabbage worms. Shortly after our plants began to develop any sort of size, little green worms started devouring our plants’ beautiful leaves. It took some time, but we were able to finally keep the worms at bay with BT spray. We were never able to irradiate them, but we got them under control.
We thought things were finally going well again, and then one of our plants, in what seemed overnight, became engulfed in aphids. The entire plant was covered in little gray aphids. The infestation was so bad we had to give up the plant.
Down to three plants, one in a grow bag and two in our raised bed, we had to become super diligent about pests. We checked our sprout babies morning and night and we were quick to act any time something unsavory popped up. We started applying neem oil whenever we’d find annoying little pests.
Things again seemed to be under control, but for some reason our plants, especially the one in the grow bag seemed to have stopped growing. The plants weren’t wilting or anything, it was as if they had just frozen in time.
I hate to admit it, but at this point, I literally threw up my hands and said “I give up! They are yours now.” and left them to my husband.
He ended up giving up on the plant in the grow bag but continued to care for and monitor the last two plants in the raised bed. After a few more weeks, the husband gave up too, but one of the plants had developed a few good size sprouts. He plucked them and had me prepare them for lunch before destroying the plant.
Eating those Brussels sprouts sautéed in butter was the most amazing and frustrating gardening experience thus far. The Brussels sprouts had been such a pain in my butt, failed, little return on hard work and I did not want to attempt them again next fall. And then I ate them, and they were the most delicious Brussels sprouts I had ever tasted.
So, I guess I’ll be growing Brussels sprouts again next year.