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Waxing poetic about the loved/hated Brussels sprout

Small, green, round cabbage-like Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk in a garden spot with dark brown soil.
lucentius/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Because of their strong taste and smell, Brussels sprouts are either beloved or maligned. If you fall into the camp that loves their cabbage-y taste, try growing one of the many varieties that do well in Vermont.

April is poetry month and what better time to share a poem, penned by Bob "Grandpa" Tucker in 1997, about a much maligned vegetable.

Brussels Sprouts

"Brussels sprouts, Brussels sprouts, throw the nasty rascals out!

Give us pizza! Give us meat! Give us anything that's sweet.

In the evening, how I hate to see you lying on my plate.

You're green and round and wide,

which makes you very hard to hide.

And so with milk I wash you down.

Even then I gag and I frown.

Though you're good for me, no doubt, a pox upon thee,

Oh, Brussels sprout!"

If you do love the strong cabbage-y flavor of Brussels sprouts, now is the time to start some from seed indoors under grow lights.

From there, the plants can be transplanted outdoors in early to mid May.

Brussels sprouts love cool weather, full sun, and compost-amended soil. And these plants will take all season long to grow. Brussels sprouts are frost-tolerant which means you can harvest into November and December!

These teensy, round mini-cabbages come in a variety of sizes and grow-times to fit your growing region and garden space, too.

For an early-season one, try Dagan. If you're looking for disease-resistant Brussels sprout plants, go with Nautic. A tall variety that grows late in the season is called Divino, while Redarling has red coloring on the Brussels sprouts which actually holds during the cooking process. And if you're short on space, Catskill only grows to about two feet tall.

These plants don't need much in the way of intervention from you, aside from two pests to watch for: cabbage worms and Swede midges.

If you grow broccoli or anything in the brassica family, you'll recognize cabbage worms. They are those green worms that eat the plant's leaves. To combat the worms, try an organic spray like bacillus thuringiensis to kill them off.

Swede midges are small aphids that also love plants in the brassica family. On Brussels sprouts, they attack the growth point. Doing so causes the sprout to unfurl as it grows, instead of keeping that tightly rolled ball shape.

Swede midges are harder to control but using a preventative measure can help with midges as well as the cabbage worms.

Cover the Brussels sprout plants with a material called micromesh. It's flexible mesh, similar to a window screen and keeps the butterflies that lay the larvae out. Deterring the butterflies from ever landing on your plants means no cabbage worms! This micromesh barrier keeps the Swede midges out, too.

Q: I grow peppers every year. They do well in Central Vermont, but I have trouble keeping them off the ground. They tend to droop and then the bottoms rot. Any healthy pepper practices I can try? - Laura, in Plainfield

A: Certain pepper plants grow to have a lot of fruit on them, become heavy and then lodge over. That an cause those soggy bottom pepper blues.

One way to keep the plants and peppers from drooping is to use small tomato cages from garden centers.

They're the perfect size for pepper plants and eggplants, too. Just place the small cages over the plants when the plant is young. As the plant grows, and peppers form, they will be supported by the wire cages.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes.

You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition with Vermont Public host Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublicWe've closed our comments. Read about all the ways to get in touch here.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.