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Brussels Sprouts and Aphids – a question came in to Ask Gardenerd this week from Jake: “My Brussels sprouts (repeatedly, year after year) just get hammered by aphids, yet the other plants in my garden go unaffected. How can I deal with these little punks?”
You’re not alone, Jake. Not only do Brussels sprouts take a long time to develop, they tend to be a motel for aphid invaders. I confess, aphids have taken down my own Brussels sprouts a time or two as well. Fall-planted sprouts tend to do better (cooler temperatures = fewer aphids), and it’s important to start with soil that has plenty of organic matter (for nitrogen as well as for holding moisture). Brussels need to grow uninterrupted, so keep them well watered. Inspect regularly for aphids and use a jet spray on the hose to blow them off. You can apply an insecticidal soap if aphids appear, but we’d rather you take this approach: plant beneficial insectary crops around your sprouts like nasturtiums, alyssum and other umbels like yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace. Let cilantro and parsley go to seed. Those flowers attract good bugs that keep aphids at bay. Feed your Brussels sprouts with worm castings. The chitinase, an enzyme in the castings, is taken up by plants and wards off bugs. Try different varieties, preferably one that is locally adapted to your region. We’ve successfully grown Rubine Brussels sprouts without any aphids at all.