When cutting the tops off your Brussels sprout plants, there are two different trains of thought. One side believes that removing the plants’ tops is unnecessary, while the other group thinks it is essential if you want your sprouts to grow well – but which one is correct? Should you cut the top off your Brussels sprouts?
You should cut the top off your Brussels sprout plants because it allows the plant to redirect its energy to maturing the sprouts. Cutting the top off will also help increase the production of your Brussels sprouts for an excellent harvest.
Brussels sprouts are super nutritious and relatively easy to grow, and cutting the tops off your plants will ensure a bumper harvest. This article will explore the advantages of cutting the top off of your Brussels sprout plants, how to top your plant correctly, and provide tips on the best methods to use when removing the tops of the plants.
The Importance of Topping Your Brussels Sprouts
Cutting the tops off of your Brussels sprout plants, also known as “topping,” can be very good for the plant and your harvest for several reasons.
The primary purpose of topping your plants is to help direct their energy where it is most needed. When you are getting close to harvesting, you want your sprouts to grow as big as they possibly can in the short time they have left.
When you top your Brussels sprout plants, they can focus their resources on increasing the size of their sprouts rather than on growing new leaves or continuing to expand their height.
Brussels sprout plants have the potential to grow several feet tall while they are maturing, which sounds like a positive about the vegetable initially. The downside is that their growth can become out of control, and they can get too tall, becoming top-heavy and potentially beginning to fall over.
Another downside of these plants’ height is that the sprouts will ultimately be stunted in growth since the plant focuses so much energy on making the stalk tall. If the nutrients go toward the leaves and stem rather than the actual sprouts, they will end up being smaller.
Other benefits of topping your Brussels sprouts include the following:
Reduces Upward Growth
When you remove the top of the stalk, there is no longer upward growth in the plant. It recognizes that it does not need to focus its energy on growing new leaves at the top and instead puts all of its resources toward helping the sprouts finish maturing correctly.
Accelerates Sprout Development
Chopping the stem also stops the plant from continuing to produce the chemicals it puts out that limit the expansion of developing sprouts. These chemicals have been assisting the plant with moving energy to leaf and stem growth, but when that chemical source ceases, the plant will begin to develop its sprouts at a more intense speed.
Ensures Even Sprout Maturation
You will have a much easier time when you go to harvest your Brussels sprout plants if you have removed the tops because all of the sprouts will have finished maturing at roughly the same rate and time.
Without topping your plants, sprouts mature from the bottom upward, so when you harvest them, they could all be at different stages of development. Removing the top allows you to harvest most of the plant at once.
How To Top Your Brussels Sprout Plants
Topping your Brussels sprout plants is a very straightforward process and, thankfully, does not take a lot of time or equipment.
The best time to start topping your Brussels sprout plants is when the buds grow consistently but have not reached full maturation. The bottom sprouts should have reached their full size, and the top sprouts still need to grow.
Your plants will likely reach this stage around three weeks to one month before harvest. Until then, trim the lower leaves off every so often to help the plant redirect its energy back into the sprouts.
When you have decided it is time to top your Brussels sprouts, all you need to do is:
- Sterilize the pruning shears you will use so they do not spread disease from other plants to your sprouts.
- Work through your Brussels sprout plants individually, separating the leaves at the top to reveal the growth head.
- Cut 1-2 inches (2.54 cm-5.08 cm) off the head at the top of the central vertical stalk, going no farther down than the first juncture.
Once you have cut the tops off, your plants should be encouraged to put all of their efforts into further sprout development, and you should experience an extended production of sprouts.
An excellent way to repurpose the tops of the Brussels sprout plants if you are just planning to throw them away is to use them as compost to mix into the soil or for other projects that require organic material.
Best Practices for Brussel Sprout Topping
Here are a few general tips and reminders to help you have the best experience with topping your Brussels sprout plants.
Keep Upper Leaves Intact
While the primary goal of cutting the tops off your Brussels sprout plants is to focus their energy on developing sprouts rather than leaves or the stem, it is important to let some of the upper leaves remain on the plant.
If you get rid of all of the main leaves at the top, your plants will not be able to soak in as many nutrients as they need from the sun. The goal of topping is to harness as much energy as possible for the plant to put into its sprouts, so taking away its central energy source would be very harmful.
When you cut off the head of your Brussels sprout plants, keep a few of the largest, healthiest leaves connected to the stem. They will assist the plant with collecting energy that it can use to grow more substantial sprouts.
Only Remove What Is Necessary
The purpose of topping may be to remove a good chunk of the stem so that the sprouts can flourish, but be cautious that you do not cut off too much of the central stalk.
If you take too much off the top of the plant, you may stunt its growth. If this were to happen, the plant would be unable to hold onto its nutrients. Rather than increasing in size, the sprouts would stop growing and could even die.
Pay close attention when going through the procedure of topping your Brussels sprout plants, and watch how many inches you cut off. It is better to cut too little off than too much.
Do Not Start Topping Too Early
If you notice that your Brussels sprouts take a while to grow, you may be tempted to start the topping process earlier than three weeks before harvest.
You should avoid starting to remove the plant heads too early because the plants could potentially become confused about where they are supposed to redirect all of their new energy.
With a lot of time left over before it is time to begin harvesting, the Brussels sprout plants may start developing new stalks in place of the one that you removed instead of providing its sprouts with nutrients to help them mature. Your plants will grow incorrectly, and you will lose out on an abundant crop of hearty sprouts.
If you are unsure when in the season you should top your Brussels sprout plants, you can hold off on doing it until you are confident that your plants do not need to grow much more. It is always better to do the procedure too late in the growing cycle than too early.
Cutting the top off your Brussels sprout plants will always benefit their growth and crop production since it helps the vegetables mature at a more incredible speed and size. As long as you do it in the correct time frame and use the proper techniques, your topped Brussels sprouts should thrive in your garden.
If you want to learn more about growing Brussels sprouts, you can also read my other article: Is It Worth Growing Brussel Sprouts? Five Things to Know