Growing Cabbage

Posted on 07 April 2011

If you have judged cabbage by the pale, often strong- tasting heads sold commercially, you will be surprised to discover the delicious flavor of the vegetable when home grown, as well as the variety of rich colors and leaf textures available. You can choose from among several red varieties and the crinkly leafed “savoy” varieties, in addition to the green cabbages.

Cabbage should be planted to mature during cool weather. You can grow spring and fall crops where the cool but frost-free growing season is five months or more in length. Plant early varieties or hybrids in the spring; these mature in 7 to 8 weeks from transplants. Later varieties, such as the king-size kraut cabbage, need up to 12 weeks to mature from seeds and should he planted after midsummer for fall harvest. Winter cabbage can be grown in mild-climate areas, but the heads tend to burst and send up flower stalks as a result of warm spells.
Recommended varieties. Early miniatures are ‘Dwarf Morden’, ‘Earliana’. Early to midseason varieties are ‘Resistant Golden Acre’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, ‘Emerald Cross’, ‘Harvester Queen’, ‘Greenback’, ‘King Cole’, ‘Salad Green’ (for tole slaw). Red types are ‘Red Head’ and ‘Ruby Bell’; late-maturing varieties are ‘Premium Flat Dutch’, ‘Savoy Chieftain’.

How to plant. Plant cabbage in a different spot every year to avoid pests. Spring cabbage is usually grown from plants to gain three to four weeks time. Grow fall cabbage from seeds sown in the garden after midsummer. When buying spring cabbage plants, look for a light purple cast to the leaves. This indicates that they have been properly hardened-off.Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep. Transplant them 24 to 30 inches apart. Make sure to set in the plants to the same depth that they grew in the flat and to firm the soil around the roots.

Care. Grow cabbage rapidly with frequent light applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer and regular watering. Cabbage responds favorably to the cool, moist soil conditions produced by a mulch of hay or straw.
Pests. Aphids are prevalent and persistent pests. Contr61 them with a soapy water spray or use rotenone or malathion (note label precautions).
The most serious pest of the cabbage is the green cabbage worm, the larva of a small, white butterfly often found hovering over cabbage patches in late spring. Cabbage worm feeds on the tender young leaves, producing ragged holes, and often burrows into the heads. Good control can be achieved by using one of the dusts or sprays for chewing insects; Bacillus thuringiensis and rotenone are effective.
You can control cabbage root maggot,-a small, yellowish white maggot that tunnels into the roots and causes plants to wilt, by spraying the ground around young seedlings with diazinon.

Harvesting. Begin harvesting heads when they are firm and about the size of a softball. Cut just beneath the head, leaving some basal leaves to support new growth of small lateral heads. (See Brussels sprouts for directions for storing heads.) A light frost won’t hurt them, but don’t allow the heads to freeze before harvest.

In containers. Deep roots and large heads make most cabbage impractical for containers. Exceptions are flow ering and miniature forms or Chinese cabbage harvested while young for salad greens.

The main secret to successful culture of this delicious vegetable is the planting date. Except for some hybrids, Chinese cabbage quickly shoots up flower heads during the long days of summer, so spring plantings are risky except in the cool northern tier of states or along the Western coast fog belt. Elsewhere, delay planting until after midsummer, when the shortening days and cool weather will permit heads to grow to a large size before extremely cold weather freezes them. Chinese cabbage matures in 65 to 80 days from seeds sown directly in the garden.

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