Cabbages are nutritious and easy to grow vegetables that many of us love to have in our veg plot – although not everyone likes them. They can conjure up images of school dinners for people of my age – a soggy, grey, overcooked cabbage mess on your plate! I was brought up in a Dr Barnardo’s home, where the only cooked cabbage that we knew didn’t resemble the vegetable, apart from an awful smell. If we didn’t eat it up, we were punished. So it isn’t on my list of favourites although my wife loves it.
These days there are many varieties which are different in colours, shapes and sizes. Moreover, cabbages are also diverse in their use. For instance, you can use them in coleslaw, salads and other dishes such as bubble and squeak – even stir-fries.
You can sow cabbages indoors in your greenhouse undercover for an early start or outdoors when the weather is suitable. Indoor sowing in the modular trays is the best option when you have limited space. You can transplant them outdoors later when time and space allow.
There is no doubt that open ground is the best place to grow the cabbages. You can still use a large and deep container to grow one or two cabbages, and the advantage is that if it is early in the season, you can put them in a sheltered and protected spot.
Generally, seeds beds away from the vegetable garden are the best place to sow the seeds. However, if you have enough space, you can sow them directly into the veg plot. I use a spare piece of the flower border, for example. Afterwards, you can transplant them to the vegetable garden. The less disturbance, the better.
Here are a few things that should keep in mind while sowing the cabbages:
- Never sow the cabbages in the place where you grew any crop from any brassicas (including the cabbages) last year.
- Start preparing the soil from autumn by adding mulch (garden compost or manure).
- Leave the mulch in the soil over winter. Adding mulch is essential because it makes the soil surface firm, and that is required to have well-grown cabbages.
- Ensure the seeds are 12-18 inches (30 – 45 cm apart and about half an inch deep. However, spacing requirements vary based on variety. So, carefully check the seed packets to know the exact space requirement for sowing.
Time of sowing based on cabbages variety:
All varieties of cabbages grow in the same way. However, the sowing time varies. Here is a guide re the sowing time for cabbages:
- Sow the spring cabbages from July to August. You can transplant them outdoors from September to October.
- Sow the summer cabbages from late February to early March. In addition, cover the place with cloches until May, then you can transplant summer cabbages following that.
- Sow the winter cabbages from April to May. You can transplant them from late June to July.
After sowing, you need to figure out the best time to transplant the plants outdoors. Just keep an eye on the crop. When you see five or six true leaves on your young cabbage, that is the time when you can transplant it.
The method to transplant the young plant is pretty simple:
- Water the young plants properly a day before the transplanting operation.
- Ensure the young plant’s lowest leaves are at ground level while planting them into the new hole.
- Fill the hole where the plant is several times before heaping up the soil around the plant.
The spacing in the young plants varies. For instance, you should Plant:
- compact varieties of cabbage 1 ft apart
- larger types of cabbage 18 in apart
- Spring cabbages of cabbage only 4 in apart,
Some other tips that you should follow during the growing period of cabbages are:
- Space the rows at least 1 ft.
- Soak the plant thoroughly in water every ten days
- Water the plant generously when the head formation starts
- Apply high nitrogen fertilizer to winter and summer cabbages before they grow big.
You can harvest the summer, spring and winter cabbages throughout the years. Generally, you have to give them a time of 6 months to grow.
- Harvest them once there is the formation of a firm head.
- Use a knife to cut the stem through the stem at the base.
Summer and spring cabbages can produce a second cabbage after harvesting if you cut them ½ inch deep across the stump.
Caterpillars, especially the white cabbage butterfly, eat brassicas. They make holes in the leaves. These holes even invade up to the cabbage heart. So, you will see either holes or caterpillars on the broccoli crop.
- Pick the caterpillars with your hand in the event of a mild attack.
- Fine netting (with 5-7mm mesh size) and insect-proof mesh help prevent egg-lying.
Birds, especially pigeons, can cause damage to the crop. They can eat seedlings, fruit, buds, leaves, and vegetables.
- Cover the plants with fleece or net.
- Bird-scaring or scarecrows could also help. Mind you – I have tried several bird scarers, and they do not work.
The plants with clubroot show the following symptoms:
- Roots become distorted and swollen
- Leaves become pale yellow
Even the death of the plant may also occur with this disease.
- Add lime to the soil. Lime will make the soil alkaline.
- Improve drainage
- Grow the plants in pots
- Avoid growing the plant in affected soil.
Cabbage root fly
It primarily affects the seedlings. The white larvae of cabbage root fly eat the roots. As a result,
- The growth of the plants get affected
- The plant will wilt or die.
Use horticulture fleece and insect-free netting over the crop
- Slugs and snails
These eat young seedlings, leaving a slime trail in the soil around your crop and on leaves.
You can use biocontrols, copper tape, sawdust and beer traps to control the slugs and snails.
I had to search for the different varieties of cabbage, as they are not my favourite vegetable. But I think I would like to give these a go:
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