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June 19, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Growing Cabbage

  • Growing cabbage with care results in amazing harvests everytime. They can be planted to provide crops all the year around, or whenever you prefer. 
  • By choosing the right cabbage varieties, with enough land, and by sowing and transplanting at the correct times, then a non-stop harvest can be yours.
  • Cabbages are extremely hardy members of the brassica family, which thrive in cold damp winters and are capable of withstanding temperatures which would destroy many other crops.
  • Remember when following the suggestions below on planting cabbages, that the terms spring, summer and winter refer to the season that the cabbage is harvested in, not when it is planted.
  • Because cabbage is suited to most temperate climates and soils and also require minimal attention, they are one of the easiest crops to grow.

Sowing Cabbage outdoors in seed beds

  • Plan a succession of sowings from mid spring until early summer for a long period of harvesting. 
  • For a mid to late summer crop, sow the seed thinly in late winter in seed beds protected by poly-tunnels or cloches. 
  • Plant into permanent position during mid to late spring 30-40 cm (12-15″) apart each way. 
  • Protection from severe weather may still be necessary during this time. 
  • Cabbages grown outdoors should be transplanted when four or five cabbage type leaves have appeared.

Sowing indoors in pots

  • If you have a greenhouse, cold frame or cloches – growing cabbage from seed can be made easier and more convenient, especially if you don’t have a large garden or allotment to accommodate a proper seed bed.
  • Sow cabbage seed in a tray filled with seed compost bought from your local gardening centre. 
  • Water thoroughly and place them inside their protected environmen. 
  • When the first two leaves have formed prick them out into 7.5cm (3″) pots filled with potting compost.
  • Plant them into these pots a little deeper – to just below the two leaves – water in well. 
  • Leave plants to grow on until tall enough for planting out by following the growing instructions above.

Buying commercially grown seedlings

  • Commercially grown seedlings can be bought and planted on the same day, whereas if you want to use your own seedlings you have to start growing them at least four weeks ahead of when you want to plant them. 
  • They are also good as stop-gaps for when seedlings you are growing yourself are not ready in time. 
  • Commercially grown seedlings are much more expensive than buying seeds and growing your own seedlings. 
  • If you were to list all the different varieties of vegetables available as seedlings you would only fill a few pages, but if you were list all the different vegetables listed in the various seed catalogues and for sale in nurseries you would end up with a very large book. 
  • Growing your own seedlings opens up a Pandora’s box of what can be grown as seedlings.
  • Commercial seedlings are grown under ideal conditions with plenty of water, heat and fertiliser to grow them as quickly as possible. This tends to produce seedlings that are more likely to be stressed when first planted in the garden as they are not used to the tougher conditions.
  • Most commercial seedlings are grown hundreds of kilometres from where they are sold and a lot of fuel is used to truck them across the country. Transporting seeds uses much less fuel. Also the punnets that they come in are only used once. If you grow your own seedlings not only will less fuel to be burnt but the punnets and pots used to grow the seedlings can be used over and over again.

Planting out

  • Once the seedling (whether grown outdoors in a seed bed , indoors in a pot or bought from a garden centre) has reached the size of the plant on the right, then it is time to plant out in its permanent position.
  • Chose a fairly sunny spot that has not had another brassica planted on it in the last 3 years. Crop rotation is an essential requirement to ensure that you do not suffer from club-root.
  • Dig the growing plot in the autumn and work in some manure or compost. 
  • The soil must not be acidic, so liming in the winter may be necessary. 
  • Some humus must be present, but this should not be freshly applied.
  • A week before planting apply a fertiliser. 
  • Cabbage require a firm soil, so do not fork over the plot prior to planting, but remove any weeds or stones with a rake.
  • Plant the seedlings about 30cm (12″) apart, in straight rows to make the subsequent care as simple as possible.
  • A layer of garden compost around (but not touching) the plants will conserve water, prevent weeds and deter insects pests.
  • Where you have no garden compost, covering the surrounding soil with a weed control fabric will do exactly the same job and that will last for many years. 

Care of Cabbage

  • Cabbages sown in spring do not require a great deal of care, but do not allow them to dry out as this will affect their growth. Water liberally during hot and dry weather. 
  • Hoe around the plants during the growing period to control the weeds and aerate the soil, which will also deter insect pests from laying their eggs. 
  • Cabbages are greedy feeders and require plenty of fertiliser during the growing period. 
  • As the plants mature, some of the leaves may turn yellow. Break off these discoloured leaves as soon as they appear.
  • One major enemy of your attempt to grow vegetables are birds – especially in country gardens, they particularly seem to like brassica plants. The only reliable protection is suitable bird netting.
  • Protect the smaller plants from sparrows and the bigger mature plants from wood pigeons.
  • Apply a foliar feed during summer as the plants respond very well to this. Far more nutrients are absorbed this way than by feeding at the roots.

Harvesting and Storing Cabbage

  • Cabbages are ready for harvesting when the hearts are firm. 
  • Lift the entire plant with a fork and cut the roots off at a later stage, or, cut the stem just above the base of the lower leaves, and discard the outer leaves which are too coarse for eating. 
  • Mature cabbages with a good firm heart, and in good condition, can be stored in a cool, airy frost proof shed for several weeks.
  • Place the cabbages on a rack made of wood or chicken wire, do not stack them on the ground. 
  • Once the cabbages have been cut and stored, the crop has now finished and the ground can be cleared.

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