How to Grow Cabbages


Cabbage has been in cultivation for 3,000 years or so, but the cabbage as we know it today is a comparatively recent development, probably dating from the Middle Ages. Cabbage can he found growing in the wild throughout Europe, from Britain to Spain, but the wild form is more akin to broccoli than the hearted varieties with which we are now familiar.

Cabbages come in various forms, mainly depending on the lime of year they are harvested – spring, summer, autumn and winter varieties are self-evidently named. These are all hearting cabbages, although spring cabbage is also available as “greens”, which are loose heads of green leaves, unlike the typical tight heads of blanched leaves. There are also a few other winter varieties, which are sometimes considered separately, such as the savoys (with their distinctive, crinkly leaves), hybrids between the savoys and winter cabbages and ‘January King’. The most distinctive of this group of cabbages is the red cabbage.

Some people have been put oil cabbage by having to eat overcooked leaves, but it has always remained a staple winter veget­able for gardeners, especially in country areas, and nowadays it is enjoying a revival in popularity as people increasingly appreciate its culinary potential.

Cultivation

Cabbages do best in an open, sunny site in a soil that is fertile but reasonably free draining. They do not like a soil that is too acid, and acid soil may need liming to bring it to pH6.5-7. This should be done immedi­ately after digging and before planting. Most gardeners sow cabbages in nursery beds and transplant them; others prefer to sow them in trays under glass; still others buy them as young plants from nurseries and garden cen­tres. The methods are basically the same for all types; it is just the liming that varies.

Thinly sow seed in shallow drills about l cm deep. Thin seedlings if necessary to prevent them from becoming drawn. After about five weeks, when they have four or five leaves, transplant them to their final position. Final spacing depends on the type and size. Plant using a dibber or trowel and firm the soil in well around the roots. Water well and keep watered until they have become established.

Spring cabbages can be sown in situ and initially thinned to 10cm/4in. In spring thin again to 30-38cm. Hoe regularly and keep free of weeds. Draw up some soil around the stems of over wintering varieties. Remove any dead leaves.

Young cabbages need protecting from birds. Wire guards are tight and easy to erect. They are also easy to store if they are made in short sections.

Harvesting

Cut the hearting cabbages when they have become firm. Use a knife to cut through the stem, just below the firm head but inside any loose leaves. Savoy cabbages taste better if they are harvested after they have experienced at least one frost. The leaves of spring cabbages are cut as required, a few being left to heart up if required.

Storage

Most cabbages are winter hardy and can be left where they are until required. Those with solid heads can be cut and stored in a cool place, where they will keep for a couple of months. Some varieties of red cabbages may not be as hardy and can be harvested in early winter and stored.

Pests and diseases

Cabbage root fly are a nuisance, but they can be deterred by placing a collar of roofing felt or a similar material around the plant’s stem. This prevents the adults from laving their eggs near the plant. Caterpillars are another problem. Cover the plants with netting in fleece to stop butterflies laving their eggs. Caterpillars can be removed by hand, but if you decide to spray, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Flea beetles make small holes in young leaves and should be prevented by dusting with the appropriate chemical. Slugs and snails should be controlled. The most serious disease is club root, which causes the roots to swell up. Any affected plants should be burned or destroyed.

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Related posts:

  1. How to Grow Spring Cabbage
  2. How to Grow Winter Cabbage
  3. How to Grow Turnips
  4. How to Grow Kale
  5. How to Grow Lettuce

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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