Grow Your Own Cabbage
Brassica oleracea var. bullata (Savoys)
Brassica oleracea var. capitata (other cabbage)
Plants in this group are characterized by the large terminal bud which forms the familiar cabbage. Careful management and choice of cultivars allows the gardener to have mature cabbages available throughout the year. All arewhich we treat as and the large number of cultivars may be divided into two groups: those which are sown in the spring to mature in the summer, autumn or winter, and those which are sown in the autumn to mature in the spring. Spring sown types may go to seed or ‘bolt’ if sown too early and exposed to cold winter weather, while autumn sown types may fail to heart if sown in the spring. In each group there are round-headed (ball-headed) and pointed types, while F1 hybrid and open-pollinated cultivars of each are now available.
Cabbages may also be classified according to their season of maturity. Spring cabbage may be cut either before a heart forms—spring ‘greens’ or ‘collards’—or when hearted; Summer/Autumn cabbages are cut from late May until October;—frost resistant types with wrinkled leaves—are mature from September until March; Red cabbage—traditionally used for pickling; and Winter cabbage, which may either be cut and used from the garden or cut in the autumn and used from store. Some late maturing cabbages have distinctly flattened heads and are referred to as Drumheads.
All cabbages prefer rich, deep soils which are moisture-retentive—but well drained— and which have had plenty of well-rotted organic manure. They should not be grown inthat grew brassicas the previous year, but the danger of club root can be reduced by liming if necessary.
Spring-sown crops which are to mature before early autumn, and which must bulk up rapidly, need readily available supplies of nitrogenous fertilizer and water, while those which are in season during the colder autumn and winter periods will need to be more hardy and receive fertilizers where the nitrogen is balanced by potassium. Fertilizer programmes depend largely on soil analysis but assuming a reasonably fertile soil, well-supplied with, you can expect to give a base dressing of 50g per m2 (2 oz per sq yd) of a general fertilizer, such as fish and bone meal, immediately before transplanting. The difference in nitrogen requirement between early and later maturing types can then be given in the form of top dressings with fertilizers such as Nitro-Chalk at 25 to 50g per m2 (1 to 2 oz per sq yd) as needed. Autumn sown cabbages will probably follow a crop such as , or beans and may not require any fertilizer before planting. They over-winter as relatively small plants and must be encouraged to grow rapidly in the spring by applying, and hoeing in, nitrogenous top dressings (see above). Freely drained soils are essential for these crops to ensure that plant roots do not become waterlogged over winter and in order that new growth may begin early in the spring.
In January or February you can make the very earliest spring sowings in cold or slightly heated greenhouses or frames (10°C/ 50°F). Cabbages from these plants will be ready for cutting in late May or June. Either sow thinly directly into the frame or greenhouse soil—in drills 1cm (1/2in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart—or sow into seedtrays. In the latter method, prick out the younginto other seedtrays—containing a proprietary potting —when they are large enough to handle. Space them at 5cm x 2.5cm (2in x 1in ). The seedlings will be ready for planting outside at the end of March or in early April. Planting too early in a cold spring may cause the cabbages to run directly to seed. Other summer and autumn cabbages along with Red cabbages and Savoys are sown in outdoor seedbeds during April or May and planted out in June and July. Once again sow thinly in drills 1 cm (1/2in) deep and 20 to 30cm (8 to 12 in) apart.
Late July and early August is the time for autumn sowings of hearting spring cabbage with the plants being put out in September and October. Use the seedbed technique described for summer and autumn cabbages. Spring ‘greens’ are best sown in late July in their final positions with the shallow 1-cm (½-in) drills spaced 30cm (12in) apart. Once the seedlings have one or two true leaves, thin them to 8 to 12cm (3 to 5m) apart in the rows. If a general purpose cultivar is grown —that is one which can be used either for spring ‘greens’ or cabbage—then the thinnings from the ‘greens’ rows may be used as the transplants for the cabbage crop.
Transplanting and crop management
Water the plants well in their seedtrays/ seedbeds before lifting. They should then be removed with as little root damage as possible and, having removed any diseased and otherwise unacceptable plants, the remainder should be size graded before planting.
Water the plants in immediately after planting to get them off to a good start. Early maturing types must be encouraged to grow-rapidly by top dressings and frequent waterings in dry weather. Hoe between the plants to keepdown until the rosette leaves of the cabbages meet together. The soil around spring maturing types will tend to become compacted during the winter and this should be broken up when the fertilizer top dressing is hoed in during the spring. You may have to deal with cabbage root fly in late May, while caterpillars and aphids will almost certainly attack the plants in August/September.
Harvesting and storage
You can cut most cabbages whenever you need them. They will taste all the better if picked when fresh and crisp. Summer types will soon get past their best if not harvested regularly, but autumn and winter types have been bred for their long-standing qualities. Red cabbage is best harvested in the autumn while the white, winter cabbage types should be cut in November or December and stored in a cool, dry, frost-free shed. Before storing the cabbage, trim the heads neatly to resemble a football; all traces of rotten or damaged leaves should be cut off with a sharp knife. The heads can be stacked pyramid fashion and should be inspected regularly for rotting leaves. Peel them off and throw them away. This method of storing white cabbage—or Dutch white cabbage as it is sometimes called—is widely-practised in the Netherlands where it is grown in large quantities. Its importance has increased in Britain recently, not only as a cooked vegetable but also as an ingredient in winter salads and coleslaw.
Pests and diseases
The main, which have been previously mentioned under Brussels sprouts and , are aphids, cabbage root fly, caterpillars, flea beetles, birds, whitefly and club root, damping off, wire stem and frost damage.
cabbage ‘Best of All’: produces large heads in September. ‘Ormskirk-Rearguard’: dark colour, good in severe weather and in colder districts.
Winter cabbage ‘January King’: hardy drum-head ; November-March. ‘Christmas Drumhead’: dwarf, compact heads. ‘Winter Salad’: solid white heads, stores well in a cool, airy place.
Red cabbage ‘Ruby Ball’: F1 hybrid, heads stand well, November. ‘Large Blood Red’: large solid heads.
Spring cabbage ‘April’: a compact cultivar, resistant to ‘bolting’. ‘Durham Early’: early maturing, medium size. ‘Harbinger’: very early, small hearts.
Spring ‘greens’ ‘April’; ‘Durham Early’; ‘Harbinger’: may all successfully be used for spring ‘greens’ as well as ‘First Early Market’: general purpose cultivar.