*Vegetable - Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)

PLANTS OF THE WEEK

Cabbage can be easy to grow if you choose suitable varieties and carry out good cultural practices and insect management.  It is very cold tolerant and will withstand temperatures down to 20F.  Cabbage grows best in fertile, well-drained soil with lots of added organic matter.  Full sun is needed for the best yield but cabbage will tolerate light shade.

Sow seeds indoors 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date.  For a fall crop you can plant seeds outdoors 10-12 weeks before the first frost.  There are many varieties available; by choosing ones with varying maturity dates you can prolong your harvesting period.  Plants can be spaced 12-18" apart in rows depending on the variety and the head size desired.  The closer the plants, the smaller the cabbage head.  A liquid starter fertilizer applied at the time of transplanting is recommended. Adequate soil moisture is necessary throughout the growing season to produce good cabbage.  Watering is especially important in fall plantings to help the young plants withstand the heat of summer and to supply the developing heads with ample water to develop quickly.  Cabbage has a shallow root system so roots can be easily damaged by cultivation.  Adding an organic mulch will help to keep the soil cool and moist, protect the roots and help with weed control.

Harvest when the heads become firm, the size will vary with variety and spacing.  When heads are mature they are prone to splitting in response to any stress or a sudden heavy rain.  To avoid splitting you can space plants closer together, choose varieties that resist splitting, or wait until the heads are firm, then twist the plant to break some of the roots.  To help reduce disease, do not plant cabbage or other cole crops in the same location more than once every 3 years.