Origin of Cabbages
Before we learn about the best way to plant cabbages, let us do some background check. This round shaped vegetable is a member of the food family known as cruciferous vegetables. It is a close relative to kale, broccoli, collards and Brussel sprouts. It is composed of a superimposed layer of leafs that form an edible head that forms on a short, thick stem. The roots are shallow and fibrous. This herbaceous annual or biennial vegetable is in the Brassicaceae family.
Different Varieties of Cabbage
There are around 400 varieties of cabbage grown worldwide. They come in different shapes, sizes and even colours. The most common however are:
Green cabbage, which is the most common variety. Consumed raw or cooked.
The red or purple cabbage that takes longer to mature so it is not as tender as other varieties.
Napa cabbage also called the Chinese cabbage. Eaten raw or cooked and is sweeter and softer than all varieties.
Savoy cabbage originating from Italy. Considered the most tender and sweet.
Factors to Consider When Planting Cabbages
We look at some pointers to follow to get the best yields from your cabbage patch.
Cabbage requires a relatively cool temperature and a moist environment to thrive. So consider your location or season before planting. Ensure the soil is the well-draining type. This is because, water logged soil will cause heads standing in water to split as well as rot. The soil should also be cool, rich and moist with a pH range of 6.5 for optimal growth. Let’s do this!
Best way to plant cabbages and Prepare Before Planting
Best way to plant cabbages include choosing the location, the variety and the best soil. Ensure to pick a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis. Preparation beforehand involves hardening the seeds a week in advance before planting. It refers to the gradual process of helping the young plants accustom to outdoor conditions. That is the strong sun, cold nights and less-frequent moisture over a 7-10 day period. Hardening-off seeds is an important aspect as it reduces plant stress. Move them to a sheltered place outside for a week, protecting them from the wind and sun at first. Gradually raise exposure as you monitor the seeds. Failure to which, the plant may suffer from shock and may die.
The other thing is preparing the garden. Clean up and prepare the rows. Add nitrogen to the soil by incorporating bone meal, aged manure or compost in the soil. You can either plant seeds directly, or start indoors to produce transplants. The transplants are planted soon as they have 3-4 leaves. Plant the seeds 0.25 inches deep, with 4-6 inches between plants and 12-14 inches apart in the rows. Smaller spaces mean smaller heads. Determine size depending on the size of heads required. Mulch thickly to retain moisture as well as cool the soil. This also ensures an unwanted crust will not appear on the soil surface causing uneven germination. The optimum temperature for cabbages is 60\Fº- 65Fº.
Note that cabbages are very heavy feeders. That is, they quickly deplete the soil of required nutrients. Fertilize two weeks after transplants, soon as they start developing new leaves and forming heads. Get a balanced fertilizer to meet their growth requirements and facilitate optimal development. Three weeks later, a nitrogen rich fertilizer is highly required. So add that to your plants to nourish them. Keep the cabbage evenly watered to ensure development of tight heads. Uneven watering will cause these heads to split.
Another thing to put into consideration is that due to the cool temperatures, some garden pests or even diseases could attack your plants. Some of these pests include aphids, slugs as well as snails and thrips. Some of the diseases affecting the cabbages include black rot, clubroot and powdery mildew.
When and How to Harvest Cabbage
The days to maturity for most of the green cabbage varieties is approximately 70 days. Mature heads will split. Harvest your cabbages depending on the required and desired head size and firmness. Using a clean sharp knife, cut each head at the base. Remove the yellow leaves and discard those or compost. Keep the green loose leaves to protect the cabbage while it is in storage. Provide shade for the cabbage to avoid drawing excess moisture and making the leaves shrivel and dry up.
Another alternative is uprooting the whole plant, roots and all. Then proceed to cut out the heads. For double crops, cut out the heads and leave the outer most leaves and roots intact. New smaller heads will start developing to harvest and eat.
After harvesting those smaller second heads, uproot the entire stem and root system. Compost ONLY the healthy plants and proceed to destroy the infested ones.
Dry the cabbage. It is ready for storage in the fridge, wrapped in plastic for up to two weeks.
Cabbage keeps up to three months.
With cabbage, it is highly advisable to practice crop rotation to avoid soil borne diseases.