Cabbage: the Nutritious, Beautiful Two-Crop Vegetable

Cabbage, a member of the brassica family, is a cool-weather crop that is nutritious and beautiful. Some gardeners say that it is too much trouble to grow in their gardens, especially since is often inexpensive at the grocery store. But once you have eaten home grown cabbage you will never want to go back to eating store cabbage again. It is truly worth the effort of learning the likes and dislikes of this finicky vegetable. With care, you can grow two or more crops from a single planting.

Furthermore, cabbage is beautiful. Even the

Even more beautiful are the red and purple cabbages:

Can you imagine anything more lovely than these two beauties? There is a reason why large roses are sometimes referred to as “cabbage roses.” Just imagine a row of these backed by a bed of asparagus ferns.

But before we get to landscaping with cabbage, let’s talk about growing it. Because it is a cool weather crop with a long growing season, cabbage can be a little finicky. The key to growing good cabbage is to start it early, keep its toes cool, feed it at regular intervals and keep it well watered. It can be grown in a variety of mediums and situations: pots as a houseplant, hydroponics, straw bale gardens, greenhouse, flowerbeds and – of course in your vegetable garden.

What you will need to grow cabbage:

  • At least eight inches of rich, loamy soil, or an acceptable substitute
  • Six hours of light daily – natural or artificial
  • An appropriate growing season
  • Protective mulch
  • Even watering
  • Plenty of space between plants
  • A pest removal plan (for outdoor gardening)
  • Organic pesticide
  • Temperatures between 40 and 75 degree Fahrenheit
  • Slow release fertilizer or planned feeding
  • Either cabbage plants or seed
  • Starting flats
  • Protected growing space
  • Scheduled time for tending your garden
  • Compatible companion plants
  • Sharp garden knife
  • Emergency cold weather covering

Cabbage can be a challenge to grow, but start it right and keep up with it faithfully, and you will be rewarded with beautiful, tasty, nutritious cabbages. The method you select for your cabbage will probably be dictated by your personal resources. Here are the steps to growing cabbage such as can only be found in your garden or growing space.

1. Determine your growing space

Decide whether your cabbage plants will be grown in hydroculture tanks, pots, on your patio, in a flower bed or in your vegetable garden. Cabbage is a deep feeder. It needs regular fertilizer feedings, or it needs to be planted with a slow-release fertilizer. It is also particular about its companion plants – but more of that later.

  • Starting plants from seed: Cabbage can be started in flats or peat pots. In areas where the climate is moderate all year, it can even be seeded directly into the garden. It likes a pH of 6.2 – 6.6. A well mulched, with composted manure, growing bed will do very nicely. As with all vegetables started indoors, watch for damping off – a condition where webs grow in the pot. Also, cabbage is prone to develop woody stalks. Pots need to be watered adequately, but should also have good drainage. Peat pots are a good choice for cabbage starts, as it is susceptible to transplant shock.
  • Growing hydroponically: Cabbage can be grown hydroponically, just like many other leafy, green vegetables. In fact, it responds very well to the process. Use a nutrient bath (as mentioned above) with a pH of 6.2 – 6.6, EC (electrical conductivity) of 2.5 – 3.0, an keep the temperature between 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you garden hydroponically, you should be able to use a set-up like that for lettuce.
  • Growing as potted permaculture: Cabbage that will be kept in pots can be seeded directly in its permanent container. Since cabbage is susceptible to transplant shock, planting four or five seeds in a pot, then thinning back to one is a viable option. The pots should be at least eight inches deep to allow for development of a good root system.
  • Growing on straw bales: Cabbage can be grown on straw bales. This method can help with pest prevention, as well as cutting down on labor. Make sure to season the bales well with appropriate fertilizer, such as 14 -14 -14 for two weeks. Sprinkle fertilizer on the bale every other day, and water daily. This allows the nitrogen in the bales to be released from the decay process before planting. Use a garden knife or similar implement to cut six -inch holes in the straw. Sprinkle sterile potting medium in the bottom of the hole, hold the cabbage seedling in the center of it, and fill in around it with potting medium. Water and fertilize regularly on an even schedule. This promotes good growth, and helps to prevent the mature heads from splitting.
  • Growing in soil in either a vegetable garden or flower bed: If planting in soil out-of-doors, either buy seedlings or start seeds indoors. Plant the seedlings in the ground early – as soon as soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit consistently. Use row covers or caps to protect the seedlings in case of inclement weather or night frosts.

2. Managing your growing season

Check an almanac or similar reporting source to determine the average seasonal temperature and precipitation changes in your area. Or grow your cabbage indoors in a controlled environment.

  • Start early, when growing out-of-doors. Cabbage likes cool nights, and moderately warm days.
  • Maintain as even a temperature as you can for your cabbage plants. You can use mulch to keep their toes cool on sunny days, and even shade them with a cloth if necessary. Be care of the shade, however. Cabbage needs about six hours of good sunlight each day.
  • Start late: cabbage makes a fine fall crop. If your summer season is exceptionally warm, however, it can be a little tricky keeping the plants cool enough to make it into early autumn. Mulch and shade will help, or starting your plants indoors in a controlled environment.
  • Encourage a second season on one stalk: When you harvest your lovely heads of cabbage, cut the heads off above the bottom three or four leaves, using a sharp knife. Continue your watering and fertilizing regimen. The stalk is likely to put on one or two small heads in place of the original head.

I hope this article has sparked your interest in growing cabbage. Please leave comments and feedback about this article below, and share it if you like it. I would love to hear from you.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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