Available in many shapes and colors, cabbage forms large, dense heads of thick, fleshy leaves that are delicious eaten cooked or raw. Typically grown as an annual, this cool season vegetable is a fleshy-leaved, short-lived perennial that originates from the coastal areas of western and southern Europe. Chinese or napa cabbage belongs to another species, B. rapa.
Cabbages are categorized by their texture and color. Most have smooth, ribbed, somewhat leathery leaves with a strong pungent flavor. These can be green (from pale grassy to deep emerald, often with blue overtones) or red (with burgundy-purple hues predominant). Savoy cabbages are distinct in having heavily crinkled, thin, mildly flavored leaves. Most cabbages have an outer layer of larger, spreading, more deeply hued “”wrapper”” leaves. Cabbages also vary markedly in size and days to harvest, with early-maturing varieties bearing much smaller heads than later ones. Vigor and flavor decline with heat. Although cool weather enhances flavor, plants may flower (or “”bolt””) in extended chilly spells. Cabbage heads may split if not harvested promptly. Somewhat cold-hardy, cabbages can be grown as a winter vegetable in areas such as the Lower Southeast United States and western California.
This cool weather crop prefers full sun and fertile, organic-rich garden soil with ample drainage. Plant seed or transplants in early spring, or in summer for fall or winter harvest. For an extended harvest, plant both early- and late-cropping varieties. Plants may produce a second crop of side sprouts from the “”stumps”” of the harvested heads.
Cabbages are rewarding to grow and well worth the effort. As with all members of Brassica oleracea, they are susceptible to a number of pests, including cabbage loopers and several other types of caterpillars.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Annual – Edible
Red, Green, Purple, Light Green, Blue Green, Dark Green
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
For a spring-planted crop, buy transplants at a nursery or start seedlings indoors 50 to 60 days before the last spring frost date. Harden off transplants over the course of a week or two, then plant them in the garden two or three weeks before the last expected frost date. Space early-maturing cabbages 12 to 15 inches apart, either in beds or single rows; later types, 18 to 24 inches apart. For fall crops, sow seeds directly in the garden. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart, thinning plants to the proper spacing.
When cabbages are 4 to 5 inches tall, thin or transplant to stand 18 to 24 inches apart. Apply a thick layer of mulch to retain moisture. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Contact your local county extension office for controls of common cabbage pests such as aphids, root maggots, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.
Once a head is full size and firm when you squeeze it, cut it off near ground level with a sharp knife. If left too long in the garden, the head may split. After the main head is harvested allow the stub to regrow. Often it will form several smaller heads that you can harvest later in the season.
Beet, celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, onion, potato, spinach. Chamomile and garlic improve growth and flavor.