Cabbage is a healthy, versatile crop that can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Make cabbage soup, cabbage rolls, coleslaw and many other side dishes and entrees featuring this nutrient packed food. Containing more vitamin C than an orange and a great source of iodine for immunity, calcium and magnesium for your bones and vitamin E for your skin, cabbage is a health powerhouse.
Cabbages like to be planted alongside herbs such as dill and rosemary and some ornamental, non edible cabbages are prized for the unique color they add to the garden.
Best Soil for Growing Cabbage
Your cabbage patch should be in loose, richly organic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Prepare it well ahead of planting time by adding compost. You can put other additives into the soil such as calcium and boron to encourage a better crop of cabbage and boost the initial growth. Plant cabbages in full sun, but partial shade will also work.
When to Plant Cabbage
For an early start to the season, start cabbage indoors by planting them in seed pots and maintaining a warm temperature over germination and sprouting. You should plant greenhouse cabbage seeds about 4 to 6 week before the last frost date and transplant out right around that time. The seedlings will be a good size and will deliver a crop earlier.
Direct sowing into the garden can happen in late spring without worry as these plants can take a light frost or two. Itís a good idea to continue sowing cabbage seeds in a staggered schedule until the end of June, that way you can enjoy an extended harvest season.
How to Plant Cabbage
Sow cabbage seeds in small pots about ľ to ĹĒ below the soil surface. Lightly cover with soil and keep moist. Once the seedlings are ready to transplant, soak the root ball with a liquid starter fertilizer or compost tea and place them in the garden rows with 15 to 18Ē between them. Rows should be about 3 feet apart.
Proper Care of Cabbage
Cabbage plants like to be moist, but wonít tolerate being soggy. Donít overwater and try to apply the water on the soil instead of the plant itself. Use a soaking hose or low sprinkler system to make this work.
They are also heavy feeders and require regular fertilizer and organic additives. Mix compost gently into the surrounding soil every so often and side dress along the rows after the transplants have been in for two to three weeks. This method of feeding involves mixing your preferred fertilizer, composted manure or compost tea along each row of cabbage about 1 foot from the base of the plants.
When to Harvest Cabbage
Be patient. Cabbage takes 90 to 95 days from seed sowing to maturity. You can watch the head of the fruit, when it is firm the time for harvest has arrived. A split open head is a sure sign of the cabbage being past maturity, although that can also happen if the plants have had too much water or food.
How to Harvest Cabbage
Once the head is firm, it can be cut off just above the soil and brought inside. Store harvested cabbage in the crisper for optimum flavor, but eating it sooner rather than later is best. Cabbage can be harvested one layer of leaves at a time, much like lettuce and spinach, but the leaves tend to be more brittle and wonít come off as easily.
Cabbage Pests and Diseases
Cabbage worms are the common enemy of your cabbage garden. These little critters actually show up because when the moths lay their eggs on the young cabbage plants. Use row covers on the seedlings to discourage this and youíre bound to see less cabbage worms. Once worms are present, youíll need to remove them by hand. As the plants mature, the threat of cabbage worms decreases.
Good companion plants for cabbage are onions, potatoes, celery and beets. Planting these crops together will help them to thrive and also sets up a natural system of pest control.
Tips and Tricks for Growing Cabbage
Cabbage is an easy vegetable to grow and is less work compared to other leafed veggies such as lettuce and spinach. Itís also simpler than cauliflower, which is actually in the same family of vegetables but needs more specific attention to thrive.
Watch the moisture level of your cabbage patch and maintain an even level of watering. Feeding is just as important to produce a good crop and harvesting while the heads are ready is essential. Otherwise the overripe heads will take up space and nutrients in the garden.
Enjoy this super nutritious food on your table. Experiment with a wide variety of cabbage recipes, including pickled cabbage to extend the cropís value through the winter.