I’m going to sing the praises of the lowly cabbage. I love the way cabbage looks in the garden, rows of large firm heads with a huge leaves are very impressive, and make me look like I know what I’m doing. Okay, so that is not a very good reason to grow cabbage, how about the fact that cabbage is high in vitamin C and low in calories. Cabbage recently has been shown to have disease-preventive properties as well. Head cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) is by far the mostpopular. Hard-headed cabbage is a crop plant that was developed in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. Soft-headed cabbages such as the savoy type are believed to have originated earlier in southern Europe. Cabbage is a major table vegetable in most countries of the temperate zone. Cole slaw, a salad of grated cabbage, originated in Holland and is extremely popular in the United States. Cabbage soup is a traditional country dish throughout Europe.

The heads of different varieties range in shape from pointed, through globular, to flat; from soft to hard in structure; through various shades of green, gray-green, and magenta or red; and 2 to 7 pounds in weight. They also are suitable for different uses. The less-hard varieties must be used more or less promptly after harvest for salads, in cooking, or for sauerkraut. The very hard, late-maturing Danish type is suited to winter storage.

Cabbage is a cole crop, related to broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. It can be successfully grown on most soils if drainage is good and the crop is supplied with adequate water and nutrients, particularly nitrogen. Light-textured soils usually produce earlier crops but heavier soils hold more moisture and tend to produce crops that hold quality longer at maturity. Cole crops have shallow root systems. So frequent  shallow watering is preferred to deep waterings. Rainfall or irrigation following a prolonged dry spell may cause splitting of cabbage. So supplement the water on a regular basis. Cole crops grow best between 60° and 70°F. Late varieties will continue to grow at fall temperatures as low as 41° F, but few varieties make much growth above 78°F. Which is why I have such success growing cabbage, this describes my season exactly. Properly hardened mature cabbage plants can withstand temperatures as low as 25°F for short durations. Cabbage plants "bolt" (form premature seedstalks) when they are exposed to low temperatures (35 to 45 degrees F) for extended periods. Such chilling may happen if plants are set out too early or if an unseasonable blast of cold assaults the garden. Cabbage is the most heat tolerant, but prolonged high temperatures cause puffy heads with long cores and increased tipburn. Quality deteriorates and plants develop bitter flavors and a tough texture. So timing is critical for those in the southern climates, plant in winter for a early harvest. Late cabbage must be started during the heat of mid-summer, but it develops its main head during the cooling weather of fall. Late cole crops can be seeded or transplanted in an area cropped to lettuce, peas, spinach, or snap beans but should not follow radishes or other crucifers. Rotate cole crops to avoid planting in the same area more frequently than once in four years.

Cole crops need a fertile soil for high yields. Make sure your soil is well supplied with potassium and some with phosphorous. A soil test can determine phosphorus needs. Apply manure or compost and work into the soil before planting. Cabbage may be transplanted or seeded directly in the garden. When setting out seedlings, if possible, place them where some protection from the sun is available, either natural or artificial. Try to transplant on cloudy, overcast or rainy days for minimizing shock from the direct sun. Rows should be 24" to 36" apart with transplants set or seedlings thinned to 12" to 18" apart. Plant seed about 1/4" deep. Proper spacing for seeded plants is best accomplished if two seeds are dropped in one place and later thinned to a single plant before they become overcrowded. I give them a liquid fish fertilizer about two weeks after they’re up, but a compost tea would work nicely too. Cole crop roots grow near the surface, so cultivation and hoeing should be shallow. This is particularly important as plants increase in size and root injury is more likely to occur.

Weeding is  usually necessary until plants are about half grown to shade the soil and reduce weed competition. I use a thick mulch around the seedlings to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture. Aphids, the larvae of diamondback moths, cabbage loopers, and other worms are common cabbage pests. I use Bacillus thurengiensis (B.t.) for control of cabbage worms and an insecticidal soap for aphid control. It is best to apply products containing B. t. late in the evening, as ultraviolet rays will destroy this material. Applications will need to be made every five to eight days. Use of resistant varieties and crop rotation are the best ways to avoid cole crop diseases. Fusarium yellows and black rot are common problems in soils formerly planted with cole crops. Resistant varieties are available and usually will tell you on the seed packets or in the seed catalog. Good soil drainage will reduce the occurrence of various bottom rots and seedling diseases. So add lots of soil amendments to improve drainage. When you find diseased plants in the garden, collect the leaves, stems and tops; and burn or dispose of them. Do not put diseased plants into the compost pile.

Cabbage can be harvested anytime after the heads form. For highest yield, cut the cabbage heads when they are solid (firm to hand pressure) but before they crack or split. When heads are mature, a sudden heavy rain may cause heads to crack or split wide open. The exposed internal tissue soon becomes unusable. Harvest and salvage split heads as soon as possible after they are discovered. In addition to harvesting the mature heads of the cabbage planted in the spring, you can harvest a later crop of small heads (cabbage sprouts). These sprouts develop on the stumps of the cut stems. Cut as close to the lower surface of the head as possible, leaving the loose outer leaves intact. Buds that grow in the axils of these leaves (the angle between the base of the leaf and the stem above it) later form sprouts. The sprouts develop to 2 to 4 inches in diameter and should be picked when firm. Continue control of cabbage worms and other pests. If this doesn’t work remove and destroy or compost the stumps, because they serve as a breeding ground for diseases and insect pests. Some years I get the little sprouts, some years the aphids get them. Nonheading varieties of cabbage (similar to flowering kale) have been developed for ornamental uses. They have colorful white, pink or red rosettes of leaves surrounded by green or purple outer leaves. Most colorful during cool fall weather, they should be started in early summer to midsummer and set out with fall and winter plantings of regular, heading varieties of cabbage. Flowering cabbage (and flowering kale) are edible as well as ornamental.

The most popular and successful method of preserving cabbage is pickling. Kimchee and sauerkraut are fermented, pickled products which take days to make. Both are made by immersing shredded cabbage in a salt solution strong enough to kill off pathogens while allowing beneficial bacteria to grow. Follow the instructionsprecisely. If too little salt is used, the cabbage spoils; too much salt prevents fermentation. Try adding cabbage seeds to your supply for sprouting, they’re delicious and may have some cancer fighting properties. To harvest seeds for planting or sprouting, plant at least three seed-bearing plants of cabbage, because many Brassica flowers will not accept their own pollen. Cabbage, like its cousins-broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and cauliflower, is cross-pollinated by insects and will cross readily with these other members of the species. Keep flowering stands of seed crops 200 feet apart or plant a row of tall growing plants between  varieties to throw bees off course. In the fall select firm, ready to eat heads. Pull them up, root and all, trim off the largest outer leaves and store the heads either in the root cellar (or refrigerator, cold basement or unheated spare room) or in dirt trenches well covered with soil. Keep cellar-stored roots damp and cold. Replant the heads two to three feet apart in early spring. They’ll send out a long seed stalk, which rises directly from the cabbage core. Make a criss cross slash one inch deep into the top of each head so that the seed stalk can exit more easily to the light and air. Pick the thin dry pods when they’re brown, or harvest the whole plant when pods are yellow and let it dry further if you’re saving a lot of seeds. Cabbage seeds ripen gradually and tend to fall off when they’re ripe. Remember that world cabbage day is on February the 17th every year, mark it on your calendar. :o)


Insecticidal Soaps- Recent research indicates that certain detergents or soaps can effectively reduce populations of certain soft bodied pests such as aphids, mites, leafhoppers, plant bugs, and thrips. Insecticidal sprayed soaps kill insects and mites by disrupting cell membranes and causing cells to burst. These products usually require thorough spray coverage and multiple applications. Use soaps or detergents with caution, as leaf injury is possible with certain plants.


A bulb should always be planted at a depth at least twice its size. When you plant a bulb, ensure that it doesn't remain suspended between the sides of the planting hole. The bottom of the bulb should be in firm contact with the soil so that the roots will take hold. If there is an air pocket under the bulb, it may begin to rot.


Leaf lettuce, carrots, turnips and tomatoes are excellent garden companions and do best when planted in close proximity to one another. Carrots can be improved in both growth and flavor by being grown as a companion with chives.


When transplanting seedlings, always handle by the leaves and not the stem. The delicate cells in the stem can easily be crushed which will often kill the plant. If a leaf is accidentally damaged, the plant will recover.




sow seeds in trays in spring, take cuttings in summer in a cold frame, or layer plants in autumn. Plant in well-drained, alkaline soil, in a sunny place, sheltered from wind. Some forms are tender and may need protection in winter.

Dyers Madder

sow seeds or divide plants in spring or autumn and plant in deep wel-broken, alkaline soil in full sun or semi-shade. Also called dyer’s cleavers.

Common Sorrel

sow in spring, thinning seedlings to 12 inches apart, or divide roots in autumn. Grow in rich, moist soil and keep well watered. Gather leave frequently and remove flower stems to extend cropping.


Wild Edibles-

(I have been asked to include this in my newsletter. It may make it too long. Please let me know if you find it so, and I will cut down on the length)


the center bud, or caudex (fleshy, cabbage-size center of the plant from which the leaves radiate), available year-round, is edible-preferable steamed, roasted, or boiled. In the past, Native Americans prepared the buds by digging firepits and building a large fire. When the fire died to coals they placed the buds on the coals and covered with vegetation and soil and let them steam for two days. The steamed buds were simply peeled and eaten or mashed, formed into cakes and sun dried for later uses. The dried product also makes a nourishing beverage when crumbled finely into water. The taste has been described as a combination of turnip, squash and pineapple. The flowers can be boiled and eaten or dried and later steeped into tea. Women in Mexico boil the flowers and mashed them into patties. They season them with herbs and sautéed them. The seeds are nutritious and can be ground into flour.



“God made rainy days, so gardeners could get the housework done.”




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