How to Grow Cabbage
Learning how to grow cabbage is a much easier task than growing more difficult vegetables. Cabbage is well-suited for harvesting in both spring and fall and provides easy visual indication of its health throughout the growing season. Cabbage is part of a family of vegetables known as cole crop. The family also includes other vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi. Like other members of the cole crop family, cabbage grows best when it has consistent growth with moderate conditions throughout the entire year. With plenty of water, nutrient-rich soil, and proper fertilizer, any cabbage plant will produce prolific amounts of edible crop.
It is best to plant cabbage earlier in the spring so that they have time to develop far in advance of the wilting heat of summer. For most growth zones, plant cabbage a month before the final winter frost of the year. For gardeners moving plants from a protected indoor location like a greenhouse, these transplants are more vulnerable to cold conditions when they are first moved.
Home gardeners who are planting cabbage in the fall should plan on starting the plant in the middle of the season, months before the start of winter. Although these cabbage plants will be exposed to winter cold, any plants that are grown throughout cold weather become quite tolerant of winter conditions. The timing of cabbage growth determines the flavor and appearance of the final plant.
Cabbage requires a full day of direct sun. The more direct sunlight the faster cabbage will grow. As with other cole crop family members, cabbage also needs lots of water with very good drainage. To ensure nutrient-rich soil consider using organic fertilizer or other forms of food-safe compost. The best growing conditions for cabbage occurs with soil pH just under 7. While getting soil tested is the best way to find the optimal pH of the soil, generally home gardens fall within acceptable parameters for growth,.
It is imperative to give new cabbage plants high quality soil and lots of water as soon as they are planted. The initial growth conditions for the crop will determine its long-term productivity. Planting multiple varieties of cabbage provides the best opportunity for plants which will survive to produce fruit year-round. Individual crops should be spaced at least a foot apart to leave enough room for extended growth. A few inches of the root and stalk structure must be underground to ensure a secure foundation. For farmers who are looking for the largest possible cabbage heads, plant with even more space between crops.
Sufficient moisture is absolutely critical for cabbage plants to grow large heads. Consistent watering with proper drainage is the best way to give crops enough water on a daily basis. Fertilizer with a high-nitrogen component also aids in plant growth. Organic mulch, intended for use on edible crops, can provide a layer of protection against pests and excess water. Damp soil will also limit the growth of weeds which can quickly overgrow a cabbage patch.
Keeping your entire garden area clear of insects and pests is the best way to ensure a healthy cabbage plant. Unfortunately cabbage is susceptible to a long list of potential attackers including beetles, aphids, moths, worms, maggots, and slugs. The first sign of a problem is damage or changes to the cabbage leaves. Look for small holes in the leaves or the pests themselves hanging on to the cabbage heads. Other diseases such as rot and clubroot also attacks cabbage plants. Rotating crops within a specific growing area is the only way to effectively neutralize these threats from the soil.
Once the plant has grown to adequate size you can analyze whether it is ready to be harvested. By squeezing the head of the cabbage you can tell whether it is ready. The more firm and solid the interior portion of the cabbage head, the more ready it is for harvest. Weak or loose heads should be left in the ground for future growth. Depending on the type of cabbage variety, you may need to check individual plants quite frequently when it is close to harvest time. Leaving cabbage plants in the ground too long will cause them to begin rotting or molding on the internal portion of the leaves rendering the entire head inedible.
Cabbage is a stable vegetable used in a multitude of recipes. Cooking cabbage with protein is common in many types of cuisine. Eating raw cabbage as a salad or garnish is also a popular option. Cabbage heads are quite resilient once harvested and will last for several weeks in a refrigerator. Avoid freezing cabbage since the cold temperatures will damage soft leaves and change the taste of the vegetable.