Cabbages are very easy to grow plants and belong in every serious vegetable garden.
Red cabbage is the same tasting plant – for the same purposes – except it’s red.
When to Plant
If you want very early crops, sow the seed 8 weeks before you intend to plant them in your garden, in flats about .5 cm deep (too deep kills them).
The easiest way to do this is lay the seed on a firmed bed of soil and then barely cover them (so you can just NOT see them) with more seedling soil.
Keep the soil temperature fairly high 22C. is minimum – and you’ll see seedlings in 4 to 5 days. Once they emerge, drop the temperature immediately to 12-14C or you’ll produce long, leggy seedlings for sure.
They do require full sunlight or again, they’ll get long and leggy.
About 4 to 5 weeks after seeding, they should have four true leaves (not the tiny seedling leaves) and be ready to transplant into a jiffy pot, a small flower pot or a transplanting pack. You want them to develop their own roots. Approximately ten days before you want to plant them start leaving them outside in the daytime to harden them off. You want a tough plant, not a tender seedling that will croak under wind and sunlight. Bring them in at night to protect against frost and cold winds.
Note that if you harden them off properly, a very early crop of cabbage can be put into the ground about the same time as you can dig and prepare the ground. (usually late April or early May in my garden). Hardened off plants can stand quite a bit of frost.
Where to Plant
You can grow cabbage in just about any soil although well-drained, fertile soil is best. Soils high in organic matter produce the best crops. Even moisture levels are important as well to stop splitting. You’ll often see cabbage splitting later in the season when they are given water after a dryish spell – they grow so fast they split.
How to Plant
- Cabbage is generally planted 45 cm apart in rows.
- You can direct sow cabbage although direct sowing is generally reserved for later crops.
- Sow seed in late May or early June about .5 cm deep. Sow at 1 seed / 3 cm and thin to one plant every 45 cm as they grow. Harvest when the leaves start touching – you’ll get small baby-cabbages early on and much larger harvests when they mature.
- The early cabbages need indoor starting if they are to be early. These guidelines are generally for all kinds of cabbage growing.
Stopping Cabbage From Splitting
The old timers used to drive a shovel down beside the plant to cut off half its roots when it got big enough to harvest and eat.
This prevented the plant from taking up too much more water and splitting. Enough roots remained to keep the plant alive and healthy.
Five Cabbages From A Single Plant
When you harvest cabbages, cut them away from the stem.
This gives you a nice clean head of cabbage and it leaves the roots intact and still growing and producing energy. If you rip it out of the ground or twist it off, then these roots are disturbed.
We want those roots to keep growing because we’re going to go for a second crop of cabbage.
Yes, you can easily get a few more cabbages from the same plant if you use a knife to harvest the main head.
- After the head is cut off, make two cuts across the remaining stump.
- The cuts will be in the shape of a cross and leave four equal quadrants of the stump.
- The cut should be approximately one to two cm deep (1/2 inch) but don’t obsess over this – close counts.
By making four equal quadrants, you’re going to find the cabbage will scab over the original cut pretty quickly and then if you keep watering the plants, you’re going to find four baby cabbages growing; one on each quadrant.
They won’t get as large as the main cabbage was but with a bit of luck, a bit of fish emulsion to boost growth and plant energy, you’ll get another crop of small cabbages for yet another salad.