“In the night the cabbages catch at the moon, the leaves drip silver, the rows of cabbages are a series of little silver waterfalls in the moon.” – Carl Sandburg
People have been growing cabbage (Brassica oleracea) as a staple for thousands of years. Domesticated from a weedy Mediterranean sea kale, cabbage was grown by ancient Greeks and Romans, and by American pioneers. It is very cold tolerant and highly nutritious.
Cabbages are eaten stuffed, steamed, in salads and slaws, in soup and as sauerkraut. To store for the winter they can be pulled and placed roots down into a trench or hole, lined with mulch and then covered with mulch and soil. A simple and delicious way to store cabbage without refrigeration is fermented in the form of sauerkraut.
Charleston Wakefield – 4-6 lb. heads dark green uniform conical heads. A southern market favorite. 70-74 days.
Copenhagen Market – HEIRLOOM. This ole time Dutch variety is a gardener’s favorite featuring attractive blue-green colored leaves and compact growth. Produces 6-8″ 3-4 lb. round, solid green heads. 65-75 days.
Early Jersey Wakefield – HEIRLOOM. This early and very reliable cabbage features 5-7″ conical, solid, tightly-folded heads. Good overwintering variety with great flavor. 68 days.
Perfection Savoy – Dark green, deeply crumpled (savoyed) leaves. A cold hardy excellent keeper. Rich flavor is enhanced with frost. 90 days.
Red Acre – Small, compact plants with reddish-purple heads. The best red storage variety with resistance to cabbage yellows and splitting. 76 days.
Cabbage contains more vitamin C than oranges, as well as a large number of minerals, including iodine, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also got folic acid, beta-carotene, and flavonoids. The outer leaves of cabbage contain more Vitamin E and calcium than the inner leaves.
Plant cabbage seeds ¼-½” deep. Start indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last danger of frost date or direct seed (seedlings can tolerate a light frost). Plants emerge in 5 to 17 days. Transplant or thin plants to 15-18” apart in rows 32-36” apart. Cabbage can be direct seeded in succession up until late June for a continuous harvest. Cabbage prefers full sun, but will tolerate part shade.
Growing cabbage pulls a lot of nitrogen from the soil. It grows best in soil with a lot of organic matter, so mix in a 2-3” layer of compost or composted manure when you prepare the bed. It thrives in a pH range of 6.5-7
Cabbages do well when planted with herbs such as dill, cilantro, mints, rosemary, thyme, and chamomile. They are good companions to Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Nasturtium, Onion, and Tomato.
When it gets hot, keep the plants cool by watering and adding a layer of mulch. Cabbage is a heavy feeder, fertilizing with a shot of fish emulsion, compost extract, or compost tea as the leaves are sizing up can increase yields. Timely irrigation helps prevent splitting. Dryness stresses the plant, but then abundant water creates a surge of growth that splits the head. Cabbages like moderation in all things.
To help deter Cabbage worms, use row covers in the earlier part of the growing season – this will prevent moths from laying eggs on the plant. It also helps to manually remove cabbage worms if visible.
Cabbage Heads are ready when firm and when the interior is dense.