CABBAGE -How to Grow This Popular Leafy Vegetable
The highly developed forms or varieties of Cabbage grown in gardens are descended from the wild Cabbage-of which the botanical name is Brassica oleracea-a plant native to various· parts of Europe. The Cabbage belongs to the Mustard family, Cruciferae; the botanical name Brassica is said to be derived from the Celtic name for Cabbage, Bresic.
Cabbage is one of the oldest recorded vegetables; several types, including Red Cabbage, were mentioned in early literature and seem to have been in general use 2000 years B.c.
Of the forms in modern cultivation some have pointed or elongated heads; in some the heads are rounded or rather flat. The leaves may be light or dark green, red or purplish, smooth or wrinkled-the latter usually being referred to as Savoy Cabbage or, botanically, Brassica oleracea bullata.
Commercially, Cabbage is divided into three seasonal groups, Early, Mid-season, and Late. It would be more accurate to say that some varieties develop to edible size more quickly than others. They take from approximately 60 to 110 days from the date of planting in the garden to harvest, but Golden Acre, a so-called early variety grows equally well in summer or fall and is preferred to any other by many home gardeners.
Cabbage is cooked as a green vegetable and is frequently eaten raw as coleslaw and preserved as sauerkraut and in pickle. It is high in its mineral and vitamin content. It is an important food for certain domestic animals; rabbits and chickens, if not given the whole vegetable, may be fed with the outer and coarser leaves.
Soils and Climate Preferred. Cabbage grows best in cool climates and must have well-drained soil. It will grow in any ordinary garden soil that is fertile and rich in humus. A light, sandy soil that warms up quickly in spring is most suitable for early crops.
Varieties and Seed Sowing. The number of days here given for each variety refers to the time from setting out the young plants to harvest. The number of days, normally 30-50, from seeding to planting, depends largely upon prevailing weather conditions. The earliest maturing variety is Golden Acre, a globular cabbage,
60-65 days. It is followed closely by Early Jersey Wakefield which has a pointed head, and a few days later by Copenhagen Market with roundish head. These varieties are not suited for storing. Another good 0-S Cross, requires 85 days to mature. It has a flat head and under ideal growing conditions weighs up to 10 pounds. Seeds of any of these varieties may be sown in very shallow drills outdoors as soon in spring as danger of a severe freeze has passed, and the soil is dry enough to work without adhering to the shoes. It will take 5-7 weeks before the young plants are ready for planting out in the garden. Earlier crops may be secured by sowing a seedbed prepared with sifted soil, in a greenhouse, hot bed or other environment where the temperature can be maintained at 50 degrees at night and where ample sunlight is assured. When the seedlings show their first true leaves they should be transplanted into fiats, or in a cold frame,
2-3 in. apart. They may, of course, be trans planted directly to the garden if weather conditions are favorable.
A selection of late or summer and fall-maturing varieties are Penn State Ballhead, which has a globular head, and, like Premium Flat Dutch, requires 110 days to mature. Perfection Drum head and Chieftain Savoy, both with wrinkled leaves, require about 90 days, while Mammoth Rock Red, requiring 110 days, is perhaps the best of the red varieties.
From New York southward, late season varieties may be sown early in June, but where severe frost is expected early, the plants should be big enough to set out by June 15 or earlier.
Spacing and Cultivation. Quality and quick growth go hand in hand, and the more light and air Cabbages receive along with moisture and fertility, the more certain will success be. Small, early-maturing varieties should be spaced 12-15 in. apart in rows 24 in. apart; heavier kinds re quire to be set 18 in. apart in rows 30-36 in. apart. They can be planted with a dibble or trowel, packing the soil firmly around the roots. Each plant should receive water immediately after planting. Shallow cultivation every two weeks controls weeds and conserves moisture. A thorough soaking once a week during rainless weather is most helpful and prevents the bursting of the heads which commonly occurs after rain that follows a long dry spell.
Cabbage draws much fertility from the soil, leaving it in an impoverished condition. Quickly grown heads are likely to be of the best quality and so a 5-10-5 fertilizer should be dusted between the rows a month after planting, at the rate of 25 pounds to 1000 sq. ft.; it should be well watered in.
Storage. Late varieties may be left in the garden as late as weather will allow but heavy freezes should be avoided. For storage they must be rather firm and should be handled carefully. Injured outer leaves should be removed. For outdoor storage a trench may be dug, the plants lifted, and the roots set in the bottom of the trench so that the stem is at an angle of 30-45 degrees. Straw, or even soil, may be placed over them in sufficient quantity to keep out frost. It is important that the trench does not hold excessive rain water.
If a cold shed is available, cabbages will keep well if hung by their stems from the ceiling. The atmosphere should be damp and the temperature above freezing. They may also be wrapped in wax paper and stored separately on shelves in a cool part of a basement or other cool room.