How to grow better Cabbage

CULTURE: Cabbage (as well as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and related brassicas) is a heavy feeder and does best under fertile conditions with adequate soil moisture throughout the growing period.

EARLY SPRING CROP: Use early and midseason varieties. Sow 3-4 seeds/in. in flats, cold frame, outdoor seed bed or in 1-1 1/2″ plug trays 4-6 weeks before transplanting out. If possible keep soil temperature over 75°F (24°C) until germination, then reduce air temperature to about 60°F (16°C). Transplant outdoors 12-18″ apart in rows 18-36″ apart. Cabbage prefers cooler growing temperatures, between 55°-75°F (13°-24°C), optimum being 60°-70°F (16°-21°C), but will produce good crops under warmer, summer conditions.

FALL CROP: Use mid-season and storage varieties. Start seedlings as above in May and transplant to the garden in June-July. To ensure mature heads, seed the crop early in areas where heavy freezes occur early in fall.

WINTER CROP: Successful cabbage crops can be grown where winters are mild (temperatures rarely below 32°F (0°C)). Transplants can be set out from September to February in these regions.

DIRECT SEEDING: Sow 3-4 seeds 12″ apart, 1/2″ deep, rows 24-36″ apart, thinning to one plant in each group.

SPLITTING: Early varieties may split or burst at maturity or from rapid new growth if rain or heavy irrigation follows a dry spell. Splitting may be partially avoided by slowing a plant’s growth. To accomplish this, cultivate close to plants to sever some of the root system.

DISEASES: Adhere strictly to a preventive program including: (1) long crop rotations with non-cruciferous crops, (2) clean starting mixes and outdoor seedbeds, and (3) strict sanitation practices. Black rot, black leg, and Alternaria can be seed-borne.

NOTE: A disease-free test result means that in the sample tested, the pathogen targeted was not found. It does not guarantee a seed lot to be disease-free. However, no method of seed treatment can positively insure freedom from disease.

INSECT PESTS: Repel flea beetles and root maggots on young seedlings by covering with floating row covers from day of planting. Treat flea beetles with rotenone; pyrethrum if heavy pressure is observed. Cabbage worms and loopers: Dipel. Cutworm prevention: Cultivate soil 2-4 weeks before planting to work in cover crops and destroy weeds.

HARVEST AND STORAGE: Relatively young heads (still green and actively growing) store best. Ideal conditions are 32°F (0°C), 95-98% RH, and good air circulation. Store only disease-free heads.

DAYS TO MATURITY: From cool weather, spring transplanting. Subtract 10-14 days for late spring or early summer, warm weather transplanting. Add about 14 days for direct seeding.

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