Cabbage when cooked well is a delicious, and nutritious vegetable that has suffered over the years from lack of imagination and over cooking by unaccomplished chefs. It is now extensively used in salads and Coleslaw the best varieties for this are some of the Savoy's, who are thin-leaved, tender, mild and tasty. Cabbage also plays a large part in many main course dishes. It is the oldest and most widely grown vegetable of the Brassicas group, and belongs to the mustard family. Other members of this group include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kale, and turnips. There are several different types of cabbage - round-headed, flat-headed for spring and summer sowing, the pointed varieties for spring sowing, special pointed varieties for autumn and spring sowing, large drum-head varieties and the red kinds for spring sowing; green and purple; large and small heads; flat, oval, conical and globular; Savoy types; and those with either smooth or crumpled leaves.
Cabbage plants need cool weather and therefore ideal for my own part of the country. They are easy to grow; they can be grown as transplants or the seed directly sown into the soil. Early types mature fast and can run to seed quickly so they must be harvested as soon as they are ready; later varieties mature in late summer or autumn when the weather is cooler so their growth is slower and can be allowed to remain in the ground longer. Late ones will keep well, up to 6 months when kept at 32F and at 98-100% relative humidity.
Cabbages will grow in all kinds of soils, though the varieties that are ready for use in spring prefer a lighter soil, which warms up quickly after the turn of the year and encourages the roots to grow earlier.
Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so spread plenty of manure in the bed at the rate of a bucketful to the sq. yd. make sure that the soil is not acid; apply carbonate of lime at 5 oz. (150g) to the sq. yd. unless the soil is chalky. The optimum pH is 6 to 6.5, greater than 7 the disease club root can take hold. Because they are a hungry crop, taking up a lot of nitrogen and potassium, it should be given frequent top-dressing of nitrate of soda, sulphate of ammonia or dried blood at the rate of ½ oz. (15g) per plant. Cabbage has shallow roots, so cultivation should be shallow. To ensure that the roots are kept cool and moist a thick mulch is an excellent way of doing this and it will help to keep down weeds.
A semi-shady seedbed is best that has been treaded after raking, then raked once more; scratch out drills ½ in. (12mm) deep and 6 in. (15cm) apart. Fertility for cabbages is relatively high so the seed should be sown thinly and a rake used to cover them up; the top should then be firmed with a rake head.
Plants grown as transplants may be planted out into beds that has been well watered the day before. With a dibber make rows of holes in the planting-out area 1 ½ ft. (45cm) apart, leaving 1 ft. (30cm) between the holes in each row.
Hoe between the rows to keep down the weeds. For those types grown over winter, should the soil be heavy, make a 4 in. (101mm) furrow between the rows to take away excess moisture. Poor environmental conditions during growth can lead to problems when the cabbage is harvested. High temperatures and low moisture can cause small plants and give low yield; they also lead to long stems and outer leaves to drop. Cabbage requires about 1 in. (25mm) of water per week, which should be given throughout the growing season to prevent splitting of the heads. It is a good idea to place a barrier around the plants; this can be a fine net or horticultural fleece, supported by strong, thick, wire stalks in a kind of cloche that will prevent flying insects from laying their eggs on the plants.
Harvesting The cabbages can be cut as soon as they have good hearts. Pull up stumps, put them on the compost heap.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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