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Cabbage

UK Garden Centre - Information about Cabbages

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Features on the cultivation of the cabbage often begin with the statement that you can gather fresh heads from the garden all year round. This is quite true – by choosing the proper varieties, having enough land to spare and then sowing and transplanting them at the right time you can indeed produce a non-stop supply, but this concept does not always thrill the family. On the vegetable plot a cabbage plant wastes a lot of space for just a single head and in countless homes this head is transformed into a soggy, rather evil-smelling vegetable in the kitchen. Neither fault is necessary – as noted below you can cut-and-come-again with spring and summer cabbages, and the homely cabbage can be an appetising vegetable with a number of uses when properly cooked. In many catalogues a host of varieties are offered, and nearly all of them fall neatly into one of the three major groups – spring, summer or winter cabbage. The season refers to the time of harvesting, not planting, and nobody can quite decide what to do about the cabbages such as Winnigstadt which are ready for cutting in autumn. Some textbooks put them in the winter group – most catalogues and this guide class them with the summer cabbages. For something different try the red and the Chinese varieties – a new taste for an old vegetable.

Types
Spring; Summer; Winter; Savoy; Red; Chinese.

Seed facts
Don’t sow too many at one time – just a small row every few weeks.
Expected germination time: 7-12 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield per plant: ¾-3lb (750-1500g)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 4 years.
Approximate time between sowing and cutting: 35 weeks (Spring varieties); 20-35 weeks (Summer, Winter, Savoy and Red varieties); 10 weeks (Chinese varieties)
Ease of cultivation: Not difficult if you follow the cultural rules and if club root, cabbage root fly and other pests stay away.


Soil facts
· Cabbage requires well-consolidated soil, so leave several months between digging and planting. Some humus must be present but this must never be freshly applied.
· Pick a reasonably sunny spot for the site where the plants are to grow – you can use an area recently vacated by a non-brasicca crop. Dig in autumn – work in some compost or manure if the soil is poor. The ground must not be acid – lime, if necessary, in winter.
· About a week before planting apply a general fertilizer for all types except spring cabbage – this group needs to be grown slowly in a sheltered spot. Rake in Bromophos of cabbage root fly is usually a problem. Do not fork over the surface before planting the seedlings – tread down gently, rake lightly and remove surface rubbish.

Sowing and Planting
Sow very thinly ½ in (1cm) deep in rows that are 6in (15in) apart. Cover with soil.
· Thin the seedlings to prevent them from becoming weak and spindly. They should be about 3in (7cm) apart in the rows.
· The seedlings are ready for transplanting when they have 5 or 6 leaves. Water the rows the day before moving the transplants to their permanent quarters. Dip roots in Calomel Dust paste if club root is feared. Plant firmly and water in thoroughly.
· Allow 1ft (30cm) between the plants if the variety is compact – leave 1 ½ ft (45cm) either way if the variety produces large heads. With spring cabbage leave only 4in (10cm) between plants in rows 1ft (30cm) apart – the thinnings provide spring greens in March.
· Chinese cabbage has its own rules – see varieties.

Looking after the crop
· Birds are a problem – protect the seedlings from sparrows. Hoe carefully until the crop is large enough to suppress weeds.
· Water if the weather is dry. Always apply a liquid feed as the heads begin to mature.
· In autumn earth-up the stems of spring cabbage. During winter firm down any plants loosened by wind or frost.

Harvesting
· In March thin out the spring cabbage rows and use the young plants as spring greens. Leave the remaining plants to heart up for cutting in April or May.
· Cabbages are harvested by cutting with a sharp knife close to ground level. With spring and summer cabbages cut a ½ in (1cm) deep cross into the stumps – a secondary crop of small cabbages will appear from the cut surfaces.
· In most cases cabbages are cut as required for immediate use. Both red and winter white cabbages can be harvested in November and then stored for winter use. Cut off roots and stem, remove outer leaves and then place in straw-lined boxes in a cool, dry place. The crop should keep until March.

Varieties
Spring cabbages
These cabbages are planted in the autumn to provide tender spring greens (collards) in early spring and mature heads later in the season. They are generally conical in shape and smaller than the summer and winter varieties.
Durham early: Dark green and conical. Popular, especially as a source of spring greens. An early-maturing type producing medium-sized heads.
Avon Crest: Much harder to find than Durham Early, but it is just as early, less liable to bolt and the heads are somewhat larger. Like its well-known counterpart, the heads are dark green and conical.
April: Highly recommended – very early, compact and reliable. The shape is conical and there are few outer leaves.
First Early Market 218: The one to choose if you want a large-headed spring cabbage. The heads are conical and dark green.
Harbinger: A rather pale cabbage which is still popular despite its drawbacks. The heads are small, it dislikes really cold weather and it is more prone than most to run to seed.
Offenham-Flower of Spring: No worries about the weather with this one – it is very hardy. The conical heads are large and solid.
Spring Hero: Something different – a ball-headed spring cabbage. This F1 hybrid is both early and hardy, producing round heads which weigh up to 2lb (1kg) each. Sow in August, not July.

Sowing time: Mid July to mid August; can extend from early July to late August.
Planting time: Mid September to mid October; less usually from the beginning of September to the end of October.
Cutting time: April and May; can extend from the end of February to the start of June.

Summer Cabbage
These cabbages mature in summer or autumn. They are generally ball-headed, with a few conical exceptions such as the ever-popular Greyhound and the F1 hybrid Hispi. The normal pattern is to sow outdoors in April, transplant in May and cut in August or September. For June cabbages sow an early variety under cloches in early March and transplant in April.
Greyhound: The compact, pointed heads mature quickly, making Greyhound an excellent variety for early sowing.
Hispi: This modern variety is even earlier than the old favourite Greyhound. Same shape – dark green leaves and good flavour. Stands for a long time without splitting.
Primo (Golden Acre): The favourite ball-headed summer cabbage – compact and very firm.
Derby Day: So named because it will be ready for cutting by Derby Day from a February sowing.
Marner Allfruh: A useful variety for succession sowing – sow early for a July crop or in May for a late August harvest. Heads are small, solid and round.
Minicole: An F1 hybrid which is becoming increasingly popular. The small, oval heads are produced in early autumn and will stand for up to 3 months without splitting.
Winnigstadt: An old favourite – the large, pointed heads are ready for cutting in September or October.

Sowing time: Usually End of March to the beginning of May.
Planting time: Mid May to end of June; less usually from mid April to the end of June.
Cutting time: August and September; can extend from the mid June to the end of October.

Winter cabbages
These cabbages mature in winter. They are generally ball-headed or drum-headed, green or white, all suitable for immediate cooking. The white varieties are also used for Coleslaw and can be stored for months. The normal pattern for winter cabbages is to sow in May, transplant in July and cut from November onwards.
Celtic: The new crown prince of winter cabbages – an F1 hybrid of a savoy and a winter white cabbage. Ball-headed, rock-hard, blue-green and capable of standing for months without splitting.
Christmas Drumhead: The early one – dwarf, blue-green and ready from late October.
January King: Drum-headed savoy type of cabbage – you can tell it by its red-tinged leaves. A December-January variety.
Holland Late Winter: The old favourite white cabbage for coleslaw and storage.
Jupiter: A new F1 hybrid – dark green on the outside and white inside. It will store like a standard white variety.

Sowing time: Mid April to mid May; can extend from beginning of April to the end of May.
Planting time: July; can include late June.
Cutting time: November to mid February; less usually from mid October to the end of March.

Savoy cabbages
These cabbages are easily recognisable by their crisp and puckered dark green leaves. They are grown as winter cabbages but there is a wider harvesting span – there are varieties which mature in September and others which come to maturity as late as March.
Best Of All: The standard choice if you want a large drum-headed type which will mature in September.
Ormskirk Late: The other end of the scale – this old favourite does not reach cutting size until February or March. The heads are large and dark green.
Savoy King: This F1 hybrid has been hailed by many as the best savoy of all. The foliage is light green – unusual for a savoy, and the heads are unsurpassed for size. Sow early for a September crop.
Ormskirk Rearguard: A good choice if you want to gather the crop at Christmas. Ball-headed and medium-sized.

Sowing time: Mid April to mid May; can extend from beginning of April to the end of May.
Planting time: July; can include late June and early August.
Cutting time: Mid October to mid February; less usually from the start of September to mid April.

Red Cabbages
These cabbages are extremely popular in many parts of Europe, but Britain is an exception. We buy it pickled in jars and we see them on display in the supermarket, but we do not generally plant them on the vegetable plot. Grow it like a summer cabbage, cutting in early autumn for cooking or late autumn for storing over winter.
Niggerhead (Red Drumhead): The favourite variety, producing firm hearts which are dark red in colour. A compact plant suitable for the small plot.
Ruby Ball: An F1 hybrid from America – claimed to be an improvement on earlier varieties. There are few outer leaves and the round heart is firm. Ready for cutting in late summer.
Stockley’s Giant Red: Reputed to be the largest of all the red cabbages, but you will have to search to find a supplier.

Sowing time: Usually April to the beginning of May. Can include the end of March.
Planting time: Mid May to end of June; less usually from mid April to the end of June.
Cutting time: September to mid October; can extend to the end of November.

Chinese cabbages
These cabbages are the ‘chinese leaves’ sold by supermarkets. Tall and cylindrical, they look more like a cos lettuce than a cabbage. Cultivation is also uncabbage-like – sow about 4in (10cm) spacings in drills 1ft (30cm) apart, then thin to leave 1ft (30cm) between the plants. Bolting is the problem – do not transplant and remember to water regularly in dry weather. Loosely tie the heads with raffia in August.
Tip Top: Large – each head weighs up to 2lb (1kg), and is less likely to bolt than the older varieties.
Sampan: Another F1 hybrid with excellent bolt-resistance. The suppliers suggest sowing from April onwards.
Pe-Tsai: One of the older varieties – pale green and tall, up to 2ft (60cm) high. Do not sow before July.
Two Seasons: The newest of the F1 hybrids – claimed to be quite suitable for April as well as July sowing.

Sowing time: Usually mid July to mid August; less usually early April to the end of May and the beginning of July.
Cutting time: October; can also be from mid September to mid November.

Troubles
See Brassicas.


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