Grow Your Own

Cabbages

Cabbages come in different shapes, sizes and colours, and with a little planning it's possible to pick them fresh nearly every day of the year. They can be used raw in salad or coleslaw, and have many uses when cooked.

Cabbage

Grow

Transplant the young plants to their final growing position when plants have five or six true leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level. Water well the day before moving, firm in well after transplanting and ‘puddle’ in the plants with plenty of water (this means filling the hole with water several times before adding soil).

Plant compact varieties 30cm (1ft) apart, larger varieties up to 45cm (18in) apart. Plant spring cabbages just 10cm (4in) apart in rows 30cm (1ft) apart - thin out to 30cm (1ft) apart in late February/March.

If you puddle in your cabbages well at planting, they will need little water. In prolonged dry spells, a thorough soak every 10 days will be enough. When the heads begin to form, generous watering will greatly improve head size. Feed summer and winter cabbages with a high-nitrogen fertiliser before they get too big.

Problems

Cabbage root fly: White larvae approximately 5cm (2in) long, feed on the roots just below the soil surface, stunting growth and causing plants to wilt and die.

Remedy: Grow under insect-proof mesh or horticultural fleece. Seedlings are most vulnerable.

Club root: Roots become swollen and distorted, and leaves become pale and yellow and wilt easily. Plants may die.

Remedy: Improve drainage and add lime to make soil more alkaline. Do not grow in affected soil.

More info on Club root

Caterpillars: A number of caterpillars will feed on brassicas, but the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies. You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves. They will also bore into the heart of cabbages.

Remedy: In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off. You can spray with pyrethrum, deltamethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin. Insect-proof mesh or fine netting (5-7mm mesh) can prevent egg-laying.

More info on Caterpillars

Harvesting

Cabbages are harvested by cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife. Cut a 13mm (1/2in) deep cross in the stump of spring and summer cabbages and you'll be rewarded with a second crop of much smaller cabbages.

Recipes

Nigel Slater offers up this garlic, ginger and spring onion that come together in this Thai-style brassica stir-fry.

Varieties

'Kilaxy': This summer cabbage has good club root resistance and has tasty firm, compact heads ready from late summer to autumn.

'Protovoy' AGM: This is a winter Savoy cabbage with dark green outer leaves and solid hearts.

'Duncan' AGM: A spring cabbage that produces a plentiful crop of small, pointed mid-green heads.


Buy now

Do now

  • Sow spring cabbage
  • Harvest summer cabbage
  • Feed winter cabbage
  • Water in dry spells

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