As you are reading this there are many gardeners who are tucking into meals containing homegrown cabbage as a major ingredient. The gardener with a mouthful of cabbage had the foresight to set seed in March or April, coaxing it along through the various growth stages up until now.
For those of us currently cabbage-less there is no time like the present to sow our own crop. The cabbage available to sow during July and August is spring cabbage. To clear things up spring cabbage is sown in late summer, the "spring" in the name relates to its time of harvest.
So, spring cabbage varieties can be sown into firmed soil during July and August. These green varieties generally have pointed or conical heads, much smaller in size than summer and winter varieties. Three varieties to look out when buying seed are as follows...........
(1) Durham early.
If you want dark green conical heads with a nice texture and flavour, then this is the variety for you. It's also one of the earliest to harvest as heads in April or as spring greens in Feb/March.
Much more compact conical heads on this cabbage making it suitable for small plots where space is limited (even containers). Another bonus is its resistance to bolting or running to seed.
(3) Spring Hero.
Unusual for a spring cabbage this is a ball-headed variety, light green in colour. This light colouration is continued to its centre where it ends up almost cream in colour, definitely to the benefit of your dishes visual appeal. Being ball-headed Spring Hero once mature holds well its shape for longer than the conical varieties.
Once you've secured your seed it's time to start sowing...
Sowing.In your weed-free and lightly raked growing area you must create a ½ inch (1cm) deep drill/trench with the tip of your trowel. Sow the seed thinly along the drill ensuring you have at least a seed ever 2 or 3 inches. This reduces the amount of thinning required and consequently reduces the risk of attack by cabbage root fly.
Create as many drills as you like at 6-inch (15in) intervals. Any seed not required for sowing that year should be kept dry as it has a life expectancy of 4 years.
The expected seed germination time is approx 10 days. Thin the seedlings once they sport four leaves or more, leaving a single plant at each 3-inch interval, watering the crop well afterwards. If you have space in your garden you can replant some of the thinnings as a bonus.
Transplanting.The young plants should be ready for transplantation to their final growing spot around Mid-September to the end of October. They will be about six weeks old, between 2 ½ -3 inches (6-8cm high), and with about 6 leaves. I suggest you water the ground deeply around the young plants the day before you intend to move them, as this will prevent transplant shock.
Lift out the young cabbage plants from your seedbed with a trowel or hand-fork retaining as much soil around the roots as possible. Pop each transplant into a 4-inch deep hole, each one approx 12-14 inches apart. Allowing 12 inches (30cm) between each of the plant rows.
Don't worry that you are planting them too deep. The 4-inch deep holes will often swallow the plant up to its first leaves, but that will solve the problem of leggy wind-rocked stems. Plant the seedlings firmly, after which they should be well watered taking great care not to disturb the roots.
I am often asked why we transplant cabbage rather than leaving them to grow on untouched. Well, the main reason for transplanting cabbage is to encourage it to form a solid head, heart, and establish a sturdy root system. If seedlings are left to grow where the seed is sown, the cabbage heads can be of poor density.
Transplanting will give your cabbage plants that extra bit of sturdiness, which will see them through the winter. Fresh, green and ready to land on your plate the following spring. Enjoy!
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