Growing cabbage is a frugal and sustainable way to tap into the many gardening and nutritional benefits of this cool-season crop. Related to kale, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cabbage (Brassica oleracea), is a productive and versatile cruciferous vegetable that's fairly easy to grow and care for. Plus, growing ornamental cabbages is an easy way to bring color and life to a drab fall garden.
When it comes to planting cabbage, the key is timing. If you get that right, you should have a pretty easy time growing cabbages in your garden. Just in case though, here are some tips on how and when to grow cabbage plants that should get you off to a good start:
- Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart, with a good 18 to 30 inches between rows. (This gives them plenty of room to grow.)
- To prevent common cabbage pests, grow red cabbage (since it's less prone to garden pests), cover young transplants and seedlings with garden fabric or collar young plants with fabric at the base.
- If the heads start to crack, give immature cabbage plants a quick 1/4 rotation. (This breaks roots a bit to decrease water intake.) Otherwise, if plants are mature, just harvest them (as mature heads will start to split when they're ready to come out of the ground).
While growing cabbage plants is easy, harvesting these big, sturdy fall vegetables can seem a little daunting. Don't worry, reaping what you sow isn't nearly as difficult as it may look. The key is to put off harvesting until heads are firm, shiny and mature. Then it's just a matter of finding the harvesting method that works best for you.
The ultra-easy way to harvest cabbage is to just grip and rip your cabbage plants right out of the ground. It's a bit of a workout, but it works!
Another (and in my opinion better) way to harvest cabbage is to cut the stalk right under the head. If you harvest your cabbages this way, you can leave some basal leaves at the top of the stalk that will encourage new growth of smaller heads. It's an easy way to get double duty from your cabbage plants and make your garden more productive.
While red cabbage is the most nutritious of all the different types of cabbage you can grow, the health benefits of growing cabbage are many, regardless of cultivar. Nutrients found in cabbage include vitamin K (and we're talking over 80% of the RDA in just one serving); vitamin C (over 50% RDA per serving); fiber; vitamins B6, B1, B2 and A; folate; omega 3 fatty acids; potassium and manganese. Oh, and cabbage even have a bit of protein (about 5% RDA per servering). That's a lot of antioxidant capacity and nutritional variety for one chunky vegetable. Plus, cabbage has been sited in numerous studies as a top food for natural cancer prevention.
Do you grow cabbage? What varieties do you like best?
(Images graciously provided by miccala, cwsillero and bwilhelms. Thanks!)