Growing large heads of cabbage is a great way to create a beautiful garden. This cool season vegetable belong to a group of plants also known as cole crops. Cole crops are simply crops that belong to the mustard family (Brassica). Other cole crops include Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Turnips and Watercress.
Different cole crops need to be planted at different times. One thing they share in common is that they are best harvested before the heat of summer arrives. In cooler parts of the United States these crops need full sun but in the south where cool seasons are short, they can handle a partially shaded garden to help reduce extreme heat. Knowing your first and last frost date will help you get your crops in the ground at the proper time.
Cole crops can tolerate cooler temperatures far better than other crops and therefore we find ourselves planting them a good 4 to 6 weeks before our tomatoes and peppers. They often have a longer harvest date than warm season vegetables therefore getting a jump on the hot weather is crucial. Amending our garden with the proper amendments will assure that our plants produce to the best of their abilities also.
Cabbage like all cole crops, requires consistent watering as well as consistent nutrition. You can plant cabbage in the late winter or 4 weeks before your last spring frost date. For fall plantings, you will want to plant your young plants in the ground 6 to 8 weeks before your first fall frost date. Cabbage plants maturing in cooler weather produces a sweeter cabbage.
All cole crops prefer a soil pH in the range of 6.5 to 6.8 so incorporating lime to the soil may be necessary. Cabbage requires at least 6 to 7 hours or more of sun each day. Incorporate rich organic compost to the soil as well as applying a slow released vegetable fertilizer with micronutrients. Plant your cabbage plants where the stem is 1 or 2 inches deeper in the soil to give them good footing.
Most cabbage requires spacing of 12 to 24 inches. Larger head varieties can require 36 inches of spacing. Cabbage requires consistent watering and soaker hoses are great for watering below the plant. Cabbage requires 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week.
Mulching the soil helps hold in moisture for the plants as well as cooling down the soil. Be sure your plants receive 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Read our post on how to harvest broccoli.
Your Broccoli will need harvesting about 90 days after planting your plants. Warm summer temperatures will force them to bloom so be sure to harvest them as the buds swell but before they bloom, otherwise it will taste bitter. Fall harvests often taste better than spring harvests. In the wild, your broccoli will be smaller than that found in the grocery store, so don't wait for it to get bigger.
Plant cauliflower the same time as cabbage and after temperatures are below 75 degrees. Cauliflower demands cool temperatures but not freezing temperatures. Space your plants 18 inches apart. Cauliflower requires a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Incorporate rich organic compost to the soil as well as applying a slow released vegetable fertilizer with micronutrients.
It may be a little more difficult to have success with, as they require shading when temperatures heat up. Temperatures that are too hot or cold will force a plant into "buttoning". This is when a plant prematurely makes button size heads. Inconsistent watering can also trigger buttoning. Mulching the soil helps hold in moisture for the plants as well as cooling down the soil. Be sure your plants receive 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Because cauliflower likes it not too hot and not too cold, there are few climates perfect for growing. This is why about 75% of the cauliflower in the United States is grown in the valley regions of California.
4. Brussels sprouts
Start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last spring frost date. Transplant 2 weeks before last spring frost date. for a fall harvest, plant your Brussels sprouts in the mid to late summer. Like the other cole crops, brussels sprouts require 6 hours of sun or more. 6.2 to 6.8 is a good soil pH range.
Incorporate rich organic compost to the soil as well as applying a slow released vegetable fertilizer with micronutrients. Space your plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Mulching the soil helps hold in moisture for the plants as well as cooling down the soil. Be sure your plants receive 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Boron is a micronutrient needed in higher demand than other vegetables to keep plants healthy and to prevent plant from developing hollow stems. Borax laundry detergent can provide your plants with this boron if you find your plants have developed hollow stems then use 1 level tablespoon per 5 quarts of water over 50 square foot. MORE IS NOT BETTER!
Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest once the heads are 1 to 2 inches in diameter and the heads are firm and green. Twisting the heads will make them pop right off. Sprouts will continue through cold weather but stop producing after the first hard frost.
Collards are a great southern favorite and loaded with vitamins C,E and A and minerals like Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. Collards resemble a sweet cabbage in taste and taste best when leaves are young and when harvested in the cold weather. Collards grow best in full sun but in southern hot climates your spring planting will appreciate some late afternoon shade.
Plant your spring plants 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date. Summer plantings should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before your first fall frost date for your fall/winter harvest. Harvest leaves once they grow to 10 inches. Younger leaves are less tough and not as stringy. Pick lower leaves first, working your way inside.
Like the other cole crops, collards prefer consistent moisture throughout the growing season. 6.5 to 6.8 is a good soil pH range. Incorporate rich organic compost to the soil as well as applying a slow released vegetable fertilizer with micronutrients. Space your plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Mulching the soil helps hold in moisture for the plants as well as cooling down the soil.
Mature collard leaves can tolerate colder temperatures than most other crops. You can continue to harvest your plants until temperatures reach the teens. Protect young spring plants from a late spring freeze, as young tender plants do not handle frost.