Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Grow Cabbage in the North

Tropic Giant

Cabbage is a must-try vegetable, even in the north. Not only can it be eaten fresh in many ways, it can be canned, and depending on the variety, stores well in the root cellar. Growing cabbage in the north is pretty straight-forward under the right conditions. Choose an early variety and use transplants or start seeds indoors.

Cabbage Information

Vegetable Type: Annual
Name: Brassica oleracea var. capitata
Genus: Cruciferous Family

How to Start Cabbage Indoors in the North

When: In the north, start cabbage seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Harden off seedlings before transplanting them to the garden when all chances of frost have passed.

Supplies Needed

  • Seed Pots or Starter Trays
  • Loam/ Fertile Potting Soil
  • Cabbage Seeds
  • Spray Bottle w/Water

Fill pots ¾ full with potting soil
  • Place 2-3 seeds in each pot
  • Top seeds with ¼-½ inch of soil
  • Lightly spray with water
  • Place trays in warm area that receives natural sunlight 

How to Grow Cabbage from Transplants in the North

Cabbage is a heavy feeder and thrives in fertile, moist soil. To add nutrients to the soil organically, amend the soil with ½ inch finished compost or composted manure. Remember to rotate all crops to help prevent disease and a pest infestation.

When: After last frost date, typically mid April to Mid May in the north

Light: Full sun

Soil Type: Fertile, well draining

Spacing: 12-18 inches apart in rows 18-36 inches apart

Watering: Keep soil moist - about ½ inch of water a week

Fertilization: Work finished compost or composted manure into soil half way though growing season

Weeding: Gently cultivate around cabbage plants making sure not to sever roots. Mulch around plants to keep soil moist and prevent weeds

Care: Too prevent cabbage heads from splitting, plant a split resistant variety or sever a few roots when heads near maturity. Heads will stop growing but remain alive

Controlling Cabbage Diseases and Pests

Cabbage Worms/Loopers: Look for green worms and white cocoons. Handpick all worms and cocoons, drowning in soapy water. Use floating row covers to prevent pests.

Cabbage Cutworms: 1 ½ inch long striped/mottled caterpillars green, gray or brown in color. These pests chew through stems at ground level. Cover young transplants with floating row covers or burry cardboard collars around transplant stems at least 1-2 inches below soil level.

Cabbage Root Maggot: Caused by a fly laying eggs in cracks at the base of the plant or in nearby soil. Eggs hatch into maggots that feed on roots and stems. Cover young transplants with floating row covers.

Flea Beetles: Adults are 1/10 of an inch long and bronze, brown or black in color with long legs. They leave behind lots of small holes in cabbage leaves. Gently cultivate soil around plants to kill flea eggs. Control adults with floating row covers.

Aphids: Look for tiny, pear-shaped yellow, green or brown insects with long antennae and legs. Treat by spraying with a mixture of 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and ½ teaspoon of liquid soap mixed into a quart of water (shake well before using).

Slugs and Snails: Set out beer traps to trap slugs and snails. Fill empty tin cans (tuna) ¾ full with beer. Pests will crawl in and drown. Empty traps once a week, replacing bait.

Downy Mildew: Look for yellow patches on leaves. Mildew is typically caused by too much moistness. Avoid spraying cabbage heads when watering. Plant downy mildew resistant varieties.

Clubroot: Caused by a fungus. Stop fungus from spreading by digging up and removing all cabbage roots and tendrils. Place in plastic bags and dispose - do not add to compost or fungus may be left behind. Test soil pH and raise above 7.2 if need be.

Note: Cabbage is susceptible to fusarium wilt, black rot, bacterial soft rot, alternaria leaf spot and sclerotinia rot. Always plant disease resistant varieties when possible. For more information on these diseases and how to identify and treat them, check out

How to Harvest Cabbage

Cabbage is ready for harvesting when the heads are dense and firm. Cleanly slice cabbage at the base of its stem. Always harvest before heads split to prevent disease and pests from taking over. Split cabbage can still be harvested and eaten.

Cabbage Blend

Varieties of Cabbage to Grow in the North

Seeing as the north has a short growing season, the best varieties of cabbage to grow are those that are 70 days to maturity or less. Always start seeds indoors or use locally bought transplants which are suitable for growing in their area.

Green Cabbage Varieties

Golden Acre: Early variety. Produces 3-4 inch heads on compact plants. Heads are solid with sweet, crisp greens. Disease resistant. 58 days.

Farao: Early variety. Produces 3-4 pound heads peppery-sweet in taste. Leaves are thin and crisp. Resists thrips. 64 days.

Stonehead Hybrid: Produces 4-6 pound heads which are very compact. Tight heads have short cores. Resists yellowing and black rot. 67 days.

Copenhagen: High-yielding variety. Produces heads up to 8 inches across. Heads are solid and keep well. 70 days.

Red Cabbage Varieties

Red Express: Extra-early variety. Produces 2-4 pound heads on compact plants. High in flavor. Resists cracking. Recommended for the north.

Red Acre: Produces 7 inch heads about 3 pounds in weight. Heads are reddish-purple in color and tightly packed. Resists cabbage yellowing. 65 days.

Savoy Cabbage Varieties

Savoy Express Hybrid: Extra-early variety. Produces small heads about a pound in size. Great texture and flavor. Compact variety great for small gardens. 55 days.

Autumn Jewel: Savoy-type variety. Produces large heads surrounded by pretty greens. Stores well and winter hardy. Not as compact as green cabbage varieties. 70 days.

Chinese Cabbage Varieties

Kaboko Hybrid Cabbage
Pak Choi: White stem variety. Produces thick white stems and loose, green leaves. Leaves are mild in flavor. Hearty and cold resistant. Great variety for the north. 45 days.

Kaboko Hybrid: Produces 16 inch tall and 12 inch wide heads green and white in color. Harvest entire cabbage heads or leaf by leaf. Super sweet in flavor. Disease resistant. 59 days.

Wa Wa Tsai Hybrid: Produces 10-18 ounce tender heads that are sweet in flavor. Great for small gardens. 60 days.

Mini Cabbage Varieties 

Caraflex Cabbage
Gonzales: Produces 4-6 inch heads. Heads are compact and uniform in size with sweet and spicy leaves. Great variety for small gardens. 66 days.

Caraflex: Produces cone-shaped cabbages uniform in size. Mini heads have tender inner leaves great for slaw and salads. 68 days.

List of Cabbage Types and Varieties

Resources: Johnny's Selected Seeds, Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co., Park Seed Co., Generic Seeds 

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