Cabbages are among the most dependable garden veggies that you can easily plant at home.
Nutritious and tasty, they can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Moreover, the homegrown cabbages taste and digest better than the ones you shop at the supermarket.
So are you planning to grow cabbages in your vegetable garden?
Well, you need to learn the process of cultivating cabbage plants, starting from sowing cabbage seeds to harvesting cabbages.
Additionally, if you know some popular varieties, common problems and their remedies, nothing can stop you from acing the art of growing cabbages.
Growing vegetables at home can be a rewarding process, but what is the best way to go about it?
Follow our step-by-step guidelines to know how you can plant cabbage naturally at home.
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Cabbage has a unique earthy and peppery taste, which can slightly vary depending upon the variety you choose. A good cultivar will help you prepare the best salads, soups, stir-fries, coleslaw, bubble and squeak or anything you would like to experiment with.
So, let’s check out the best cabbage varieties that are suitable for growing in the cold UK climate:
1. Advantage AGM (Our Favourite!)
This is the most versatile variety of cabbage that grows all year round in the UK. It is among the new British bred cultivars that produce pointed crops. The Advantage cabbages are winter hardy and have an excellent standing ability. You can expect both spring cabbages and summer cabbages depending upon when you sow the seeds of Advantage cabbage plants.
To get summer and autumn cabbages, you need to sow from March to September whereas, for overwintering, the best time to sow is in October.
2. Spring Hero AGM
It is the first ball-head variety of cabbage ideal for large gardens. Spring hero plants produce excellent quality spring cabbages that feature sweet and crispy white hearts with large and heavy heads. September is when the seeds of this cultivar should be sown for harvest from March to May.
3. Duncan AGM
This is another versatile cabbage variety that grows all over the world and produces good quality crops in spring in the UK if you sow in the previous September. The cabbages can be distinguished from other cultivars by the pointed or oval-shaped mild-green heads they have.
4. Marabel AGM
It is a January King hybrid cabbage that is quite high yielding and has a very good standing ability. The marabel cabbages have dense heads that are quite large in size, keeping the red and green hearts secured inside. Maturing from November, these cabbages usually retain their colour when cooked.
5. Tundra AGM
One of the best-suited cultivars for growing in the UK climate, tundra cabbages mature from November onwards. These are very easy to grow in home gardens and have a great taste when cooked or eaten raw. These are probably the hardiest among other varieties that produce savoy cabbage.
6. Minicole AGM
If you have a small gardening space, this cultivar can be a perfect choice because they can be planted closer to each other. This ball-head variety produces mini cabbages that have a good standing capacity. Minicole cabbages are also known as miniature cabbages.
7. Hispi AGM
One of the best summer cabbage variants, hispi provides a very good bolting resistance. For this reason, it’s a favourite among vegetable gardeners. Producing small-sized cabbages, the compact plants of this variant are suitable for small spaces.
8. Red Jewel AGM
If you love red cabbages, this variety can be a perfect choice because it produces delicious red coloured crops. The red jewel cabbage plants are unformed and quite high yielding. They can be identified by the densely packed hearts with really small cores.
Another reliable cultivar among summer cabbages known for club root resistance, the kilaxy cabbages mature from late summer to early autumn. The cabbage heads are compact. These cabbages taste fantastic when cooked or eaten raw.
Cabbage is undoubtedly one of the most dependable staples in a vegetable garden. Irrespective of whether you want to cultivate spring, summer or winter cabbages, you can follow the methods below to get started.
You can sow cabbage seed outdoors directly in the ground or in modular trays first and then transplant the thin seedlings. Though sowing in trays will help you save up space initially if you have a small garden, sowing in the ground is always a better idea as it’s the most suitable for growing bags. Also, you need to make sure you do not plant cabbages in the ground where you have cultivated any brassica the previous year.
The traditional method of planting cabbage follows sowing into dedicated seed beds away from other vegetables. Then, the farmers transplant the seedlings in the growing season. The reason for this method is to save space in the early season so that the farmers can use the plots for other vegetables that are fast-growing such as lettuce.
However, if you have enough space in your garden, you can directly sow seeds in the main ground by securing 30–45cm space between each plant and row. The space between plants may slightly vary depending upon the cultivars. You can check seed packets to know about it.
The sowing times of different cultivars vary. Here are the sowing time recommended for different plants:
From late February or early March up to early May. The seedlings can be transplanted in May or June.
April to May and the time for transplantation is late June or July.
Seeds sown in July or August can be transplanted in September or October.
Cabbages require plenty of sunlight and rich soil to grow healthily. Before sowing, you need to prepare the soil through raking and adding a good amount of well-rotted manure or garden compost is also required. Then, make 1cm deep holes and sow individual seeds in each hole. As your cabbages grow, you can leave the soil to consolidate.
Growing cabbage requires patience and it involves some maintenance tasks that we will explain here. You need to prepare the seedlings before transplanting, prepare the next ground, set space in the ground, water and feed plants to get the best results.
The best time to transplant cabbage plants is when you see a leafy growth on them. Before you plan to transplant, water the plants well and keep the soil moist to make the task easier. You can check the soil pH and also keep the soil cool before transplanting.
Preparing the Ground
Cabbage grows in firm soil and so you should prepare the next ground accordingly. Then, set the seedlings by keeping the outer leaves at the ground level. Before adding soil, fill the holes with water.
This is the spacing you need to ensure between each plant of different varieties:
- Compact Plants: 30cm.
- Spring Cabbages: 10cm for plants and 30cm for rows. Later, thin out plants 30cm apart.
- Larger Varieties: 40-45cm.
Watering and Feeding
To grow cabbage in your garden, you need to add plenty of water in prolonged dry spells and feed the plants with organic fertilisers such as nitrogen-rich blood meal or cottonseed meal. Growing cabbages will be easier when you water and feed regularly.
As your cabbage plants grow, they will need four to six months to reach harvesting maturity. Make sure you do not harvest premature vegetables from young plants as that will weaken their growth. It is better to harvest cabbages when the heads are firm. To harvest cabbage, you can use a sharp knife and cut through the stem above the soil level.
Common Problems & Remedies
Cabbage pests and some common diseases can weaken your plants and hence knowing how you can prevent them is essential. Here are some common problems that cabbage plants often suffer from along with the easiest remedies to try:
Cabbage Root Fly
These are white larvae that usually feed on cabbage roots below the soil. The 5cm long cabbage root maggots can cause your plants to wilt and die as they harm the growth to a great extent.
The seedlings are most vulnerable to cabbage worms and larvae. To protect your plants from such attacks, you can keep them under horticultural fleece or an insect-proof mesh.
Plants can die from club root, which is a common disease in brassicas. It makes the roots distorted and swollen to a great extent. Sometimes, the leaves get also affected and they turn pale yellow.
To protect your cabbage root from club rot, you can add lime to the soil to make it alkaline. Also, never grow a new plant in the affected soil until you grow some other vegetable in the next season.
The caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, also known as cabbage loopers, sit and feed on young, fresh leaves. You can either see them or identify their attacks by noticing tiny holes in the plant leaves. Sometimes, the caterpillars can make it worse by boring into the heart of cabbages.
If the attack is mild or the number of caterpillars is very few, you can simply pick them off. To prevent them from laying eggs, you can use a horticultural mesh or a fine net.
Slugs and Sails
By feeding on young seedlings, slugs and snails can cause severe problems to plant growth. You can easily identify them on the young leaves or around the plants.
Slugs and snails can be controlled in various organic ways. Some easiest methods are by using anything from beer traps, eggshell barriers, copper tapes and sawdust to biocontrols.