Cabbage is considered to be one of the most important and widely consumed crops belonging to the Brassica Family. A cabbage farm is a common sight in American countrysides due to the crop’s adaptability to variables of soil and climate. Along with other crops from the same family such as cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, etc, cabbages are consumed as leafy green vegetables.
Cabbages are biennial plants that can be farmed twice a year. They constitute an important part of healthy diets across the world due to the wide variety of nutrients they contain. These include Vitamin C, Sulfur, Amino acids, and glutamine which are all essential minerals for the human body.
Table of Content
- Climatic Conditions for Growing Cabbage
- Soil Features for Cabbage Farming
- How to Prepare Your Land for Cabbage Growing
- How to Choose Seeds and When It’s Time for Sowing
- Sowing Tips
- Watering Guide
- Pruning and Weed Control
- What Cabbage Fertilizers to Choose
- Common Pests & Diseases
- Harvesting Guide
- Storage Tips
Climatic Conditions for Growing Cabbage
Cabbage cultivation and the success of crop yield are to some extent dependent upon the climate of the place where the farm is located. Though it is a hardy crop capable of withstanding and adapting to a wide range of weather variations, it grows best in cold and moist climates. Higher altitudes and its corresponding colder climates are also suited to cabbage farming.
Consequently, across America, the bulk of the cabbage productions are carried out in the Northern States around the Great Lakes and in the New England region. The weather around these places is perfectly suited for year-round production of cabbage.
The Southern States, on the other hand, can only produce a good cabbage yield during the winters and in spring when the climate is optimal for this crop. Some Southern regions which have colder climates due to high altitudes can also produce cabbages during the summer. The lowlands, on the other hand, seldom see cabbage growing apart from the few winter months.
Furthermore, different varieties of cabbage exhibit varying susceptibilities to cold or hot climates. Anyone considering cabbage farming must pay special attention to the particular kind of cabbage they should choose to grow.
Cultivators should take into consideration the compatibility of the cabbage variety with the climate of the farm. While the Dutch variety along with several other older varieties can be cultivated in the South during winter and spring, the Danish Ball Head variety does not do well at all in the Southern Lowlands.
Soil Features for Cabbage Farming
The cabbage plant is an adaptable crop that can be grown on a wide variety of soil. These may range from clay to sandy loam through a rich intermediate comprising of both sandy and loamy soil is generally considered to be optimal. Cabbage plants are a very heavy feeder and consequently, need the soil to be well plowed with organic or inorganic fertilizers.
Cabbage growing tracks also need to contain a high concentration of humus and organic matter as well as good drainage. In the southern lowlands where cabbage is grown in the form of a truck crop, one should opt for the kind of soil that induces optimal crop maturation in the shortest amount of time. A soil pH that is between 5.5 and 6.5 produces higher crop yield.
How to Prepare Your Land for Cabbage Growing
Preparing your land for growing cabbage requires you to keep certain things in mind. The first step should include ascertaining the kind of cabbage you must grow in correspondence with the climate and soil in your locality. Inquiring about the varieties sold in your local market will go a long way in helping you do that.
Cabbage grows best under direct sunlight so you must choose a plot of land that gets ample sunlight. Most cabbage farms being prepared for cultivation requires the soil to be plowed about 3 or 4 times. Increasing the nutrient content of the soil must be the main concern as cabbage plants consume a lot of minerals. As such, the organic matter must be spread and mixed with the soil all across the plot of land.
Phosphate is an important mineral supplement that the soil you are preparing for cabbage farming needs. It must be worked into the soil before transplanting the germinated seedling. Before sowing the seeds, beds of proper sizes should be prepared in rows with separate drainage rows next to them for good irrigation to help keep the land moist.
Practicing crop rotation is another great way to ensure better cabbage yield. Farmers often grow legumes on the plots chosen for cabbages in the months preceding the cabbage cultivation season. This ensures that the soil is enriched with nitrogen which is an essential mineral for growing better quality cabbages.
How to Choose Seeds and When It’s Time for Sowing
There are three main types of cabbages that can be grouped into distinct varieties based on the shape and time of cultivation. These include the pointed or peak cabbages which grow during spring, the Flat Dutch type which is the second cabbage type which matures in spring or summer, and the round varieties of cabbage which matures in winter.
Each of these varieties have multiple strains of seeds. The Early Jersey Wakefield is one of the most viable strains of pointed cabbages along with the Charlestown Wakefield. They take about 7-10 days and 70-80 days for maturation respectively. They both need to be sowed in the early part of the year between January 1st and March 1st.
Amongst the Flat Dutch seed strains, the most commercially viable are the early spring type, the early summer type, and they all head. As their names imply, they are sowed in late winter, early spring, and early summer respectively. There are some strains of the Flat Dutch that are capable of growing even in winter.
The round cabbage varieties include American Savoy cabbage and Danish Ball Head along with its sub-variety the Danish Round Head. The red cabbage strains such as the Mammoth Red Rock and the Red Drumhead also belong to this category. The Danish Ball matures in winter and must not be sowed any later than May.
The early varieties of cabbage that mature in summer need their seeds to be sowed in indoor seedbeds some 10 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Once the seeds have germinated and the plants are ready, the transplanted seedlings need to be planted outside about 6 to 4 weeks before last spring frost.
Some people may wish to forego transplantation and sow the seeds directly in the prepared beds outdoors. The time frame for direct planting is again 6-3 weeks before the last frost of spring as long as soil temperature outside is at least 45F. Since cabbage seeds cannot withstand extreme cold, they need to be planted in cold frames or plastic tubes.
The winter maturing varieties of cabbage such as the round cabbages need to be planted in the soil around 14-12 weeks before the first frost of autumn in case of direct cultivation in gardens. In case of transplanting from an indoor seedbed to prepared beds outside, the seedlings need to be planted 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost of autumn.
Cabbage seeds can be sowed in large numbers due to how hardy these plants are. Their ability to withstand rough handling ensures that cultivators can grow them extensively. The seeds usually take anywhere between 5 to 10 days, with an additional 6-8 weeks required for them to grow into plants that are ready for field setting.
An important sowing tip to keep in mind is with regards to choosing which type of cabbage seed to sow. While cabbages can be commercially farmed in large numbers in big farms, they need adequate space between each planted bed. If If you are planning on cultivating cabbages in your backyard or garden and have a space crunch, then you should opt for seeds of the small cabbage varieties. Some important sowing tips to keep in mind in order to get the best yield are:
- Start sowing the seeds about 4 or 6 weeks before the end of spring for an autumn crop yield, or 10-12 weeks before fall for a winter yield
- Seeds need to be sowed anywhere between half to one-fourth of an inch into the soil
- The starting soil mix for the seeds must be kept moist and the seeds should be left to germinate in an optimal temperature of 77F for 5-10 days
- The seedlings must be transplanted into the prepared beds in the garden or farm after they have grown to a size of 4-6 inches with 2-4 leaves visible.
- The optimal temperature outside for cabbage transplantation is around 50 F
- The transplanted plants must have a space of 1-2 feet between them and the rows must have a space of 12-42 inches between them. This also helps in controlling pests that might harm the crops.
- Interplant cabbages with other crops such as beets, spinach, green onions, herbs, etc. To maintain soil quality and produce a higher yield.
- It is best to start sowing cabbage transplants early to better offset any risks of bad weather or cutworms. Young cabbage plants are very hardy and comparatively more capable of withstanding these adverse conditions.
A continuous supply and maintenance of moisture throughout all the cabbage growing stages is very important. One way to endure that is to install a drip irrigation system with multiple sub-main sprinklers in lateral lines at a distance of 1.5 meters. Drip irrigators with a speed of 4 liters per hour must be placed 60cm apart while the ones with 3.5 LPH must be placed 50cm apart.
Cabbages do not have much tolerance to dry conditions. So it is best that the irrigation of the cabbage growing beds must be carried out frequently. During winters the plots must be irrigated at least every 8 days while during summer it is best to have some water in the furrows between plant beds. Drainage might be required during the rainy season to ensure optimum yield.
Pruning and Weed Control
Pruning of excess shoots as well as controlling weeds that might grow along the cabbage beds is an essential part of cultivating these crops. Offshoots growing out of the sides of the cabbage plants should be pruned regularly. Yellow or otherwise damaged leaves must also be pruned in order to prevent any infections from spreading.
Weed control is another essential element of cabbage cultivation as these plants require a lot of nutrients. Weeds tend to consume extra minerals leaving the land useless for the plants being farmed. Weeds must be rid of in their first growing stages within 2-3 weeks of their appearance. Weeding also needs to be carried out before and after fertilization of the land.
The process constitutes drilling alongside the cabbage plants and hoeing out the weeds. The drilling must be done with care so as to not bruise or otherwise damage the roots of the cabbage plants. Hoeing can also be done with the help of some herbicides that target specific weeds and help destroy them. The commonly used herbicides in cabbage farming include Alachl or as well as the stronger Metolachlor.
What Cabbage Fertilizers to Choose
Cabbages are some of the heaviest feeders amongst leafy vegetables with the cap for fertilizer use put at around a pound and half for every 100 square feet. The common minerals required to fertilize the soil before cabbage farming are potassium, phosphorus, organic compost, nitrogen, and urea for acidic soil or ammonium sulfate for alkaline soil. It is said that every hectare of cabbage farm requires about 450 pounds of nitrogen.
Many farmers these days have started to shun chemically produced fertilizers for cabbage and instead opting for organic fertilizers. They are generally considered to be more environment-friendly and better for the health of the people consuming the organically produced. If you are so inclined, then you should use organic compost and humus to fertilize your cabbage beds some 20 or 30 days after planting them. Fertilizers composed of human excreta must be avoided at all costs.
Common Pests & Diseases
An in-depth know-how of common cabbage cultivation techniques should involve a comprehensive knowledge of the common pests and diseases that threaten your crops. Amongst pests, aphids are the most dangerous ones that you have to look out for. Once they get into the heads of your cabbage plants, the entire plant becomes unsalvageable.
Other common pests that threaten your harvest includes cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, nematodes, American bollworms, cutworms, etc. Birds are another common cause of damage to cabbage patches and they can be prevented by putting up bird netting around the cabbage beds. Any of these agents can cause serious damage to the quality of your cabbage yield and they need quick intervention.
The diseases most common in cabbage plants are caused by the pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia or the anamorphic fungus Botrytis. Other common diseases include Blackleg, Dumping Off, Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew, Club-root, Leaf spot, White Blister, White leaf spot, Wire Stem, and White Mould to name a few.
These pests and diseases cause varying levels of damage to the stems, seedlings, roots, leaves, heads, or the entire plant. While the damage caused by some of the aforementioned pests and diseases may be irreversible, others can be treated. Neem oil extracts are an excellent organic deterrent. You may also use synthetically produced chemicals such as Carbaryl, Permethrin, Spinosad, or other insecticidal soaps.
The right time for harvesting cabbages is when the heads have grown substantially and gotten ripe. The maturing process for these plants usually takes anywhere between 71 to 88 days. It is quite easy to ascertain by just pressing down on the cabbage head to check if it is firm which indicates its ripeness.
While harvesting the ripened head you must ensure that at least 2-4 leaves surrounding the head are left intact. This helps the cabbage retain its water content which keeps it fresh for a longer period of storage time.
It is important that the cultivator individually check each cabbage head for ripeness as sometimes visual cues can be misleading. Quite often a cabbage may look the right size to have reached maturity and healthy from the outside while on the inside they are still soft and unripe. Such untimely harvested cabbages have neither the correct taste nor the adequate nutrients that make this vegetable such healthy food.
The correct way of harvesting a ripe cabbage involves separating the head from the rest of the plant by cutting it off with a knife. While detaching the head, make sure that the stem along with the leaves is left intact on the ground. This may lead to the plant growing another cabbage in the place of the one you have removed. While this new cabbage may never reach the normal size of the original one, it still retains the same flavor as well as nutrients.
Storage is one of the most important aspects of the farming process. A good storage technique can make a huge difference in profits generated. Every year farmers across the world lose millions in revenues due to the inability to follow proper storage regulations to ensure that their crops stay in optimal condition.
In the case of cabbages, these plants go through rapid respiration after their harvesting which tampers their flavor and dilutes their overall quality. Proper storage of harvested cabbages seeks to ensure minimum respiration. Furthermore, the water content of the cabbages needs to be over 90%.
The simplest way to do so is to maintain the humidity of the air in the storage area above 80% through a 90 to 95% humidity is even better for retaining its freshness. This can be done by keeping the cabbages in cold storage or inside refrigerator wrapped in plastic bags. Cabbages can be stored in refrigerators for up to two weeks. The optimum temperature for cabbage storage is 0 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
An alternative to refrigeration is to store cabbage in root cellars or garden pits. A root cellar storage involves arranging the heads in rows on shelves with a considerable distance separating each cabbage head. Hanging the heads from the roof throughout the room is another way of storing them in cellars. One can also take the easy route of keeping them on the ground after wrapping them carefully in newspapers to prevent them from losing their freshness.
Garden pits, on the other hand, constitute digging a hole of about two to two and half feet deep. The hole then needs to be lined with straw in order to provide the space with insulation. The cabbages can be stored in this space with their roots facing up and their head towards the ground. The cabbages stored in this manner need to be covered with a tarp or burlaps so as to ensure that snow or mud does not slide in.
Apart from the humidity and respiration allowed in the storage area, cabbages must also never be kept together with other fruits. Apples especially should never be stored in the same space as cabbages irrespective of whether or not both require the same humidity and temperature. This is due to the fact that Apples exude a gas called ethylene which can cause discoloration of the cabbage making it less commercially viable.
This, it is quite evident that cabbage farming requires you to be conscious of a fair number of dos and don’ts. While these may seem complicated and at the onset cabbages may seem to be a delicate plant that requires very careful handling, this perception could not be further from the truth. In fact, cabbage farming is comparatively an easier task for most newbies trying it out for the first time.
These crops are some of the hardiest ones you will ever grow and can handle a lot of rough handling. They also exhibit adaptability to a great range of weather and geographical variations. Due to how enriched with nutrients and healthy they are, cabbages are fast growing in popularity and becoming an essential part of the diets of health-conscious people. So go right ahead and get yourself a cabbage garden to tinker in and develop a green thumb!