September 2018 – Crop of the Month
Cabbage – Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea
Family: Brassicaceae (the Brassica family)
Written by: Kirby Fry
September is one of Central Texas’ main planting windows. As soon as summer temperatures drop and the rains begin, it is time to get your fall garden into the ground.
A great fall crop is cabbage which is in the Brassica family. I’ve chosen cabbage out of the Brassica family because it’s not the hardest leafy cole crop to grow like Brussel sprouts, broccoli, or cauliflower, but neither is it the easiest like mustard, kale, or collard greens. It’s right in the middle, and it is very satisfying to grow a nice head of cabbage which stores well, and is an expected staple in many winter soups and stews.
– Planting Tips –
As I mentioned, cabbage is not the easiest crop to grow, so we need to do several things just right. It prefers cool weather, so in Texas it does best in the fall. It needs a head start and so should be transplanted as a 5” tall seedling on a cloudy day. The seedlings should be planted 12 to 18” apart from one another in rows 3’ apart. Savory King and Blue Vantage are a couple of recommended varieties for Central Texas.
Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so an organic slow release fertilizer (5-10-10) should be put out when the seedlings are transplanted and watered into sandy loam garden beds. Apply fertilizer again after 3 weeks. Mulch heavily with an organic wheat straw. To extend your harvest later into the fall, repeat the planting process again 2 weeks later.
Cabbage does well when growing alongside green beans and cucumbers. Avoid planting cabbage next to other brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower as they are also heavy feeders and attract the same pests. Plant cabbage in a different area of the garden every year to avoid buildup of soil borne diseases and insect pests. Cole crops are susceptible to quite a few plagues like black rot, cabbage yellows, and black leg. There are varieties to choose from that are resistant to cabbage yellows, and black leg. The cabbage looper and cabbage worm can also be a problem, so planting dill near your cabbage will attract beneficial wasps that will kill the worms. Aphids can also be a problem so lady bugs and lacewing might need to be introduced into your garden as well.
Water your cabbage plants well, especially when they are making their heads. Harvest the heads when they are full and firm after 50 to 60 days, hopefully the heads will be about 6 to 9” wide, and don’t wait too long to harvest as they will get tough. Cut the head out from the center of the plant leaving the outer leaves and you may get another smaller head a few weeks later. Get the cabbage heads out of the sun immediately and store them in a cool dry place.
Cabbage tastes great whether sautéed or added to soups. Many of my friends also make sauerkraut and kimchee (fermented forms of cabbage) which can be stored for long periods of time. This is a great crop to get in the ground this summer, and enjoy for the rest of the upcoming fall and winter.