Cabbages are a fantastic winter crop and are perfect for adding to soups, stews, and salads. Cabbages are planted from seeds or seedlings as the cooler season begins.
Choosing the Right Variety
Some of the most popular cabbage varieties grown include White (Cannonball), Savoy, Red cabbage and Chinese cabbage. White (Cannonball) cabbage is a compact variety that is easy to grow and produces large heads. Savoy cabbage has crinkled leaves and a mild flavour, making it a great choice for salads. Red cabbage is a colourful variety that adds a splash of colour to any dish. Chinese cabbage include Bok Choy and Pac Choy and are popular in Asian cooking.
Preparing the Soil
Before planting your cabbage seedlings, you will need to prepare the soil. Cabbages require well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Start by digging over the soil and removing any weeds or debris. Next, add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve its fertility. You can also add some blood and bone to provide essential nutrients for your plants.
Planting Your Seedlings
Once you have prepared your soil, it’s time to plant your cabbage seedlings. Space your seedlings around 30cm apart to allow them enough room to grow. After planting, water your seedlings thoroughly to help them establish their roots. Using a plant tonic such as Seasol will minimise transplant shock and help your plants to have the very best start.
Caring for Your Cabbages
To ensure that your cabbages grow healthy and strong, there are a few things you will need to do. Firstly, you will need to water your cabbages regularly. Although cabbages are grown through winter, the soil needs to remain moist so be sure you give them a good soaking during dry periods.
You will also need to protect your cabbages from pests and diseases. Common cabbage pests include cabbage white butterflies, aphids, and caterpillars. To prevent these pests from damaging your plants, you can cover them with a fine mesh netting. You can also use organic pest control methods such as neem oil or pyrethrum spray.
Harvesting Your Cabbages
Cabbages are ready to harvest when the heads are firm and fully formed. This usually takes around 10-12 weeks after planting. Chinese cabbages such as Bok Choy can be harvested as soon as 30 days after planting as Baby Bok Choy. Waiting too long to harvest is a common mistake. Begin harvesting Bok Choy when the plants are 30 to 50 cm high.
To harvest your cabbages, use a sharp knife to cut the stem just above ground level. If you plan to store your cabbages, make sure you remove any damaged leaves and store them in a cool, dark place.
Enjoy the wonderful flavour filled harvests from the winter vegetable.