Cabbage

Brassica oleracea var. capitataCabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)

Family: Brassicaceae
Related vegetables: arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Hardy biennial harvested the first season. The terminal cluster of leaves, often called a head, is eaten.
  • There are several types of cabbage. You can grow green ones, red ones, or ones with crinkled leaves called savoy cabbage. Round heads are typical but you can also find more flattened or more pointed varieties. There are early maturing varieties, with smaller heads, that are planted in spring to mature before hot weather arrives. Late maturing varieties are commonly planted for fall harvest. They often form very large heads (several pounds) and are best used for preserving (e.g. sauerkraut).
  • Plants are short, about 18”.
  • In spring, plant transplants 2-6 weeks before average last frost date, continuing until very early April in southern Indiana, into May in the coldest part of the state. If growing from seed start indoors 5-7 weeks earlier. Ideal transplants are stocky, have 4-6 true leaves, and stems about the size of a pencil. Plant 12-24” apart in rows a minimum of 18” apart. Spacing within a wide row is 12-18”.
  • For fall harvest, plant transplants 7-9 weeks before average first frost date (about mid-July in northern IN, late August in southern Indiana). Cabbage is quite cold tolerant and you may be able to harvest after that date.
  • First heads can be harvested 7-9 weeks from transplanting though this can vary from 60 days to more than 90 days, depending on variety. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 5-10 heads.

Sow seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Seeds are usually started indoors but may be planted in soil for the fall crop. Seeds germinate in 4-5 days at 70-80 °F. Grow on at 60-70 °F with cooler night temperatures. Once planted outdoors, transplants with fewer than 4 true leaves are more sensitive to cold than larger transplants. Very mature transplants (more than 6 leaves) may produce inferior crops or may begin to flower prematurely.

Spring planting dates are usually given as 2-6 weeks before average last frost date. The earliest plantings are chancy because a prolonged cold spell, which will cause the plant to bolt (see “Common Problems” below), is more likely at this time. Wait until soil has warmed to 40 °F before transplanting. Practice crop rotation. Do not plant the same area with a cole crop two years running.


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