EAST TEXAS - I’ve heard from a couple of gardeners in the last few days about how their vegetables are growing after the freeze. For both, their cabbage was doing very well.
Cabbage is an excellent cool season crop that should do well in our area. Able to be started from seed or from transplants, I recommend starting with good transplants. These can be bought from a local feed store or garden center. If you want to grow your own transplants, plant seeds in peat pots or similar containers about a month before you want to transplant them into the garden.
Some of the recommended varieties include Early Jersey Wakefield, Golden Acre, Green Boy, Market Prize, Rio Verde, Ruby Ball, Savoy King and some are having good results with Dutch.
By growing plants from seed, you will have many more varieties to select from and at the time you want them. Some experienced gardeners plant seed for the fall crop directly into the garden and thin the plants after they come up. My good buddy Joel told me that he thoroughly mixed the small seeds with Miracle Grow garden soil that contained fertilizer and simply added the mixture down the rows. His results were excellent.
Optimum growing conditions for cabbage is cool days (60-70°F) with cool to cold nights (40-50°F). Cabbage will tolerate wide temperature fluctuations and warm temperatures. On the low end, 15 - 20°F is normal freeze threshold. This sounds exactly like our growing conditions, doesn’t it?
If your garden has heavier, clay soil, you are in good luck. They are relatively well adapted to heavy soils, but poorly adapted to light sands.
They will have their normal share of insect damage from aphids, a specific Cabbage aphid, armyworms, beetles, cutworms, loopers, and whiteflies. But there are several conventional products and organic pesticides to protect your garden.
You should expect to harvest cabbage 60 to 80 days after planting transplants. If you started from seed, then the time frame extends out to 110 to 130 days.
Commercial growers expect a yield of 15 to 20 tons per acre and home gardeners could expect 7 to 10 pounds for every 10 feet of garden row if they do well.
Interestingly, cabbage has “allelopathic” properties and may have an adverse effect on following crop. Allelopathic plants produce one or more chemicals that influence the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other plants. The same is true of pecan, walnut, and hickory leaves added to a garden.
Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. 13-13-13 and most organically based fertilizers just won’t give a high enough amount of nitrogen (the first number on the bag). In fact, a generic lawn fertilizer such as 15-5-10 would be a better option. After all, we are only growing leaves, and not a “fruit”.
Cabbage have a shallow, horizontal root system. This is important to know relating to water needs and weed control. Water must be applied frequently as the plant does not reach down deep into the soil. When removing weeds with a hoe, be cautious to avoid root pruning that will reduce yields.
Mulch is a great addition to your row of cabbage. All our oak leaves could be put to great use throughout the garden at this time of year.
Cabbage and other Cole crops are a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins when properly prepared. Cabbage is served cooked, raw in coleslaw, or processed into sauerkraut.
The bottom line is that cabbage works here. It’s a fun crop that should withstand our winter weather without much fuss.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org