Cabbage is a much-loved vegetable among farmers. It is typically cultivated during the colder periods of the year, although there are also spring and summer varieties. While it bears a strong resemblance to savoy cabbage, it possesses distinct characteristics that set it apart. While relatively easy to grow, it requires specific cultivation practices to achieve healthy and thriving plants.
In this article, following a thorough description, we will explore how to cultivate cabbage in our garden using organic methods. We will discuss the ideal soil type, necessary fertilization, and irrigation. Lastly, we will delve into necessary cultivation care and organic defense against pests and adversities.
Botanical Overview and Characteristics of Cabbage
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) is a horticultural species belonging to the botanical family Cruciferae (or Brassicaceae). Other vegetables in this family include cauliflower, broccoli, kale and savoy cabbage. As mentioned, the cabbage plant is quite similar to cabbage verza. It’s a biennial herbaceous species, but in gardens, it follows a seasonal cycle. It features an upright stem with broad and fleshy leaves. These leaves are densely layered, wrapping around each other to form a large, central “head” that encloses younger leaves and the central bud. In contrast to cabbage verza, which has puckered leaves, cabbage leaves are smooth, coated with a waxy, almost oily substance. They are mostly pale green, while the core is whitish.
Planting Seasons and Varieties
Cabbage can be cultivated almost year-round, as there are varieties suited for different seasons. The best way to begin cultivation is to transplant small plants grown in soil blocks using the polystyrene seedbed technique. The division of transplant periods between different varieties isn’t always clear and precise. Some summer varieties, for example, can be transplanted even later, while some autumn varieties can be transplanted earlier. Nevertheless, a valid division can be as follows:
- Cuore di bue: A very early variety with smooth leaves and a compact head.
- Express: An extremely early variety with a small, conical head.
- Gloria d’Ingegnoli: A highly productive variety with a large, white head.
- Mercato di Copenaghen: Featuring a large, flattened head.
- Tardivo d’Olanda: A short-stemmed variety with a large, round head.
- Quintale d’Alsazia: A high-yield variety with a flat head.
- Testa di moro: A variety with reddish outer leaves and lighter inner leaves with red veins.
- Cavolo cappuccio di Vaugirard: Featuring a very large and compact head, known for its frost resistance.
- Gigante invernale: Strong, vigorous, and productive.
Soil and Fertilization
Cabbage is a crop that demands significant attention to soil and fertilization. It prefers deep, well-aerated, and cool soil with a pH around neutrality. The soil should have a good supply of organic matter, which can be achieved by incorporating mature compost before transplanting. If you don’t have compost, you can use pelletized manure (available here) to ensure the soil receives proper nourishment.
Irrigation and Transplant Spacing
Water requirements for cabbage vary depending on the cultivation period. For cabbages grown in late autumn, winter, and early spring, having an irrigation system is not essential. However, for cultivars starting in summer or early autumn, a water supply is necessary, such as a drip irrigation system. Ideal transplant distances are 40-50 cm between individual plants and 50-60 cm between rows.
Cabbage doesn’t require extensive cultivation care; the key is to keep it free from weeds. It’s a cultivar that should be either hoed or alternatively hilled up as needed.
Harvest and Uses
Harvesting cabbage is done incrementally when the heads are well developed, tightly closed, and still firm. The outer leaves are removed, leaving only the central head. Harvesting usually occurs 60-70 days after transplanting for early cultivars, 70-90 days for mid-early ones, and over 90 days for late varieties. When tender and crispy, the leaves can be consumed raw in salads, provided they are sliced thinly. However, they are more commonly cooked in various ways. Cabbage is highly flavorful, possessing an excellent aromatic taste and high nutritional value. However, it’s not recommended for individuals with weakened digestion due to its slow digestibility. The famous sauerkraut of Northern European countries is obtained through lactic fermentation of finely sliced leaves.
Organic Pest Defense
The most challenging pests for cabbage are aphids during spring and summer cultivation. In autumn and winter, the cabbage moth and snails pose significant threats. For comprehensive information on defending against these pests using organic methods, refer to the relevant articles.
- Pharmacognosy Magazine: Anti-inflammatory Effects of Brassica oleracea Var. capitata L. (Cabbage) Methanol Extract in Mice with Contact Dermatitis.
- Hortoculturae: Mechanism of Tolerance to Head-Splitting of Cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata L.): A Review of Current Knowledge and Future Directions