Probably native to the Mediterranean coast of Europe, cabbage has green, red, or blue- or purple-tinted leaves that form tight round or pointed heads. Leaves can be smooth or, in savoy types, crinkly.
Early varieties mature 7–8 weeks after transplanting; late varieties take 3–4 months. ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ and ‘Charmont’ are standard early varieties, while ‘Danish Ballhead’ and ‘Kaitlin’ are good late ones. Among savoys, try ‘Samantha’ and the red ‘Deadon’. ‘Gonzalez’ is an excellent mini, and in Alaska, ‘O.S. Cross’ is the standard giant cabbage. Good reds include ‘Red Express’, ‘Ruby Perfection’, and the heat-resistant ‘Ruby Ball’.
Time plantings so that heads form before or after summer heat. In low and intermediate deserts, grow as a winter crop in full sun. Start seeds 1/2 in. deep in pots or flats; after six weeks, plant seedlings 2–2 1/2 ft. apart in the garden. Soil should be moist and well drained. Apply frequent light doses of nitrogen fertilizer. A 10-ft. row yields 10–25 lbs. To avoid overproduction, set out a few plants every week or two, or plant both early and late kinds. Cut off firm, well-formed heads before they split or crack. Harvest and store before heavy freezes occur.
To prevent soil-borne pest buildup, plant in a different site each year. Row covers will protect plants from aphids, cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworms, and root maggots. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can control young larvae of cabbageworms and loopers. Hand-pick or bait for snails and slugs.
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