Cabbage is never so acceptable as when difficult to get. Fortunately it is possible to have fine hearts for cutting during autumn, winter and spring with little trouble and provided that suitable varieties have been selected.
Those for spring sowing, to secure autumn and winter cabbage, include Improved Winningstadt, Tender and True, Improved Nonpareil, Rosette CoktvVort, Improved Christmas Drumhead (for late sowing), Dwarf Blood Red (for pickling, also cooking).
For late July or August sowing, to secure spring cabbage, Harbinger, Flower of Spring, Ellam’s Early Dwarf, Hardy Green Cole-wort, Large Blood Red (pickling, also cooking).
There are 1,000 plants in an ounce of seed, and seedlings appear in about ten days.
Ready for Use. During spring, from July to August sowings; during autumn and winter, from spring (March or April) sowings.
Firm soil that was deeply dug and enriched for a preceding crop suits excellently; it need only be forked 2 in. deep and cleared of weeds. Cabbages are lime lovers, so, unless the ground already contains enough, a scattering of lime should be given (and forked, raked or hoed in) in advance of planting; hydrated lime for medium and heavy soil, ground limestone (I lb. per square yard) for light ground.
When and How to Sow.
First sowing of the year, of one of the earliest varieties (such as Tender and True), may be made in a frame or greenhouse. Outdoor sowings start in March and continue to May – small quantities of seed sown at intervals resulting in plants for setting out in succession. From the earliest of these it should be possible to start cutting in September.
Seed got into the ground in July and August will provide the spring cabbage.
Sow very thinly on a well-raked, sunny seed bed, in drills I in. deep, watered beforehand if dry. Keep the seedlings growing by watering as frequently as necessary.
Transplanting, Planting Out.
When they are about 3 in. high transplant about 4 in. apart each way into moist soil ( in). Before they touch, remove them to the rows where they are to finish; rows to be 2 ft. apart, autumn-sown plants to be about 15 in. apart in the rows and spring-sown ones 2 ft.
Four-inch deep drills taken out with the draw hoe are advisable if the ground is light and the drainage over-free; planted deeply in these drills, every drop of water given later goes to the roots.
A good start being essential, planting holes (made with the trowel) should be filled with water before the plants go in, unless the ground is already moist enough.
After planting, there should be no bare stem visible; lowest leaves must be level with the surface.
Sowing in Boxes.
A February sowing is carried out as described under Brussels sprouts.
If for any reason cabbage plants cannot be home raised, and have to be bought, they should be purchased from a nurseryman who has a reputation to maintain. They should be short jointed, with no suspicion of leggi-ness or yellowness, the roots should not be dry (though soaking in water for three or four hours will remedy this), and above all there should be no swellings at the base of the stems or distortion of roots. The last two symptoms betoken trouble and such plants should be refused.
That the cabbage responds to frequent drinks in dry weather cannot be doubted; growth is assisted considerably. Feeding also has profitable results – but not until early spring for plants from the July to August sowings. It is desired that these young autumn plants shall be hard of growth, to resist the worst weather that winter can produce, and surface feeding at the wrong time would make them sappy.
One of the special proprietary fertilizer mixtures applied to the soil at intervals, when quick growth and rapid hearting-up are wanted, will have die desired effect. Poultry manure is splendid for all members of the cabbage tribe – a trowelful per plant, hoed or forked in and followed with plenty of water unless the ground is moist enough.
Why Cabbages Bolt.
The plants sometimes have a disconcerting habit of throwing up flower stems – bolting, as it is termed – instead of forming the expected compact hearts. This may be due to any one of a variety of causes; such as a check to growth in the seedling stage, due to
over-crowding or drought; the sowing of poor quality seed, or sowing a particular variety at an unsuitable time; or the plants decide to throw up the struggle with impoverished or shallow ground and endeavour to produce seed before they perish.
It may be that none of those conditions applies} yet the July to August raised plants bolt. In this case the spring cabbage sowing should be made not in July or early August, but near the end of the latter month, later plants being generally disinclined to bolt.
A cabbage that looks, in autumn or winter, as though it has no intention of forming a heart but prefers to grow loose, can sometimes be saved from waste by a simple surgical operation – a knife blade, held horizontally, cutting edge down, is pushed through the centre of the stem just above the soil; the blade is withdrawn, and a small stone or a slither of wood is inserted in the cut to keep it open. This check to the sap-flow is usually effective; if the plant does not heart up, after all, at least a useful picking of greens may be secured.
A row of cabbage plants may produce a fine array of hearts, yet all of them deceptive; the hearts are flabby, there is no substance in them. This usually results from planting in newly dug ground. The root run must be firm – rolled firm if need be.
Enemies to Combat.
Caterpillars on the leaves, green fly and flea beetle, grubs that attack the roots and cause the plants to wilt, other grubs that live in swellings at the stem base, and the club root disease, are visitations from which no cabbage grower is immune. How to deal with these troubles is indicated in the chart ‘Remedies Against Enemies of Vegetable Crops’.
Cutting the Heads.
Time to cut the heads is when they feel firm and solid under the pressure of the fingers. Use a sharp knife, and do not slice off the entire head; let four or five outer leaves remain attached to the stalk that is in the ground. Then with the knife make two cuts (crossing at right angles) in the top of the stalk or stump, an inch or so deep. This will encourage the later formation of sprouts, or tufts of greens, at the top of the stump that otherwise would have been pulled up and consigned to the bonfire.
Old, yellowed leaves should be removed from plants and added to the general soft refuse heap (or pit) to decay for later digging in. Preparing for Table.
Remove soiled outer leaves, cut the stalk back close, and cut the cabbage in two – from top to bottom through the centre. If large it could be quartered. Wash thoroughly in cold water, and allow to drain before cooking. Cabbage contains mineral salts and vitamins, but its actual nutritive value is not high.