When it comes to diversity in the plant kingdom, cabbage is king, sporting multiple varieties that vary in shape, color, and size. Most types of cabbage, particularly grocery store varieties, are purple, green, or white in color with smooth or crinkly leaves and can be anywhere between 1 to 5 lbs. As a member of the Brassica family, cabbage will do best in more moderate temperatures and rich, loamy soil.
Sometimes called Chinese cabbage or Napa cabbage, the Nikko F1 variety, along with its relatives, is considered a finicky plant by gardeners because of its affinity for cold weather, love of nutrients, and unfortunate tendency to attract various pests. These minor roadblocks aside, this cabbage is a fantastic addition to any garden, as it is extremely high in nutrients and has a delicious flavor particularly well-suited to many Asian-inspired dishes. Due to its small stature compared to other cabbage varieties, the Nikko F1 is recommended for those with smaller gardens.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 12″
Space Between Rows: 12–24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 65–75°F
Days for Germination: 5–10 days
Sow Indoors: 4–6 weeks before last frost but not recommended.
Sow Outdoors: 10–12 weeks before first frost.
For best results, plant in early spring. You can also get a fall crop when starting seeds in late summer. Like most other greens, leaves can become bitter in warm weather, so grow in fall and winter if your garden is located in Zone 9 or above.
Natural: Full sun. Partial shade.
Artificial: Not recommended; however, if growing indoors, use florescent lamps with long periods of light (16+ hours).
Soil: Prefers sandy, loamy soil with a neutral pH. Enrich soil before planting with mature humus compost and till to be sure that soil will drain well. Although some varieties will tolerate heavier clay soils, their yield and flavor will decrease.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless mix.
Hydroponics: Can thrive in a media-based system with clay pellets, using net pots, or with the floating raft technique. However, this is not recommended for the inexperienced hydroponic grower.
Water: Requires high levels of water. If plants are not watered frequently (soil kept moist, but not muddy) and consistently, they will start to seed too early and will not produce good-sized heads. Aim for 1 to 1.5″ per week.
Nutrients: Heavy feeders, this plant may require fertilization both before planting and during. A well-balanced nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium mix or organic compost will help seedlings get started and maintain growth. Fertilizer should be applied just before transplanting and about a month after. If soil is too acidic, apply lime; add sulfur if not acidic enough.
Foliar: Will generate larger, firmer heads when given a foliar treatment rich in nitrogen such as fish emulsion, a week prior to being transplanted as well as a week following transplanting.
Mulching: Mulching around plants with an organic compost will help keep plants nourished and the soil moist.
Deficiency(s): Dull-colored or curled leaves can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies. Apply a well-balanced fertilizer if you notice either of these things occurring on your cabbage plants.
Rotation: Remove all leftover plant parts and rotate cabbage family plants every year. Planting cabbage in the same location can encourage diseases to proliferate.
Companions: Grows well with basil, wormwood, rosemary, members of the onion family, nasturtium, lettuce, marigold, dill, garlic, sage, as well as many herbs that exhibit pesticide abilities. Avoid planting with strawberry, grapes, and bush/pole beans.
Harvest: Heads should be harvested when they are firm to the touch and before they start to form seed stalks. Harvest by cutting the stalk at the soil level.
Storage: Will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator after removing outer leavers, but tends to only store well when fresh if kept in a root cellar.
Fun Fact: Perhaps not surprising based on its name, this type of cabbage was once considered the national vegetable of China.
Preserve: Sauerkraut and kimchi, or lacto-fermented cabbage, are easy and tasty ways to preserve extra cabbage that cannot be immediately used or eaten.
Prepare: Cabbage leaves can be eaten raw in salads or slaws, cooked as a side dish, or incorporated into soups or stews. Alternately, use large leaves as low-calorie replacements for tortillas and veggie burger buns!
Nutritional: Provides fiber and vitamin(s) K and C. Cabbage is an extremely low-calorie veggie: 1 cup contains only 15 calories!
Medicinal: Not surprisingly based on its nutrient content, it has been claimed that this vegetable can contribute to the reduction of the risk of many cancers such as breast and colon. It has also been cited as a great addition to the diet of any individual that may suffer from high cholesterol.
Although commonly found in many traditional Chinese dishes, this cabbage can also be used to create a delicious and nutritious Kimchi.