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.
The heirloom Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage was first grown in the US in Jersey City circa 1840 and has since become one of the most favored varietals of cabbage by gardeners all across the country. This plant will grow 12–16” in height and 12–24” in diameter, forming compact, conical heads that are dark green in color and 3–5 lbs in weight. This varietal prefers warmer temperatures in earlier stages but will develop the sweetest heads if kept in temperatures around 60°F once they begin to develop. For this reason, late summer plantings in most climate zones will produce the best quality cabbage of this variety.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 6–8″
Space Between Rows: 20″
Germination Soil Temperature: 40–85°F
Days for Germination: 7–12
Sow Indoors: 4–6 weeks before last frost in preparation for transplanting in early spring.
Sow Outdoors: 4–6 weeks before last frost, or 3–4 months before first frost.
Vegetative: While growing from seed is generally an easier way to plant cabbage, it can also be grown from cuttings of the root stock. After harvesting the cabbage, dig up the roots and place in a shallow bowl of water in a sunny location. Once new leaves start to appear, replant your root stock.
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.
Artificial: Use fluorescent or LED lamps to reduce the effects of emitted heat. We also recommend installing a fan to encourage air flow between the tight leaves of the cabbage.
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: Prefers moderate to high levels of water. Keep soil moist but not soggy by watering regularly, 1–2 times per week.
Nutrients: A low maintenance plant, this cabbage should be fine with a singular application of compost to the soil when planting.
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: Mulch with organic materials such as compost or lawn clippings to keep weed growth to a minimum and retain moisture.
Deficiency(s): Soils that are too alkaline can lock nutrients into an unusable form, so check soil pH if deficiencies arise.
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: Feeling the firmness of the cabbage is essential to a good harvest, so gently squeeze the head to confirm maturity. Heads will be ripe about 60 days after planting. To harvest, cut from the stem with a sharp knife. Remove entire plant and root system from the soil to prevent disease buildup.
Storage: Eat or refrigerate immediately. Cabbage that is refrigerated can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months depending on it’s freshness and the amount of humidity in your crisper drawer.
Fun Fact: Many people believe everything in the universe is connected, and after hearing that cabbage and humans share 40–50% of the same DNA, we’re inclined to agree!
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: Cabbage contains various phyto-chemicals which are being studied for DNA repair as well as their action against colorectal cancers. The ancient Greeks used cabbage juice as an antidote for mushroom poisoning and laxative. Poultices of cabbage juice have been used to treat warts, boils, and ulcers.
Cabbage is a frequent ingredient in traditional Jewish dishes. Try these tasty Stuffed Cabbage Rolls that are served on the Simchat Torah holiday.