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Cabbages are a bit of a pain to grow, they need a lot of time putting into them to stop them being eaten by the various things that like to demolish them! I have grown Cabbages for the last 3 years and have decided this year will probably be my last. Here is why:
Seeds are relatively cheap for Cabbage and can be picked up as cheaply as under £1 for 50-100 seeds or even more. Before deciding which seed to buy it is worth looking up which varieties are available as a few are sown at different times - if you use Cabbages in your cooking then why not grow the ones you love?
Different types include spring, Red, summer, Savoy and Winter Cabbages. Don't let the names confuse you - the seasonal varieties names relate to when they are harvested and not sown.
Summer Cabbages are sown in late winter to early spring. Winter Cabbages are sown in late spring to early summer and Spring Cabbages are sown in late summer!
Cabbages are quite tough and can survive extremely cold temperatures with little protection (the correct varieties can). Spring ones don't grow very big but the other varieties do and will need almost half a meter in between each one in order to give them enough space. This is the first reason why I am not particularly fond of growing them - they take up that much space which could be taken up by so many other things but you are using a large area for a single Cabbage.
They grow in most soils and don't need anything particularly special apart from the occasional feed, but they need a lot of protection which I will discuss in the Growing section...
I start mine off in a seed tray and transplant them when large enough, but you can sow directly into their finishing positions but you may have to do some thinning out when they start to come up as the seeds are quite small. You can sow a small pinch of seedlings every week or so - that way you get a regular crop for a few months rather than them all coming at once.
For times in which to sow, please see above in my review.
This is where I mention that I must have grown nearly 50 individual Cabbages and never have I managed to grow one that wasn't half eaten, rotten, split or obliterated in some other way!
The previous two years were quite wet over summer and I ended up with a lot of slugs around. I have read a number of stories about gardeners going out at night with a torch and a pair of scissors to hunt and destroy these little pests - sorry but this is not my style! I did pick what I thought to be a perfect Cabbage last year but it turned out to have a slug right in its centre - it was surrounded completely by oodles of Cabbage which it was eating when it fancied. This happened to almost all my Cabbages where the slugs had gone right through so most of the Cabbage wasn't even salvageable.
This year it is quite dry and I have a new problem - Cabbage butterflies and there are bloody hundreds of the things. I grow my Cabbages in a raised bed with some Broccoli so I thought the easy solution would be to get some sticks with bottles on, purchase some net and drape it over to protect them. This is netting that I bought specifically to deal with this problem and is advertised to stop them reaching the plants, however they can creep their way through! I guess it serves me right for compromising on the net quality and not going for a more expensive one...
The butterflies will avoid everything in the garden apart from this one patch of Brassicas where they hover around and lay their eggs. Their eggs are a small cluster of yellow dots which will all hatch into teeny tiny little Caterpillars and will then devour the entire Cabbage in no time! One single cluster can ruin a Cabbage. I do spend some time going out and picking off the eggs but the things are everywhere and as soon as you let them hatch you may as well wave bye bye to that Cabbage!
I have read somewhere that you can stop them being attached by spraying with a mixture of garlic and washing up liquid - if I decide to grow them again one day (or any Brassica for that matter) I may give this a try and see how it works.
My current patch of 10-12 or so mangled looking Cabbages could be occupied by 15 Sweetcorn plants giving me 20-25 nice cobs, some potatoes, cucumbers, beans or anything really - I feel like the last 3 years I have wasted the space by growing Cabbage there.
It can take as long as 40 weeks for a Cabbage to be ready from sowing to the actual harvesting (as little as 22 or so weeks for spring varieties but a minimum of 32 weeks for all of the others).
To harvest a cabbage you cut the stem that it grows on with a sharp knife (these stems are tough).
I have never tried this, but after you cut the stem you can apparently slice through a cross on the cut of the piece left in the ground and then in a month you can pick another crop of smaller Cabbages from the same stem.
Why grow Cabbages?
I would grow Cabbages if I had a lot of:
I unfortunately have little of the first two and only a bit of the third! I see these massive varieties entered regularly into the local Flower/Vegetable show and I wonder how someone can possibly have the time or patience to grow such a beast and manage to protect it from a single blemish. Almost all of the time the grower is retired and elderly and dedicates most of their life to the garden - something I can not do right now at the ripe age of 27 with a 40-60 hour a week job!
If you like to eat them, give it a go if you have a little space - if not I don't recommend trying as you can use the space for something much easier with a higher yield at the end. This is one veg that is probably best being bought from the supermarket.
This review is specifically for savoy cabbage - it is to help any pregnant women out there who plan to go onto breastfeed - believe it or not this is recommended by many woman as a natural soother to put down your bra at the start of breastfeeding when you are really tender. The fact that it is a natural product and contains nothing that will do any harm to the baby is just such a plus aswell. I didnt believe it when a Mum told me this but soon i found myself sending my husband to Tesco and me keeping a stash of them in the fridge just for these initial weeks. When i spoke to my midwife she also said it was an old fashioned remedy but the best by fae and costs far less than any gel packs that may be advertised in mothering nagazines - if you are tender and have nothing to loose i swear by the good old sayoy as a pain soother!