White cabbages are usually categorised into several types: Spring, Summer, or Winter. There are some autumn types, but depending on the variety they are usually sorted into either summer or winter. There are further types: Savoy, Red, and Chinese cabbages, which have their own growing schedule.
Pick a spot recently vacated by plants not of the Brassica family – it should be reasonably sunny. Dig it over in autumn and work in some compost or manure if the soil is poor. It must not be acid: lime in winter if necessary. Cabbage requires consolidated soil, so leave some months between digging and planting.
Apply a general fertilizer about a week before planting (except for Spring cabbages), but do not fork over the surface before planting.
Sowing & Planting
Germination time is between 7 – 12 days. Sow very thinly in rows 6 inches apart and cover with 0.5 inches of soil. Space the seedlings about 3 inches apart from each other as soon as they are big enough, to prevent them becoming spindly and weak.
When they have 5 or 6 leaves, the seedlings can be planted. Water the new rows on the day before planting to their permanent site. If you fear club root dip the roots in thiophanate-methyl before planting (for example: Topsin M, Frumidor, Mildothane Turf Liquid, etc.). Plant firmly and water thoroughly.
For compact varieties, leave 1 ft between plants, or even 1.5 ft for varieties with large heads. Spring cabbages only need 4 inches between plants in rows 6 inches apart – you can thin them out in March and use them as spring greens.
Protect seedlings from birds (netting can help). Hoe carefully until the crops are large enough to suppress weeds on their own. Water in dry weather to prevent bolting. In most cases cabbages are cut as required for immediate use. When the heads start to mature, apply a liquid feed.
Earth up the stems of spring cabbages in autumn, and firm down any plants that become loosened by wind or frost during the winter.
Harvest as required by cutting with a sharp knife close to ground level. White winter cabbage and red cabbage can be harvested in November and stored for later use by cutting off roots and stem, removing the outer leaves and then storing them in boxes lined with straw in a cool, dry place.
Tip: after cutting spring and summer cabbages, cut a 0.5 inch cross into the stump left in the ground and keep watered for a small secondary crop of mini cabbages.
These cabbages are planted in autumn to mature over the winter and provide fresh spring greens in March (collards) and mature heads later in spring.
They are generally conical in shape and smaller than the summer and winter varieties.
Usually ball-headed with some conical exceptions, these are sown in spring and mature in summer or autumn.
The normal pattern is to sow in April, transplant in May and cut in August or September. For a June crop, choose an early variety and sow under cloches in in early March and transplant in April.
Generally ball- or drum-headed these come in green or white varieties and are suitable for immediate cooking. They are sown in May, transplanted in July and harvested from November onwards. If you don’t have space to store your harvest, they can stay in the ground until you need them.
Easily recognised by their crisp and puckered dark green leaves.
Grown as winter cabbages, but there are varieties that mature as late as March. They can be left in the ground until needed.
These are very popular in continental Europe, but are not often grown in the UK. Red cabbage is often pickled and sold in tins or jars.
Grow them like summer cabbages, and harvest in early autumn for immediate use, or late autumn for storing. They can also be used to colour textiles.
These are tall and cylindrical heads that look more like lettuce than cabbage. Sow at 4 inches apart in drills spaced about 1 ft apart, then thin to leave 1 ft between plants. Do not transplant, and water regularly, as bolting is a problem when they become dry.
Loosely tie the heads with string or raffia in August.