Growing The Cool Season Cabbage
Cool season crops like Cabbage can do very well grown in the Southwest. But they need to be grown when the weather is going to be cooler… Years past when I have tried to grow cole crops they would stop growing when the weather got hot… That was because I usually tried to grow them in late spring… Starting at that time they do not have time to mature before the hot weather hits.
It Is All About Timing
I have since learned that Cabbage will do very well if they are started when the weather is beginning to cool down, or before it begins to warm up. That means late summer to early fall and late winter to early spring so that they do most of the growing in spring and fall.
Our growing zone is 9b, we are located between Phoenix and Tucson… Our temps are very close to Phoenix, but Phoenix gets slightly warmer winters than we do. These growing instructions would work for most of Arizona and similar areas.
Preparing The Soil
Cabbage can grow in most soil types but prefer soils high in composted plant matter, and soil that is not very sandy. We have more sandy soil here than in other parts of the country, but adding as much composted plant matter as possible to the soil 2 weeks to 2 months before planting cabbage will help.
When digging rows or beds, dig deep and turn the soil over well making sure that the compost is distributed nicely. I know many practice the no-till or no-dig gardening method, and if you know how to do that go for it… I am still learning and still dig my beds before planting…
Growing From Seed Outdoors
The best dates to start growing cabbage from direct seeding is August 15 for a fall garden, and January 15 for a spring garden, cabbage matures in 70 – 130 days depending on the variety chosen.
Plant seeds in furrows, about 1/4 inch deep cover with soil and pat down, to firm up the soil.
Water twice a day for the first week, when the seeds sprout and are looking healthy cut back to once a day, if the seedlings continue to look healthy slowly decrease till you are only watering twice a week.
Growing From Seed Indoors
Starting your own transplants from seeds indoors is easy to do, and will give you a jump-start on the growing season, by providing larger plants to start with, getting your cabbage off to a fast start and earlier maturity.
Start seeds indoors in July for September Plantings that give 8 weeks of indoor growing, or sooner if you want larger transplants to start with. If you live in a cooler part of the Southwest you could Start them in June for an August planting.
Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep cover with soil, water soil and keep damp until seedlings emerge, water daily if you are not using a growing system, to prevent soil from drying out. If your house is very dry, you might also use a humidity dome to keep the seedlings from drying out.
Light, when the seedlings get leaves, they will need some sunshine or grow lights… Set them near a window or provide grow lights…
Growing From Transplants
Plant transplants outdoors September 15 for fall crops and February 1st for spring crops. If you want you can usually purchase transplants from the local nursery or home store, the larger the plant the more it will cost.
When using plants that have been growing indoors or that have come from a nursery, you will need 10 days or so to let the plants get used to being outdoors before planting, this practice is called hardening off… Hardening off is one of the most important steps to growing transplants. When transplants are being grown, they have almost perfect growing conditions, and they are not as strong as plants grown in the ground that deal with stress daily. Just putting a transplant outdoors without out a hardening off period could kill them.
How to harden off transplants
About 10 days before you are ready to plant outdoors, set your transplants outside in a protected area out of direct sun and wind for a few hours a day and bring them back in. Do this daily increasing the time outdoors each day, in a week or so leave them out all day and night. By hardening transplant off, the plants should be strong enough to endure full sun and windy garden conditions when planted.
Handle with care, nature never transplants 8-week old seedlings. When removing transplant from the container push it out from the bottom of the container, never pull it out by the stem. Hold and move transplant by the root ball being careful not to disturb the soil with the goal of keeping as much of the soil intact.
To give your transplant more support, it can be planted in a hole that is an inch or so lower/deeper than the top of the root ball.
You rarely find perfect transplanting weather, so cover new transplants till they have time to acclimate to their new environment… At least 2 days, and possibly 4 – 5 depending on the condition of the transplant. Use something that breathes, my dad used to put up single pieces of wood shingles around new transplants, I would recommend a light colored cotton sheet, or grow cloth, really anything that will protect new plants from sun and wind and still let them breathe… plastic could cause them to build up heat and kill them.
Cabbages are heavy feeders and will do best if they get fed at least two times during the growing season. Start with a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 (these numbers will be on the package) granular fertilizer added to the soil and mixed in, before transplanting, or if you prefer you can get a blended manure from the nursery or home store and use that for an organic option.
When the seedlings are 6 inches tall give them a well-balanced water soluble fertilizer, I like fish emulsion, mix according to the package directions. When the cabbages begin to form heads they will need their 2nd application of water soluble fertilizer. Apply fertilizer to the soil around the plant, keep it off the plant to prevent burning.
Cabbages need 1.5 inches of water per week and possibly more in the desert, they do not like to sit in waterlogged soil, so rather than soak them daily, skip a day or two between watering and then give them a good soaking.
Last year we purchased a sprinkler that rises above the garden, and we water for 3 hours every few days…
Tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms.
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