Cabbage gets a lot of notice around St. Patrick’s day as everyone searches grocery stores for the perfect head to complement their potatoes and corned beef. But cabbage should be enjoyed whenever possible; it is a versatile plant that is attractive and healthy (as so many edible plants are). There is a cabbage for any garden, whether you are looking for something edible or ornamental, or if you like the look of tight heading or looser leaf varieties.
Cabbage is in the same family as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and collards. It can be eaten raw in cole slaw, fermented to make sauerkraut or kimchi, or cooked into a variety of dishes. Cabbage is high in vitamins, particularly vitamin C.
This is a perfect vegetable for those who like their edible gardens to be both functional and beautiful; traditional cabbage looks lovely as it grows larger with a few loose leaves around a growing head, plus it can be found in shades of green, red, or purple. Chinese cabbage can be found in two types, heading (Pekinensis) or open-leaf (Chinensis). Open-leaf types form looser heads, giving you lovely large leaves to look at in your garden. Bok Choy is an open-leaf type of Chinese cabbage, while Napa and Michihili form tighter heads.
Planting and Care
Both cabbage and Chinese cabbage transplant well. Be sure to buy clean plants to avoid cabbage black-rot disease. Early symptoms of black rot include stunting, yellowing leaves, and blackening veins. A yellow, wedge-shaped area may be produced at the ends of leaves.
Planting times vary depending on where you live in Florida. Chinese cabbage needs a bit of room to grow, so space plants 14 to 18 inches apart, in rows 14 inches from each other. Look for varieties like Napa, Michihili, bok choy, baby bok choy, joi choi, pak-choi, or the pak-choi hybrid called toy choi.
Traditional cabbage should be planted in rows that are 24 inches apart, with 9 to 16 inches between plants. Bravo and Bronco are the two most popular green cabbage varieties that are grown commercially in Florida. Or you can try varieties like Rio Verde, Flat Dutch, Round Dutch, Wakefield types, Copenhagen Market, or Savoy Red Acre.
As with all vegetables, be sure to give your cabbage plenty of sun and irrigation. While cold temperatures will not kill your cabbage plants, frost can damage the leaves. Using frost cloth can help keep your plants protected should temperatures drop in your area. Irrigate in the early morning, since this allows the leaves to dry out in the sun and helps prevent common fungal diseases. Scout often for caterpillars; larvae of the aptly named cabbage white butterfly enjoy eating your growing cabbage before you can.
Chinese cabbage is ready to harvest relatively quickly, depending on variety, taking 70 to 90 days when planted from seed, or 60 to 70 days when using transplants. Heading cabbage takes a bit longer, usually between 85 and 110 days when planted from seed, or 70 to 90 days when transplanted.
Planting and Care