How to grow your own red cabbage. The variety we use in our nursery is Red Rovite, it is a very reliable red cabbage to grow in Autumn and Winter.
Where to grow:
Although cabbage can tolerate shade they will do much better in a sunny spot. Shelter is also beneficial. Avoid soil that becomes waterlogged or conversely dries out rapidly.
When to grow:
Red cabbages are normally sown February to mid April for transplanting from April to early June and cropping between August and November.
Transplant early cabbage soon enough that it matures before the heat of summer. Many varieties are available and two or three varieties with different maturities can provide harvest over a long period. Hardened plants are tolerant of frosts and can be planted among the earliest of cool-season garden vegetables. Cabbage is easily transplanted from either bare-root or cell-pack-grown plants.They will be about six weeks old, between 2 ½ -3 inches (6-8cm high), with about 6 leaves. Water the ground deeply around the young plants the day before you intend to move them, as this will prevent damage and shock to them.
The transplants new growing bed should have been prepared sometime during the autumn/early winter before sowing, in the way as described earlier in this guide. Ensure that the soil is quite firm to allow steady cabbage leaf growth.
With a dibber (Broom handle will do) make rows of 4-inch deep holes in the transplanting area at 12-14 inches apart. Allow 12 inches (30cm) between each of the plant rows.
Plant each transplant into the prepared hole, and don’t worry that you are planting them too deep. Plant the seedlings firmly, after which they should be well watered taking great care not to disturb the roots. The 4-inch deep holes will often swallow the plant up to its first leaves but that will solve the problem of leggy wind-rocked stems.
Caring for your crop:
Keep the soil around the cabbage weed-free. Take care when weeding because the roots are easily damaged. Remove any yellow leaves or those badly damaged by caterpillar or slug attack as you go. Keep an eye on the plants over autumn and winter, firming the plants down if lifted by frost or pulling some soil up around the stems to help prevent against wind rock as needed.
Do not allow the plants to dry out as this will result in plant bolting. A mulch of some form helps preserve soil moisture, for example herbicide-free grass clippings.
During a prolonged spell without rain (week or more) you should water gently but deeply once a week. As a rough rule of thumb apply approx 10 litres per metre squared of soil area. Carry out this watering in the morning and try to avoid splashing the leaves, watering the soil instead.
At about the forth or fifth week after seed germination and while plants are growing strongly you can apply a second application of a well balanced fertiliser. Although not essential, a further scattering of Growmore or fish blood and bone can increase the vegetables vigour and make the less susceptible to plant ills. Once scattered the fertiliser should be lightly scratched into the soils surface followed by gentle but deep watering of the soil.
Pests and Diseases:
After sowing provide protection against birds especially if pigeons are a problem in your area. Bird protection should be provided in the form of fine netting. Netting will also prevent butterflies laying their eggs on your crop, which prevents caterpillar damage.
Below are common cabbage ailments.
Cabbage root fly Stunted growth especially if infected as seedlings. Discoloured leaves which wilt. Roots are black and rotten.
Club root The first signs of infection are wilting. blueish leaves and a dying plant.
Cabbage Caterpillars Holes in the leaves
Wirestem Rotting stems on seedlings
Cabbage Whitefly White larva on undersides of the leaves and distorted leaves
Cabbage can be harvested anytime after the heads form. For highest yield, cut the cabbage heads when they are solid (firm to hand pressure) but before they crack or split. When heads are mature, a sudden heavy rain may cause heads to crack or split wide open. The exposed internal tissue soon becomes unusable. Harvest and salvage split heads as soon as possible after they are discovered.
In addition to harvesting the mature heads of the cabbage planted in the spring, you can harvest a later crop of small heads (cabbage sprouts). These sprouts develop on the stumps of the cut stems. Cut as close to the lower surface of the head as possible, leaving the loose outer leaves intact. Buds that grow in the axils of these leaves (the angle between the base of the leaf and the stem above it) later form sprouts. The sprouts develop to 2 to 4 inches in diameter and should be picked when firm. Continue control of cabbage worms and other pests. If this control cannot be maintained, remove and destroy or compost the stumps, because they serve as a breeding ground for diseases and insect pests.
Red Cabbage is usually smaller and denser than heads of green cabbage. The flavor of red cabbage is slightly peppery and it is very susceptible to color change. Cook red cabbage with vinegar (or other acidic ingredient) or it will turn an ugly blue-gray color. Always use stainless steel knives and cookware when preparing red cabbage to prevent color changes.