Photo: Oxmoor House
SEASON: Late spring through summer
CHOOSING: Look for a firm head that seems heavy for its size and doesn’t appear dry or cracked.
STORING: Cabbage likes to stay cool in the garden and the refrigerator. Place it in a produce bag in the coldest section, where it will keep for up to two weeks. Once cut, it remains usable for only a few days.
GROWING: The cool seasons of spring and fall are ideal for growing cabbage. Look for harvests in late spring and early summer, as well as late fall. Cabbage grown in cool climates like Alaska grows all summer.
Start with transplants for a leg up on a long growing season. A miniature head needs as little as 45 days to mature, while the jumbo heads may take as long as 100 days. Set your transplants out a month before the last frost in spring, or 8 to 12 weeks before the first frost in fall. For an extended harvest, plant several different kinds of cabbage that will mature at different times.
Set transplants in a sunny, well-prepared bed, allowing at least 12 inches between plants and up to 24 inches for large varieties. If the transplant seems to be floppy with a long stem, bury it a little deeper. Settle transplants into their new home with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer. Mulch well to conserve soil moisture and keep out weeds. Water weekly and fertilize again after three to four weeks. Leafy vegetables like this require a lot of nitrogen and nutrients.
Cabbage is ready to harvest when the head is firm. If you wait too long, the head may split, which gives diseases and insects an open door. When you harvest, use a knife to cut the stalk just below the head. It is best not to break it off , because injuries lessen the shelf life.