June 6, 2012

Report on a Cabbage Experiment

Behold the lone survivor of my late winter/early spring cabbage planting experiment:

Total cabbage harvest: one head

She's pretty, but she's small and she's the only head of cabbage I harvested after seeding a full tray in the greenhouse the day after Christmas and transplanting 17 starts out to the garden in mid-February.

Normally I would follow the recommendations for our area in UCD's Vegetable Planting Guide and start cabbage by seed in July, transplant into beds in August and harvest heads of cabbage in the early winter. In fact, I did start seeds in July, but every last one of the tiny seedlings were munched down to the ground by a crowd of hungry caterpillars.

Cabbages transplanted on February 19th

Since I still had seed that needed to be used up, I decided to find out if I could grow cabbage in Davis in the winter and spring instead. The variety is Ruby Ball, which Territorial Seed calls an "all season" red cabbage that should take 78 days to mature.

The bottom line is that, yes, the plants did grow and develop heads, but they took a lot longer than I anticipated. Even if I counted the 78 days from the date of transplant rather than seeding, I'd figured I'd have cabbages by the end of April and the beds would be free for planting spring and summer crops. What actually happened is that I harvested a single cabbage this week, 160 days after I started the seeds. Because it became clear the plants wouldn't be ready until at least June, I ripped half of them out so I could plant cucumbers.

The rest of the cabbages were either pulled out of the ground as seedlings (by birds?) or ferociously attacked by packs of aphids as they got bigger. Aphids could have been controlled by daily squirts of water on the plants, but I didn't have the motivation or energy for that.

Aphid heaven

So, the end result of my planting experiment is that I will turn my one beautiful head of spring-grown Ruby Ball cabbage into coleslaw, enjoy and appreciate that June coleslaw, and then go back to planting cole crops in July.


  1. Coleslaw and burgers will make it all worth it.

  2. That is the most beautiful cabbage I've ever seen!