Being able to harvest fresh vegetable in the winter can make your winter feel less gloomy. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to have a winter garden. Many vegetables can survive mild winter and others can survive colder winter if properly cared. One of them is winter cabbage. This vegetable is a great winter treat. Therefore, you must try growing it in your winter garden.
Winter Cabbage Plants
The varieties of cabbage are grouped into 3 categories. Some varieties are considered as winter cabbage plants. These vegetable plants are late season cabbage. They take up to 180 days to reach maturity. These cops are very hardy. However, certain varieties may be more tolerant to cold temperatures than the others may.
These particular cabbage plants have similar appearance to other type of cabbages. However, these winter varieties have harder and smaller heads. These heads are drum-like or ball. They can be harvested from November until March. As a result, you can plant them successively so that you can harvest this vegetable all through the winter.
When and Where to Grow Winter Cabbage
If you want to grow winter cabbage plants in your backyard, you must know when and where to do it. Therefore, you will be successful in growing this vegetable
1. When to Plant
Winter cabbage plants are propagated from seeds. These seeds will germinate successfully when the temperature is about 12oC to 24oC. In consequence, you need to start sowing the seeds 8 weeks before first frost. In some areas, it occurs in midsummer. If you think that your regions are too cool or too hot, you can germinate the seeds indoors in mid or late summer.
2. Where to Plant
These cabbages will thrive in an environment that has these basic conditions.
In general, cabbage is hardy in zones 1 through 9. However, the late season varieties are only suitable for certain zones. It depends on how tolerant the cabbages to the cold temperature in the winter.
While the late season cabbage seeds germinate successfully in warmer temperature, the plants are more tolerant to cold. They will grow optimally in temperature of 15oC to 18oC. These plants also tolerate cooler temperature in the winter.
Winter cabbage plants are greedy feeders. They will thrive only if planted in rich fertile loamy or sandy soil. For this reason, you need to add several inches of aged compost to the soil before planting. As an alternative, you can apply slow release fertilizer at planting time.
In addition, the soil must drain well. For best result, you also need to make sure that your garden soil is slightly acidic, pH of 6.5 up to 6.8. Therefore, you need to perform a soil test. If the pH level is not suitable for the plants, you need to correct it.
These particular cabbages love to grow in a sunny location. They must get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. These vegetable plants may be a winter crop, but sunlight plays important role during their growing season. If they don’t get enough sunlight, they will suffer from slow growth.
In consequence, you need to make sure that you sow the seeds or plant the seedlings at the right time so that they get enough sun. Once the first frost arrives, they will not be able to develop bigger cabbage heads quickly.
Getting enough water is necessary for the winter cabbage plants. However, they need less water than the cabbages planted in the spring. These late season cabbages grow well in moist soil. However, excess water can cause root rot to the plants. Therefore, you need to make sure that the soil is not soggy from watering.
How to Grow
Growing winter cabbage is fun. It will give you a nice treat in the winter. Therefore, you must try to grow this vegetable at home. You can follow these steps to grow late season cabbage varieties.
1. Getting started
At this stage, you need to do several things. One of them is deciding the planting location. This location must get full direct sun. After you decide the location, you need to work the soil. In working the soil, you must loosen the soil, add a layer of compost or side dress the soil with slow release fertilizer, and correct the pH soil.
2. Sowing the seeds
You can sow the seeds directly in the garden or sow the seeds indoors. If you choose the former, you need to rake the soil first. After that, plant the seeds about 1 cm deep. Space the seeds 20 cm apart. After that, moist the soil and keep it moist until the seedlings appear. It usually takes 10 to 21 days for the seeds to germinate.
Sowing the cabbage seeds indoors is perfect if you live in areas with hot summer. It is also good for you who want to start early. To sow the late season cabbage, you need small pots and seed starting mix. Fill in the pots with the seed starting mix. After that, sow the cabbage seeds in it. Moist the media and place the pots near a sunny window.
3. Thinning and transplanting
For you who sow the seeds directly to the ground, you need to thin the seedlings when they are 12.5 cm tall. You can thin the young plants and space the remainders to your liking. The space will determine the size of the cabbage heads. Some gardeners space the seedlings at least 30 cm apart. But, if you want larger heads, you can space them 45 cm apart.
If you sow the seeds indoors, you can transplant the seedlings in your garden when they have 3 pairs of leaves. In addition, you need to make sure that the temperature is not too warm. Hot weather can cause the young plants to bolt so that you cannot harvest cabbage heads.
Before transplanting them, you need to harden the seedlings off for about a week. After that, transplant the seedlings and space them between 30 and 45 cm apart. As an alternative, you can also grow them in containers. Plant each of the seedlings in a large container that is 30 cm wide and 30 cm deep.
To care for the winter cabbage plants, you must do these 3 things.
Since this late season cabbage plants do not need high amount of water, you only need to make sure that the soil stay moist during their growing season. Therefore, if you see the soil starts drying, you need to moist it immediately.
You will need to fertilize the soil several times during their growing season. Aside from fertilize it at the planting time; you also need to side dress the soil with 10-10-10 fertilizer two weeks after thinning or transplanting. In addition, you must do it again when these vegetable plants start producing cabbage heads.
3. Dealing with pests and diseases
Aphids, flea beetles, cutworms, and slugs are some pests that love to feed on winter cabbage plants. To control the pests, you need to check for them periodically. If you find them or their eggs, you need to remove them immediately.
In addition, these plants are prone to fungal infection, such as downy mildew. Therefore, you may need to spray the plants with fungicide before they suffer from the infection. If you do it, you will be able to prevent the fungal infection on your late season cabbages.
If you live in an area with mild winters, you will not need to protect the winter cabbage plants from the cold temperature. Most of these plants can survive light frosts or soil temperature of 0oC. However, they will not be able to survive when the temperature is -6.6oC. This cold temperature will damage these late season cabbages.
In consequence, you need to protect these plants from the cold. You can use one of these protections to protect your cabbage plants.
1. Cold frame
This cold protection has been used for ages to protect plants from cold temperature. It looks like a box with a glass window at the top. It is equipped with hinges so that gardeners can open and close it when they have to care for the plants or harvest the crop. A cold frame is a good cold protection for the plants. However, it tends to be more expensive than other protections.
2. Low tunnel
This particular protection is quite new. Some people may know it as mini-hoop or caterpillar tunnel. A low tunnel is made of PVC pipes and clear plastic sheeting or fabric row cover. The pipes are bent and then the plastic sheeting or row cover is applied on them. Therefore, you will have a low tunnel.
Protecting your cabbage plants using a low tunnel will allow you to have great harvest in the winter. In addition, this cold protection is very affordable. You can make it easily without hiring a professional.
If the winter in your area is quite mild, you may don’t have to use low tunnels or cold frames. However, it is recommended to mulch the soil around the winter cabbage plants. This layer of mulch must be thick enough to keep the soil warm. Some gardeners recommend 7.5 cm thick mulch for cold protection.
Once your winter cabbage plants are mature, they will produce cabbage heads. You can harvest them when they are firm and full. Cabbage heads that are harvested after light frosts have better taste. They are sweeter than those harvested before the frost arrives are.
The heads of these late season cabbages are prone to frost damaged. However, you can still enjoy the frost damaged heads. All you need to do is peeling the damaged leaves. Therefore, you will get healthy leaves inside.
How to Store Cabbage for Winter
Winter cabbage heads store well. If you store them in a root cellar, they will stay fresh for almost 3 months. However, if you do not have this kind of room, you can store cabbage heads in a fridge. You don’t need to wash the cabbage before storing them in a fridge.
In addition, you must let the outer leaves intact. Storage may damage the outer leaves. When you find some cabbage heads have outer leave damage, you must get the vegetables out of the storage. After that, remove the damaged leaves until you have healthy leaves. Next, you can store them back or use them in your cooking.
Winter cabbage is available in various cultivars. You can get their seeds easily from online and offline nurseries. However, some of them may not be labeled as ‘winter’ cabbages. They may be labeled as ‘overwintering,’ ‘cold season,’ or ‘storage.’
These are winter cabbage varieties to consider.
1. Tundra F1
This variety of winter cabbage offers you with dense heads. These dark green cabbage heads are sweet and crisp. The best time to sow Tundra F1 seeds is in May until June. It is very hardy. This cabbage can stand frost all through the winter.
If you grow Tundra F1 in your backyard, you will be able to pick the cabbages from November. Moreover, you can prolong the harvest until February if you sow the seeds in succession. With proper care, Tundra F1 can grow up to 40 cm tall and 60 cm wide.
2. Late flat Dutch
This type of winter cabbage takes about 105 days to mature. It yields light green cabbage heads with excellent flavor. They are very big, up to 30 cm in diameter. You can harvest them while they are still young or once they are mature.
3. Protovoy AGM
If you are looking for unique cabbage heads, you can go for Protovoy AGM. These heads are small and irregular with dark green outer leaves.
Growing Brunswick cabbage offers you with large ‘drum’ heads. They are about 25 cm in diameter. Another good thing about Brunswick cabbage is that they store very well. You can pick these large cabbage heads in 95 days.
Winter cabbage is one of the vegetables that must be grown in your winter garden. Its heads tastes excellent and can be cooked into various dishes. In addition, it also offers you with great nutritional value. This cold hardy cabbage can make your garden looks more attractive due to their large and beautiful shape.