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Growing Cabbage and Kale in the Home Vegetable Garden

Seeding, Growing and Pest Tips

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Red Leaved Cabbage

Red Leaved Cabbage


How to Grow

Temperature: Both cabbages and kales prefer cool weather and can withstand light frosts.

Exposure: Best in full sun

pH: Slightly alkaline (pH 7.0)

Soil: Rich, well-drained soil. Lots of organic matter.


Starting Cabbage and Kale from Seed

Cabbage seed can be started indoors:

Cabbage

  1. Start 8 - 10 weeks before the last expected frost date.

  2. Sow seeds ½ inch deep, in sterile starting mix.

  3. Water thoroughly.

  4. Once the seeds have sprouted, keep the soil lightly moist and provide a source of light.

  5. Feed the plants with half-strength liquid fertilizer every two weeks.

  6. Once the plants have two sets of true leaves, harden the plants off by setting them outside. Start with two hours a day, and increase by two hours each day until they remain outdoors overnight.

  7. Set the plants at least 12 inches apart; space rows 24 to 36 inches apart, depending on the variety.

  8. To avoid cutworm damage, place a tuna fish or cat food can (with top and bottom removed) halfway into the soil to act as a collar for the plant.

Kale and Chinese cabbage

These are best direct seeded in the garden. (You can also start other cabbages outdoors, in cool weather climates. Seed up to four weeks before the last frost date. For fall harvest, sow seeds in July.)

  1. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 3 to 4 seeds together at the desired plant spacing

  2. Water well; keep the top level of soil moist, especially for drier mid-summer planting.

  3. Once the seedlings are several inches tall, with at least two sets of leaves, pinch out all but the strongest one in each group.

Growing Cabbage and Kale from Purchased Transplants

  1. Choose healthy looking plants. (Note: If you see small white moths with a black dot on their wings hovering, these are likely cabbage moths, which lay their eggs on the plants; don’t buy these plants.)

  2. Set the plants at least 12 inches apart; space rows 24 to 36 inches apart, depending on the variety.

  3. To avoid cutworm damage, place a tuna fish or cat food can (with top and bottom removed) halfway into the soil to act as a collar for the plant.

  4. Keep plants lightly moist. Irrigation is especially important to help the young plants withstand the intense sunlight and heat of summer and to supply the developing heads with sufficient water to develop quickly.

  5. Mulch with 1 to 2 inches of organic matter, keeping the mulch an inch away from the stem of the plant. Mulching helps keep the soil moist, feeds the plants, and controls weeds.

Pest Problems

  • Aphids - Control aphids by spraying with frequent hard blasts of water; try spraying with insecticidal soap or hot pepper spray.

  • Cabbage Loopers - The small white moths in the gardens lay eggs that turn into cabbage loopers. Cover the plants with screening or floating row cover to prevent this.

  • Susceptible to Soil Borne Diseases - Rotate crops; i.e., do not plant any members of the cabbage family (including broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, rapini, Brussels sprouts, mustard) in the same place for four years.

Considerations for Growing Cabbage and Kale in a Home Garden

Suggested Varieties

Harvesting and Storing Cabbage and Kale from the Garden

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