So you want to grow a blue ribbon vegetable? Cabbage is a terrific choice if you are looking to garner garden patch bragging rights, or take the prize at the county fair. Cabbages grow well in Passaic County soil and can top 50 or even 100 pounds when properly cultured. One true giant – although admittedly grown in Alaska – exceeded 120 pounds!
But those who are hoping to grow an eye popping giant cabbage need to start right now.
Seed selection is vital. Nothing will induce a plant that averages 6 pounds in weight to grow to 65 pounds, no matter how well fertilized and tended it may be. But try varieties like Bonnie Mega cabbage, Robinson’s Giant and the O-S cross Alaskan Giant and success is likely. These seeds are not widely available can be found at Bonnie Plants, Garden of Eaden and Best Cool Seeds respectively.
To grow truly enormous cabbages requires lots of room per individual plant. In fact, it is best to commit a 4’ x 8’ raised bed to just two giants. Always start twice as many plants as you expect to grow to allow for early spring disasters to the transplanted seedlings.
Plant seeds in lightly fertilized potting mix in larger than normal seeding pots, to allow for maximum root development. Keep them in a warm but sunny spot such as a window sill or greenhouse until germination. Keep the soil moist but not soggy as the seedlings develop.
The transplants can be planted in the garden as soon as the danger of hard frost has passed, but be sure to harden them off over a 10 day period by leaving them in a ventilated cold frame or a sheltered spot on the porch, taking them back inside at night.
Prepare the soil by deep digging a 4’ X 8’ raised bed or equivalent garden space and working in copious amounts of compost and a little bit of general purpose fertilizer. Plant just two or at most three of seedlings and allow them to take hold.
As the plants grow, weed scrupulously and as the soil begins to warm, much with sifted compost. Do not allow the soil to dry out; cabbages need water to reach their maximum size.
Beware of caterpillars and search for them daily – holes in the leaves are a sure sign of infestation. Hand pick them and if the problem persists Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt as it is commonly known is an organic and time proven deterrent. It is generally available in gardening centers and also on line.
Once a month, apply a nitrogen rich fertilizer either to the soil or by foliar spray. Now it is simply a matter of weed, water, and wait. The larger cabbages take time to develop, 100 days or more but for neighborhood bragging rights, it is worth the wait.
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