So, another despairing trip to the produce section of the supermarket!
But gardeners being what they are, I persevered, and I'm here to tell you and show you how you too can easily produce incredibly beautiful, completely pest free organic cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and any other members of the cruciferous plant family. It takes a bit of planning, but once you have everything situated properly, it's a cinch!
It's not too late even this year, depending on where you live! I'm on the Sunshine Coast of BC, so we have a mild climate year round. In the first week of July I've just seeded a second crop to take us through the winter, and I'll give you updates on how that works out.
If you have your veggies at ground level, that works with this method too.
And even if you only have a some of really big plastic plant nursery pots, the kind they grow small trees in, it's certainly possible to grow a couple of your own adorable miniature cabbages this winter!
Know the enemies…
White cabbage butterflies will be around as soon as they get a whiff of those delicious leaves! It takes only seconds, but they will manage to dart down and quickly deposit their eggs underneath a leaf, cosied up next to a vein. As soon as the eggs hatch, hundreds of small caterpillars with voracious appetites spread out and start chomping big holes in your once-cherished cabbages.
About September you might notice you haven't seen any of the white butterflies flitting around. That's when it's safe to remove your cover if you want.
Slugs and snails do their damage when they know your're safely in bed. To outwit them use a product called Slug B Gon. It's available pretty well anywhere now, comes as easy to apply granules. You just scatter a few on the ground every couple of months. It's organic, not harmful to insects, birds or pets. And for those of you who feel sorry for the slugs - trust me, they'll just move on to some other nice plants!
As long as you have a way of protecting them, cabbages are easy to grow.
- Some good soil in whatever container or bed you decide to use.
- Some “baby cabbage” plants. They're going to be planted on 12” centers - that means each plant is going to end up a neat 12” across.
- Enough lightweight “row cover” fabric to cover your plants up to maturity. It's generally known as Remay cloth. Some folks just put it over the plants, and use soil to weigh down the edges. Others, like me, prefer to make hoops to support the cloth over the cabbages.
Here’s what you do…
- Prepare your soil with organic fertilizer mixed into the top layer. You can use compost too, and even well rotted manure. Cabbages are greedy feeders!
- Plant your tiny cabbages out when they’ve grown at least two true leaves - not just the two seedling leaves. Make sure they’re at least 12” apart. Water them in gently.
- Cover them with the row cover cloth, making sure you have it securely fastened. I use a couple of bricks at each end of the hoops on my raised beds.
- Make sure they have a constant supply of water. You might like to give them an organic fertilizer just once too.
Gardening is a fascinating blend of science, observation, patience, ambition and ingenuity. And all true gardeners have this amazing sense of optimism. If your crops or flowers don't make it through this year … well, next year they undoubtedly will!