Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cabbage "January King", and friends

Back in the Spring I planted-up one of my raised beds with 12 cabbages (2 each of 6 different varieties), and subsequently added 3 Brussels Sprouts. With the benefit of hindsight I now know that this was a mistake. I hadn't expected the cabbages to get so big. In retrospect, 8 cabbages would have been better; 10 at most. Definitely not 12!

Cabbage "Gunma"
I have grown cabbages many times before, and they have been OK-ish, but nothing to write home about. This year I was determined to do better. I added to the raised bed not only some of my own home-made compost, but also some pelleted chicken manure (which is very high in Nitrogen, which leafy brassicas need), and perhaps most significantly some Seer Rockdust. The rockdust is alleged to improve vegetable growth dramatically by adding to the soil all the minerals that plants need, but which are often lacking or depleted in normal garden soil. Well, I think it really has worked for me. Certainly some of the cabbages I planted are enormous.

The trouble is that with all the cabbages getting so big their bed has become overcrowded. One of them bolted prematurely (appropriately enough it was one of the "Greyhound" ones!) and its sibling looks as if it is on the verge of bolting too:

Cabbage "Greyhound". I think this one may be about to bolt.
I decided that some thinning was necessary. I therefore removed the bolter, and harvested somewhat prematurely one of the two "Cabbice" plants. I know it would have got bigger if given more time, but I felt that it had to come up in order to give the others a better chance. This is it:

Cabbage "Cabbice"

Here it is being prepared for cooking. It was a nice cabbage.

The same cabbage, in the kitchen.

While I was thinning the bed, I took the opportunity to have a good tidy-up. I removed all the dead and yellowing leaves from all the plants, and also the cardboard collars which had outlived their usefulness. The most important task though was to rescue the two huge "January Kings", which were toppling over. One of them had produced a very long stalk, which obviously made stability a bit of an issue. I drove a short but stout wooden stake into the ground near each cabbage, and tied the plants to them with several turns of soft string:

Cabbage "January King", now supported by a stake.

This is the same plant seen from above. Although it's only just beginning to form a heart, the outer leaves are enormous.

You remember the 3 Brussels Sprouts I mentioned? Well, one of them had been completely submerged by cabbage leaves, and was looking very pale and thin. I don't think it will come to anything. The other two, though somewhat drawn by having to struggle up towards the light through a crowd of cabbages, don't look too bad. Here's one of them:

As you can see, that one has a red cabbage either side of it. They are "Ruby Perfection", and are nearly as big as the "January King". They also are just beginning to form hearts.

Cabbage "Ruby Perfection"

The two "Golden Acre" cabbages are very small in comparison with the others, and I rather suspect they will bolt just like the "Greyhounds". They have just been outclassed by the bigger varieties. Survival of the fittest in action!

Both "Gunma" and "Cabbice" are varieties grown from seed kindly provided FOC for me to review by Marshalls. I have to say, completely honestly, that these are two of the best cabbages I have ever encountered. I haven't yet harvested either of the "Gunma" ones, but I have had a feel of their hearts, which are already solid and weighty, although I'm sure they will get much bigger yet.

Cabbage "Cabbice"

Luckily there have been very few Cabbage White butterflies about this year, so caterpillars have not been a problem. More surprisingly, in what has been dubbed The Year of The Slug, my brassicas have also suffered little from slug / snail attack. I know that some people will be critical of this, but I use the little blue slug-pellets (as sparingly as I dare), and they do seem to be effective. Other strategies like beer-traps, crushed eggshells and copper tape are mostly fairly ineffectual.


  1. Your cabbages and Brussels sprouts look amazing. They are huge. I've never grown cabbage, but have seen them in other gardens and they get enormous.

    Your Brussels sprouts are doing so well. We're growing 3 different varieties and this is the first time they're actually doing well. I have high hopes for harvesting Brussels sprouts this year.

  2. I have some giant cabbages this year too, but still did not form the firm bud. Love the purple one.

  3. Slugs and snails are making a beeline for our brassicas too, We manage to protect against butterflies and wood pigeons and to some extent whitefly but molluscs are an altogether different proposition.

  4. It is truly good to see someone having a good cabbage year! Mine have not done much this spring, but I think the hot weather is to blame. I will set out January King as a fall crop, hopefully it will head up over winter.

  5. My Broccoli and Cauliflower has produced very small heads and is trying to bolt far too quickly. I didn't do cabbages. Your cabbage look fantastic, which is probably due to your organisation and attention to detail. I'm thinking I may have sown the wrong type (winter rather than summer varieties). Mine may have even been pot bound before I planted out. Seeing how well you are doing is really beginning to focus my mind on being more organised in order to produce better food.

  6. Andy, gardening is in many ways like running a project - it involves forethought, planning and management! I would also add that it involves a few failures too, so I always try to have a Plan "B" up my sleeve!

    1. I have perfected the failure bit :) In fact I learn more by failing than by any other method. My main problem is that I am trying to do too much and don't have the time to concentrate fully on any one thing. But to be honest that's how I like it. Nothing is that bad when it goes wrong - it's all there to be enjoyed.

      But I enjoy reading and seeing people like you getting Plan A right more often than not as it inspires me for the following year.

  7. I'm growing some Ruby Perfection too. It didn't heart up that well last year so I'm hoping for better this season.


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