Winter is nearly over and many of us are thinking about what to plant in Spring. But don’t start just yet, the soil temperature, even in pots, punnets or modular trays, is still too cold to get most seeds to germinate! You could, of course, start in a greenhouse, cold-frame, or indoors, under lights, on a heat mat…
There are, however, a few seeds you can sow at this time of year, and Cabbage ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ is one variety of cold soil tolerant seeds.
Cabbages are, of course, a well known vegetable but did you know there are different types of cabbage? In the PSW Seed Bank, we have drumhead cabbages, savoy cabbages, sugarloaf cabbages and Chinese or ‘napa’ cabbages. We have green cabbages and red cabbages. We have early-maturing, mid-maturing and late-maturing cabbages.
The cabbage which is the focus of this article, Cabbage ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, was bred in the USA in the mid-1800s. It is a green, early-maturing, sugarloaf cabbage. As the photo shows, it has a tightly packed, light green, conical shaped (‘sugarloaf’) heart, up to 1kg, with darker green outer leaves. As you would expect from a sugarloaf type, it is a sweet cabbage and therefore delicious raw or cooked. Being a relatively small cabbage, it can be grown in a container, which will need to be at least 30cm in diameter (for one cabbage). Two can be planted, near the edges, in a container of at least 45cm in diameter.
Early maturing simply means any plant that grows relatively quickly from seed to maturity. Cabbage ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ is ready for harvest in about 70 days, which is very quick for cabbage. Sow it in August and, given the right conditions, you could be harvesting your crop in October or November.
So let’s get you started:
- Prepare the garden bed where you intend to grow your plants. Like all cabbages, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ is a heavy feeder so the garden soil will need to be mixed with good-quality finished compost.
- We don’t mix our soil and compost, we let the worms do it for us. We practice a version of “no dig” gardening, so we put a layer of semi- finished compost (straight from our chicken run) over the entire vegetable garden bed at the beginning of each season. If plants look like they are slowing, we add another layer of ‘free’ compost made by our girls.
- Cabbages prefer a neutral soil, so if your pH is too acidic, add a small amount of gardener’s lime or dolomite, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- You could sow the seeds directly but, at this time of year, you may want to sow them in a punnet or module tray. The soil in your garden bed is likely to be way too cold for germination to occur. We also find that we have more control over things like light and warmth if we use the indirect planting method and raise seedlings.
- Fill your punnet or module tray with pre-moistened seed raising mix
- Sow your seed sparsely, 6mm deep
- Germination should occur in 7 to 14 days
- If possible, water your seedling trays from underneath not from on top, because it’s so easy to dislodge the seed by overhead watering
- Succession sow, which simply means sowing the same seeds every two or three weeks so that you have a continual harvest of cabbage.
- If you sow directly to the garden, you will need to thin your plants as they grow. These “thinnings” can be eaten, fed to the chickens or rabbits, or put in the compost.
- Transplant seedlings to the garden when they are 8 to 10 cm tall. Plant your ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ cabbage seedlings 45 cm apart.
- Water plants in with seaweed extract: this acts as a tonic and helps your plants recover more quickly from ‘transplant shock’
- Keep your cabbages well watered, they do not like to dry out. Try not to water the leaves.
- Every day or two, check your seedlings for hungry green caterpillars. Remove them by hand and feed them to your chickens, or squash and leave on the garden bed.
- While you are there, also check for aphids. Aphids tend to attack weak plants, so make sure yours are kept healthy and moving along.
- Little green aphids can be flicked off, squashed or hosed off. The purple aphids are much harder to remove!
- To keep your seedlings growing, feed your plants with a liquid, organic fertiliser every two weeks throughout the growing season.
- Continue to check for caterpillars, especially when the cabbages begin to form a head. Caterpillars can be quite sneaky and hide at the base of the head, coming out to feed when you least expect them. We have lost half a cabbage to sneaky caterpillars!
- In 10 weeks, you should be able to harvest your cabbages.
PSW Seed Catalogue has Cabbage ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ seeds available from this page:
The seeds are past their ‘best by’ date but we have had no problem getting seeds to germinate. Best of all, they are only 10c for a packet of 50 seeds. What a bargain!!
Disclaimer: The sale of seeds from the PSW Seed Bank is only available to current financial members of Permaculture Sydney West. Orders placed will only be filled if the name of the purchaser is on the current membership list. All memberships were due for renewal on 1 July 2021, no matter when you joined PSW. Go online and renew – it’s easy!!
Until next month
Lynne (PSW Seed Savers Coordinator)