Growing cabbage hydroponically is an easy way to have a fresh supply year-round. The flavor and nutrient value of hydroponic grown cabbage is the same as cabbage traditionally grown in soil. Purchase a hydroponic grow system from a local garden center, online supplier or build your own. You can purchase cabbage seedlings from a nursery or start seeds directly in your hydroponic grow system.
Choose the location for your hydroponic garden. Install grow lights to ensure enough light is available year round for your plants. Set up your hydroponic grow system. Place the water tight containers on a sturdy table that is near a GFI (ground fault interrupt) outlet. Install grow lights so that they hang over top the hydroponic grow system.
Insert one to two seeds in a grow cube. Place the grow cube into a small net pot and insert into the hydroponic grow system. Seeds should sprout in seven to 10 days. When the seedlings reach two inches tall, they are ready to transplant into large net pots.
Remove seedlings from their pots. Plants purchased from a nursery require that the roots are washed gently with cold water to remove all soil. Place the seedlings in tall net pots and place in the hydroponic garden.
Monitor the pH balance of the hydroponic grow system; it should be 6.5. Add grow medium (nutrient content) every three weeks to the grow system. Drain water completely every three weeks. You can begin harvesting cabbage in 60 to 90 days depending on the variety.
Cut the heads off with a sharp knife. Cabbage is ready to be harvested as soon as the head forms. It is best however, to wait until they are firm when you give them a gentle squeeze. If you wait longer, the heads may split open, which is common during a heavy rain.
Continue to cut off any smaller heads or sprouts that grow from the stump of the cabbage heads you already harvested. When cutting those smaller heads, which are about two to four inches in diameter, only cut off the heads, and not the outer leaves that are loose. More heads will grow from those leaves.
Remove and destroy any stumps if you notice worms or other pests and are unable to control them. They could destroy your whole crop.
Spread 3 to 4 lbs of a complete, slow release fertilizer over every 100 square feet of garden bed. A 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 fertilizer blend provides sufficient nutrition.
Incorporate the fertilizer into the soil after application. Till it into the top 8 inches of the soil using a spading fork or a spade. Dig into the bed the desired depth and flip the soil and fertilizer over, so it's mixed in with the top soil.
Fertilize the cabbage four to six weeks after the cabbage is transplanted or has sprouted, if you direct seeded it into the bed. Sprinkle 8-8-8 fertilizer at a rate of 3 cups per 100 feet, or apply 1 lb. of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to each 100 feet. Apply the fertilizer 6 inches away from the base of the cabbage plants, as direct fertilizer contact can burn the cabbage.
Irrigate the bed immediately following fertilization. Water dilutes the fertilizer and makes the nutrients liquid, which helps the cabbage roots absorb and use the fertilizer.
Place a row cover over your cabbage crops to protect them against insects like the cabbageworm and cabbage looper. The cabbageworm and cabbage looper are both caterpillars that bore large holes in the leaves of cabbage as they eat through it.
Remove any mustard family weeds found near your cabbage plants to prevent cabbage and turnip aphids. Once hatched, these aphids lay their eggs in mustard weeds and fly into your cabbages.
Spray your cabbages with water when you see pests like aphids and flea beetles. A direct stream of water dislodges pests on contact.
Apply an insecticidal soap to the cabbage to kill off pests like flea beetles and aphids. Read the instructions on the soap bottle to successfully control these early-season insects.
Apply a biological control such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) if you see white butterflies in your cabbage garden. Spray this bacterium on your cabbages every seven to 10 days, and the butterfly larvae will die after ingesting the solution.
About Root Maggots
The cabbage root maggot is a common pest that attacks the roots of many vegetable crops. In its adult stage, this maggot is a gray fly, similar in appearance to the housefly. It's less than 1/3 inch long and is white. Other types of root maggots include the onion maggot. Both maggots are common in the northern United States.
Prevention and Control
A floating row cover over your cabbage family crops can help prevent a root maggot infestation. Because the adult fly cannot get in to lay its eggs near your plants, they will be safe from the larval stage, the root maggot itself. If you place row cover in the spring and summer, you should be able to foil the root maggot, as the adult fly is not active in winter months. If you discover any maggots, pull affected plants and destroy them.
The cabbage family is especially susceptible to root maggots; broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are common victims of this pest.
The root maggot hatches at the base of plants and then tunnels into the plant, where it feeds and eventually kills the host plant.
Tiny nematodes can help control root maggots.
Tests are being conducted with a natural soil fungus as a control for root maggots. It won't hurt seedlings or good insects like ladybugs. Watch for news about its development in the near future.
Other Methods of Control
Keeping the garden clean around your cabbage family plants can help deter root maggots. Healthy, robust plants are less likely to be attacked.
Prepare the cabbage and vegetables of your slaw recipe as normal. Use heartier vegetables like carrots, peppers or celery because they will freeze better than more fragile, watery vegetables like cucumbers. Leave out any dressing, including mayonnaise or vinegar.
Add 2 cups of granulated sugar, 1 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of water to a large saucepan. Turn your stove to high and heat the mixture until it starts to boil. Let it boil for one minute so the sugar crystals completely dissolve.
Turn off your stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add your cabbage and vegetables to a large airtight container.
Pour the sugar and vinegar mixture directly on top of the cabbage and vegetables. Stir the ingredients until the liquid evenly saturates the cabbage and vegetables.
Wait five minutes before handling the slaw mixture to allow the sugar and vinegar to soak into the vegetables and act as a preservative to keep the cabbage crisp. Secure the lid to the airtight container and add to the freezer.
Use the slaw within three months for the crispiest results. Remove the container from the freezer and store it in the refrigerator until it's thawed, approximately one hour. Stir gently to distribute any liquid and serve.
Care for Brassicas
Keep the soil moist around new seedlings until they are established. Water established plants at least once a week; brassicas need plenty of water to produce a good harvest.
Use a multi-purpose insecticide at the first sign of insects such as aphids, cabbage maggots and harlequin bugs. You can use insecticidal soap for the aphids; it is safer and less toxic than commercial pesticides. Spray plants with a microbial insecticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis to kill caterpillars such as cabbage looper, cabbage webworm, cross-striped cabbageworm, diamondback moth and imported cabbageworm.
Put netting over brassicas to protect them from birds. You can also put blank or used CDs on string hanging from garden stakes to keep birds at bay.
Potatoes and Tomatoes
Not all diseases travel rapidly between different varieties of vegetables. However, if you plant vegetables next to each other that transmit diseases, a large portion of your garden could be wiped out. This is why potatoes and tomatoes shouldn't be planted next to each other. Blight travels between the two plant types and could wipe out the entire section of your garden.
Cabbage and Strawberries
If you grow anything related to the cabbage family, do not grow it next to strawberries. Strawberries in the vicinity severely affect the growth of any plant in the cabbage family. In addition to cabbage itself, this includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Onions and Peas
Keep onions away from beans peas and asparagus. Plant growth is negatively affected when these plants are located close to each other. Because garlic has some properties similar to onions, they also make bad plants to locate next to peas and asparagus. Onions do work well when planted with strawberries, and are actually recommended as a companion plant for strawberries.
Corn and Tomatoes
Do not plant corn and tomatoes next to each other. This is due to an insect problem. Tomato plants attract a specific type of worm. These worms destroy not only the tomatoes but also ravage corn. This single bug is actually known by two different names, one for each plant. It is called the tomato fruit worm when infecting tomatoes but called the corn earworm when infesting corn.
Early settlers of the southern United States were sustained in part by the heart of the cabbage palm, a native to North America. Settlers frequently made a cabbage palm stew which is still made in some parts of Florida.
On average, the height of the cabbage palm tree is between 30 and 40 feet, and its crown is between 10 and 15 feet wide. In summer, the cabbage palm tree blooms creamy flower stalks that are 4 to 5 feet long. After blooming season, the tree develops shiny, greenish-black fruits which are avidly sought as food by wildlife.
The hardiness zones of the cabbage palm tree are zones 8B through 11 (see Resources). It is relatively resistant to pests, although it can sometimes be bothered by the giant palm weevil or cabbage palm caterpillar. It is also disease resistant but occasionally can be infected with ganoderma butt rot disease.
Because of its ability to withstand hurricane force winds and tropical storms, the cabbage palm makes an attractive tree for residents of hurricane zone areas.
The cabbage palm tree is the official state tree of Florida and South Carolina.