We love fall gardening in Central Texas, and one of the things we look forward to is growing cabbage. It's hardy, resilient, and capable of withstanding both cold snaps and hot spells - an important attribute considering our wonky Texas weather.
As long as you have healthy, moist, well-draining soil and use smart gardening practices to protect your plants from bugs, cabbages are very easy to grow. You can buy cabbage transplants from a local nursery (we often have cabbage plants for sale in the fall and here's how to buy plants from us) or you can grow them yourself indoors from seed.
Getting your Cabbage Transplants in the Ground
It'll likely still be quite warm when you're planting your cabbage transplants, but you want their roots to be well established by the time the first cold snap hits. For a fall planting, aim to have your transplants in the ground well before the first frost. You'll do well getting your transplants in the ground early-mid September but October can work too depending on the weather.
Cabbages are beautiful and adorable. They can be grown densely in a patch, or tucked into black spaces in the garden. We like growing them both ways, but lately have been grouping them together for ease of covering.
Protecting Cabbage Plants from Harsh Afternoon Sun
In many places around the world, gardeners design for maximum sun exposure. However, here in Central Texas, full blast all-day sun is hard on baby plants. It helps to grow cabbage plants in an area with partial shade or a bit of afternoon shade. You can also put up insect netting, which will provide a bit of shade and help keep cabbage worms off. Another way is to plan your summer plantings strategically so that, when it's time to plant your cabbages, you can grow them in the shade of tall plants that have not yet phased out for the season. We like growing papayas as annual shade umbrellas. Okra, sunflowers, amaranth, or trellises of climbing beans or vines work well too.
Protecting Cabbage Plants from Deep Freezes
Cabbage plants like cool weather and will be loving life as soon as the temperatures start to dip. You'll find that many cabbage varieties tolerate light freezes quite well (they can usually survive temperatures down into the 20s if we'll-mulched and planted in the ground). They're one of the more frost-hardy fall garden crops in Central Texas. During a deep freeze, we've found that covering an isolated plant with a plastic bucket or whatever we have around is often all that's needed to keep the plant alive. And when we have cabbage plants grouped together, we can use row covers for protection.
In the photo below, we used old fencing to make a little hoop cage above the cabbage bed. That way we could drape our insect netting over it and clamp it down. We could also easily add frost protection (row cover + plastic) during deep freezes. It worked great, and all our plants were completely unscathed when a lot of the uncovered ones struggled or died.
Protecting Cabbage Plants from Garden Pests
One of the biggest challenges you'll face when growing cabbage in Texas, is cabbage loppers. These caterpillars munch all brassica-family plants like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and mustard greens, and pest pressure can be especially high in the hotter months. Here's a simple guide for dealing with hungry, hungry cabbage worms.
Aphids are also attracted to cabbage plants, but we haven't found them to be too much of a nuisance so long as we have a diverse ecosystem with plants that attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. If they become an issue, a soapy water spray is usually all that's needed to remove them.
Cooking with Cabbage
Once you've grown your cabbage plants, it's then time to think of all the ways you can cook with them. We love making steamed cabbage rolls, kimchi, curries, soups, stews, slaws, and all the things. We'll post some recipes as time allows, but in the meantime just ask us if you need ideas.