This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
The cabbage is one of the grossest and least fastidious feeders of cultivated plants, and while an abundance of easily accessible food is essential for its profitable culture, it is less particular than most plants as to its proportions and physical condition, if only it has an abundance. Large crops of the best quality are often produced by the use of fresh green and uncom-posted manures in almost limitless quantities. Some growers object to the use of manure from hog-pens, yet some of the largest, healthiest and best crops ever seen have been grown by the liberal use of hog manure. Strange as it may seem, abundant fertilization hastens rather than retards the plant reaching marketable condition.
The plant is more particular as to its water-supply than its food-supply, and suffers even more quickly than most vegetables from a lack of sufficient moisture in the air or soil. On the other hand, it cannot long endure an excess, particularly in the soil, and soon succumbs to wet feet. A well-drained soil which at the same time is fairly retentive of moisture is essential to profitable cabbage-culture.
Even more than with most garden vegetables, the physical condition of the soil is a most important factor in determining the development of the cabbage. Large and often very profitable crops may be grown on soils which would be classed as clay, loam, gravel, sand or muck, provided they are rich and friable, but seldom a large, or profitable crop can be grown on even a very fertile soil which after rains quickly hardens and bakes so as to be impervious to air. Permanent friability rather than superior fertility makes some soils exceedingly profitable for cabbage, while it is difficult and often impossible to grow a paying crop on others which are even richer and better watered, but which are liable to cake after every rain. This is especially true of some soils that are generally classed as a very rich clay or muck. Permanent friability is the most essential quality for profitable cabbage-culture, and the want of it the most common cause of failure to grow a profitable crop.
Varieties of cabbage. Figs. 701-704, 707.
Few vegetables show a wider range of variation, There are sorts that can be grown to edible maturity
-on a square foot and in 90 to 120 days from the seed, while others can hardly be crowded into a square yard or reach prime edible maturity in less than 200 days; sorts so short-stemmed that the flat head seems to rest on the ground, others in which the globular head crowns a stalk 16 to 20 inches long; kinds in which the leaves are long, round, or broad, smooth, or savoyed, light yellowish green, dark green or so dark red as to seem black, with surfaces which are glazed, smooth, or covered with thick bloom. There are many early-maturing kinds, each having characteristics adapting them for different cultural conditions and uses, that will, in fertile soil and a temperature between 60° and 80° by day, and never below 40° at night, form salable heads in 90 to 110 or 120 days from the germination of the seed; others that mature in mid-season; still others that grow the entire season and increase in solidity even while stored for winter.
Fig. 705. Section of cabbage head, showing the thickened rachis and leaf-stalks, and the buds in the axils.
American seedsmen offer cabbage seed under over 500 more or less distinct varietal names, a large proportion of which stand for different stocks rather than for distinct varietal forms: here only the most distinct types and the most commonly used names are mentioned.
Very compact, upright-growing smooth-leaved sorts which are comparatively tender to both heat and cold, and form vertically oval comparatively soft heads of excellent quality, but better suited to European than American climatic conditions and market requirements.
Compact-growing, very sure-heading sorts which are very hardy to both heat and cold and form comparatively small, but closely wrapped hard sharply conical heads which are of attractive appearance, but not of the best quality. Well suited to the general soil and climatic conditions and very popular in America.
Second-early sorts, forming small compact to large spreading short-stemmed plants, and nearly round to distinctly flat heads which mature quickly, are of good quality but not well adapted for distant shipment or winter storage.
Large spreading comparatively slow-growing plants, forming round to oval hard heads, having the leaves very closely wrapped and overlapping in the center. They are generally good keepers, often improving not only in solidity but in quality during storage.
A class in which the leaves of both plant and head are crumpled or savoyed instead of smooth as in the preceding. There are varieties of all the forms of smooth-leaved sorts. The plants are hardy, buts are slow to form heads, which are likely to be small and more or less open or loose-centered, but they are of superior flavor, and this class is worthy of more general cultivation in the home-garden and for local market.
Fig. 706. Curled kale. - Brassica oleracea variety acephala.
A class of which there are many varietal forms, and in which the plants and heads vary from purple shaded green to deep red. The heads are generally small, but very solid and are especially suited for use as "cold slaw."