Some growers prefer sowing where the plants are to mature. The two main advantages are that the expense of transplanting is avoided and there is no checking of growth, which is incidental to this operation. On the other hand, several disadvantages are to be considered. It is more expensive to combat insects when the plants are scattered than when confined to a small area. The expense of tillage is increased, and the cost of thinning must be taken into account. If the soil is heavy, it will become compact before the roots have made any considerable growth. This may result in reduced yields. In light, friable loams the system may be used with entire success, especially when the cost of labor is high and where transplanting machines are not available. Sowing is done most economically in this system by machines which drop and cover about half a dozen seeds at the required distances. Half a pound of seed is ample for an acre. The rows should be checked to facilitate thorough tillage. Sowing may be a week later than when transplanting is resorted to. When the plants are three or four weeks old they should be thinned, leaving the strongest at each place.
For early cabbage, fall plowing is generally desirable; heavy sods especially must be plowed down in the fall for best results. The vegetable matter will then be partly decayed by spring and of more immediate value to the crop; the soil will be filled with moisture, which should be conserved by harrowing as soon as the ground is dry enough. This tillage operation should be repeated as often as may be necessary to put the land in proper condition for planting and to retain plenty of moisture to make transplanting successful.
The most important factor in preparing soil for late cabbage is the question of moisture. Many failures are due to the late plowing of sods, followed by dry weather, which sometimes continues long after the proper time for transplanting. The only safe practice is to plow rather early in the spring, working down the land, as explained for the early crop.
The Maryland Station (Maryland Station Bulletin 133 (1909), p. 197) has made a thorough study of the chemical composition of the cabbage. The following tables are adapted from the report upon this subject:
Food Constituents in Heads and Refuse Cabbage
Heads per cent
Refuse matter per cent
Crude Fiber .....................
Nitrogen-free extract .................
It will be seen from this table that cabbage is a very watery food, but that the amount of protein in the dry matter is relatively large.
Fertilizing Material Found in the Different Parts of Cabbage Plants
(Per cent in Fresh Materials)
Heads per cent
Refuse leaves per cent
Root per cent
Phosphoric acid ...................
Figuring on the basis of 8,000 mature heads to the acre, each head weighing 35« pounds, an acre of cabbage would require during the season the following amounts of plant food:
Pounds of Fertilizer Found in Cabbage from One Acre
Phosphoric acid ....................
To furnish all of the plant food for this yield of 8,000 heads, or 14 tons an acre, would require the equivalent of 165 pounds of phosphate rock of 14 per cent grade, 228 pounds of muriate of potash of 50 per cent purity and 447 pounds of nitrate of soda of 15 per cent purity. The total cost of these materials an acre would not exceed the amount frequently applied, but the proportions - 3 per cent phosphoric acid, 14 per cent potash and 8 per cent nitrogen - would be unusual. The analysis shows, however, that potash is very important in the production of this crop, and that nitrogen should be supplied in larger amounts than is usual. It is not necessary to use potash so freely in clay soils, but it is highly probable that 10 per cent of this element is not too much for most other soils. Although the phosphoric acid requirements are relatively small, the grower should not lose sight of the fact that most soils are very deficient in this element, and there are doubtless localities where it should be used more freely than potash. The most successful growers seldom use less than 4 per cent of nitrogen, and the analyses indicate that this is the minimum amount that should be used, unless there has been a large application of manure. The basic fertilizer, 4-8-10, should meet the requirements of most soils, especially if nitrate of soda is used later as a top dressing.
Fifteen hundred to 2,000 pounds of fertilizer are generally used for the early crop, and many growers of late cabbage do not apply less than these amounts. It is especially desirable to use large amounts of highly nitrogenous fertilizers for the early crop, to hasten maturity. One application of 150 pounds of nitrate of soda about four weeks after planting, and the same amount when head formation begins, generally increases the yield. It is not necessary to distribute this fertilizer around the plants or along the rows, but it may be applied broadcast by hand as clover seed is sown. The results are often marked, especially when used on moderately fertile soils before rain and after a long period of drouth.
It is universally conceded that stable manures are the best fertilizers for cabbage. They may be used with the greatest freedom, profits generally being largest from the most liberal applications. Henderson recommends not less than 75 tons of manure an acre. Comparatively few growers, however, can use it so lavishly for this crop; 10 to 25 tons an acre is the usual application. Of course, it should be spread before plowing, while fine manure can be disked in after plowing with better results.