Cabbage, a plant belonging to the order cruciferce and genus brassica, the order comprehending also the scurvy grass, pepper grass, mustard, cress, radish, and turnip, and the genus including also the cauliflower, broccoli, borecole or sprouts, rape, colza, savoy, and kohl-rabi. The brassica oleracea, from which all the forms of cabbage spring, is found growing wild on rocky shores and cliffs in England, with no appearance of a head. The cultivated cabbage is considered by some a monstrosity; but its varieties are well marked, distinct, and easily perpetuated, where care is taken to secure such conditions as will continue their exact habits. The cabbage is a biennial; the seed being sown produces a full-grown plant the first season, and the next season sends out shoots 1 1/2 to 2 ft. long, which bear small globular seeds in a great number of pods. The whole plant then perishes. The large, solid heads of cabbage, now so familiar, have been produced from the wild plant by gradual improvement in soils, manures, and cultivation.
To repeat them annually it is necessary to observe two points: 1. None but those heads presenting the best type of the variety should be saved for seed; they must be taken up with the roots before frost sets in, the useless outside leaves removed, and set in a cool, dark cellar, with the roots imbedded in soil, and packed as closely as possible. In spring they are set out about 2 x 2 1/2 ft. apart in good garden soil, and no seed saved except from the most vigorous stalks. 2. They must not produce seeds near other plants seeding at the same time which belong to the same tribe, such as cauliflower, turnip, broccoli, etc, as they will mix through their flowers, the seed producing mongrel varieties. Much disappointment is experienced from using seeds carelessly produced for sale by seed growers. There are many very valuable varieties of cabbage, some suited to particular localities. For early use, early York is an old favorite, but some prefer the early flat Battersea. Coming next in succession, the Winningstadt is excellent, heads compact, growth rapid.
About New York, the late Bergen, flat Dutch, and best varieties of drumhead cabbages are preferred for late sorts. - Three crops are secured in a season; seeds of early and late sorts are sown in a moderate hotbed in March, for the latitude of New York city, kept slightly moistened, with plenty of air at all times when the temperature is not too low. The plants are dusted with dry wood ashes, pulverized lime, or a little Scotch snuff, to keep off the fly, a small black insect which is a great pest, thinned to an inch apart, and kept free from weeds. "When the beds outside are dry and warm enough, the plants are removed during a cloudy day, or in the afternoon, and the early sorts set with a dibble, 14 to 18 in., the later ones 20 to 22 in. apart each way, watered, and allowed to take root before disturbing the soil about them. If the weather continues dry, the plants should be watered two or three evenings in succession. This planting gives the earliest cabbages, and summer cabbages, which come between the early and late crops. For a late crop the seeds are sown in an open bed, thinly, in drills 6 to 9 in. apart, in May, and transplanted from June 10 to July 1, in straight rows, 22 to 27 in. asunder each way. The cabbage is a rank feeder and an exhaustive crop.
The soil should be a deep, rich loam, not only containing plenty of vegetable matter, but a full suppy of potash, soda, and lime. A dressing of common salt, at the rate of 10 bushels per acre, will not only benefit the cabbage crop, but kill grubs and worms, which destroy the young plants rapidly. Hogpen manure ought never to be applied to the cabbage crop, as it disfigures the roots and destroys the plant. Composts of muck, wood ashes, lime, salt, and common yard manures, well decomposed, may be used in large quantities if well incorporated with the soil. Guano, dug deeply under, is good in all but very light sandy and gravelly soils. A first-rate superphosphate of lime, with one third its weight of guano mixed with it, is one of the best manures for a garden soil, or one which has always received common manures. This compound may be dissolved in water, and freely used to water feeble plants, or dug in about them with a hoe. As soon as young plants have taken root in the new bed, they should be hoed, the oftener the better, till the leaves shade the soil.
In its younger stages, the cabbage must feed largely on carbonic acid, etc, by its roots; but as it increases in size, it uses the leaves more extensively; hence the necessity of early and frequent hoeings.