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Weekly planter: It’s time to get those cabbage seeds in the ground

Don’t crowd cabbage plants — outer leaves have a wider spread than you think.
Don’t crowd cabbage plants — outer leaves have a wider spread than you think. Centre Daily Times

Hurry! It’s getting late in the season, but there’s still time to plant cabbage.

Of the vegetables in the cabbage (cruciferous) family — broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts — cabbage is the easiest for gardeners, but these cultivation notes generally apply to the whole family (although Brussels sprouts are not as easygoing as the others).

Cabbage likes cool weather. It will bolt — flower and go to seed — when temperatures warm. In South Florida, cabbage’s growing season generally starts in October or November and runs until early spring. Seeds will germinate best when soil temperatures are 75-85 degrees but grow best at 60-65 degrees. Mulch will help protect the roots from high soil temperatures.

60 to 65 degrees best soil temperature for growing cabbage

Unless you adore cooking with cabbage, it’s better to stagger your plantings, sowing seeds every month or so until February.

Plant seeds or seedlings in well-drained soil where they’ll get full sun; they’ll tolerate light shade in warmer weather. If you plant seeds, you’ll want to thin the sprouts so they don’t crowd each other. Water generously and apply fertilizer rich in nitrogen every three weeks. Weed often but do it by hand — cabbage roots grow close to the surface and a poorly aimed strike by a hoe might damage or kill the plant.

To protect young plants from armyworms, Robert Bowden, author of Florida Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, recommends this: Cut a 3x5 card in half lengthwise, bend it into a circle and staple the ends together. Put a collar around each seedling and press it into the soil.