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Brassica oleracea
Cabbage, cultivar unknown
Habit: herbaceous
Height:  ?
Lifespan: biennial grown as annualsn
Origin: Mediterranean Coast
Exposure: full sun, light-shade in hot climatesn
Water: never let plants wiltsn
Features: edible
USDA Zones: all zonessn
Sunset Zones: all zonessn
[[{{{domain}}}]] > [[{{{superregnum}}}]] > Plantae > [[{{{subregnum}}}]] > [[{{{superdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{superphylum}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{phylum}}}]] > [[{{{subdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{subphylum}}}]] > [[{{{infraphylum}}}]] > [[{{{microphylum}}}]] > [[{{{nanophylum}}}]] > [[{{{superclassis}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subclassis}}}]] > [[{{{infraclassis}}}]] > [[{{{superordo}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subordo}}}]] > [[{{{infraordo}}}]] > [[{{{superfamilia}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subfamilia}}}]] > [[{{{supertribus}}}]] > [[{{{tribus}}}]] > [[{{{subtribus}}}]] > Brassica {{{subgenus}}} {{{sectio}}} {{{series}}} oleracea var.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

The more or less compact leaf-formed head of Brassica oleracea; also applied, with designations, to related forms of the same species, as Welsh cabbage, tree cabbage. Closely related plants are the kales, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower. See Brassica.

The Chinese cabbage of this country is a wholly different species from the common cabbages. It does not form a compact and rounded head, but a more or less open and soft mass of leaves, after the manner of Cos lettuce. It is of easy culture, but must be grown in the cool season, for it runs quickly to seed in hot and dry weather.

The culture of the cabbage antedates reliable historical record. Writers of Pliny's time or before refer to variations in growth and character which must have resulted from selections and cultivation for many generations, under conditions very different from those which seem to be the natural habitat of the plant on the comparatively barren chalk cliffs of England, and in similar locations in Europe.

It is indeed hard to realize that the scrawny and somewhat starved- looking plant shown in Fig. 628 (Vol. I) could be the ancestral origin of such corpulent, overfed individuals as are shown in Figs. 701 to 704. Such a change in habit of growth can be accounted for only by the plant's possession of exceptional capacity for using the more abundant food-supply furnished by cultivation for many generations, and the storing of it in a way that makes it available for man's use rather than for the mere perpetuation and multiplication of the parent plants.

Characteristics of the plant and requisites for best development.

The cabbage is classed by botanists as a slow-growing bi-annual, and has three distinct periods of life: First, the more or less rapid growth of leaf and plant. Second, a more or less distinct resting period during which the formation of embryonic blossoms is started. Third, the growth and development of the flower and seed. The cultivated cabbages retain very persistently these distinct growing periods, but have added what might be classed as another, that of head-formation, which is in reality simply a distinct division of the first. This additional head-forming period, although essential to the plant's value as a cultivated vegetable, is not at all necessary for the growth and perpetuation of the plant, which, when it has been held in check by long-continued severe frost or drought, will often revert to the original order of growth and pass directly from the growing to the seeding stages with no attempt at head-formation.

Cultivated cabbage thrives best in a moist and comparatively cool climate, and will not reach its best and rarely a satisfactory or profitable development in a hot dry one, nor where there are likely to be even occasional days of high temperature or hot dry winds. Even if there is abundant moisture in the soil, a few hot dry days, such as corn and tomato plants would delight in, will often not only check but permanently prevent any vigorous or profitable growth. This sensitiveness to over-heat is most pronounced during the second or unnatural period of growth, and the least so during the first. Young plants will often thrive in temperatures in which it would be quite impossible to induce older ones to form a solid head. Excessive heat is quite as injurious, and often more so, than freezing, but the latter is especially injurious to the younger plants, particularly if they are growing rapidly, the older ones being little injured by frost which would kill rapid-growing seedlings. One notable effect of exposure of young plants to severe or long-continued low temperature is that it takes the place of the resting period, and thus cuts out the second or head-forming period, so that the plant, as soon as established in the field, begins to shoot to seed without forming any head. The degree to which the plant suffers from unfavorable temperature seems to vary not only with different varieties but in different locations. In the Puget Sound country, cabbage plants are often killed by exposure to low temperatures, which those of the same variety and age growing in similar soil and exposure on Long Island would endure with little apparent injury. In the United States, favorable climatic conditions are most likely to occur in succession during the winter, spring and fall months, as one moves northeast along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, or in the West along the coast north from Portland, Oregon, and in isolated sections south of that point. Some of the finest cabbages ever produced in America have been grown at points on the Pacific coast as far south as Los Angeles, California. There are also locations,especially in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, near the Great Lakes, or where smaller but deep inland lakes abound, in which cabbage does exceptionally well, but generally, in common with most cruciferous plants, they do better near the sea, in such locations as the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Long Island and Puget Sound regions, than in the interior or on the borders of even very large bodies of fresh water.

As the plant is a native of the temperate zone, and thrives best in it, and cannot long endure high temperatures, one does not think of it as particularly sun- loving; but there are few garden plants to which abundant sunlight is more essential and shade more detrimental than the cabbage. In its native habitat, the plants are found growing alone or in small open groups where they are fully exposed to the sun. Similar conditions are essential to its best development under cultivation so that it can rarely be profitably grown in the shade or in crowded groups or rows, and "shooting to seed" or other failure to form a head is often due to the crowding of the seedlings in the seed-row.

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 uncomposted 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.

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.

Early York, Etampes, Large York, etc.—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.

Early Jersey, Large Wakefield, Winnigstadt, etc.—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. Enkhuizen Glory, Early Summer, Fottler's Drumhead, etc.— 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.

Flat Dutch, Drumhead, Ballhead or Hollander, etc. —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.

Savoys.—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, butsare 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.

Red cabbage.—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."

Portugal Sea-Kale, Tronchuda or Chinese cabbage.—These are distinct classes and species of cabbage, intermediate in character between the more common sorts and the more distant kales. They have never become generally popular in America, though they are rather largely grown and used by the Asiatics, particularly on the Pacific coast. The sea-kale cabbage is not to be confounded with sea-kale, which is a very different plant.

These are but a few of the almost, limitless, more or less distinct variations offered by seedsmen, yet each of them was thought by someone to be superior in some location, under some conditions, or for some purpose. The general recognition of the value of each variation, and the consequent popularity of the sorts in which the variation is best developed, are constantly changing, partly because of local conditions of climate, but more largely because of changes in transportation and market facilities and conditions.

Cultural methods.

Ideal climatic conditions are found only in very limited areas, and the common cultural practice in each locality is largely shaped by the degree to which local conditions approach them. In the country north of Washington in which a well-lighted and heated greenhouse and experienced help are available, the simplest method, and one by which the very best of early cabbage can be grown, is to plant the seed in flats some sixty to ninety days before danger of killing by frost is past, and as soon as the central bud or leaves appear (which should be in ten to fourteen days) to "prick out" the plants, setting them 2 to 4 inches apart in other flats, according to the relative importance in that particular culture of earliness and cost of production. The house should be given abundant ventilation, and temperatures exceeding 70° or 85° by day and 50° or 60° at night carefully avoided. Often it will be found very advantageous, as soon as the plants are well established, to remove them to well-lighted coldframes. These should be carefully tended in order to give all the air possible, and to avoid over-heating by the sun or falling below 35° at night, and the plants transferred to the open ground as early as this can be done without danger from killing frosts. Some very successful growers plant seed in well-protected coldframes so as to secure a thin, even stand, and by careful attention secure a slow but steady growth through the winter, and the seedlings are first transplanted to the open ground as soon as danger from killing frosts is over. A common practice from Philadelphia or Baltimore southward is to sow the seed in the fall in carefully prepared beds in sheltered locations, and, as soon as the plants are large enough, to transplant them to flat-topped ridges about 30 to 36 inches from center to center and as high as can be formed by two or three back-furrows. These ridges usually are run east to west and the plants are set on the south, the north or the top, or sometimes in the furrow between them, depending upon the judgment of the planter as to which location will give the best result on that particular farm and exposure and in that particular season, as sometimes one and sometimes another location gives the best results. In some sections and often only on certain farms of a section this method gives large very early- maturing and profitable crops, while in different fields, even on the same farm, a large proportion of the plants so handled will be killed by frost or will shoot to seed without heading. In certain locations, notably in the vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina, cabbage- plant farms have been established, from which plants in prime condition for setting in the field can be secured by the million. The location and exposure, and the character of the soil of the most successful of these farms is such that the plants are rarely killed or seriously checked by frost, but make a constant but slow growth all winter and can be pulled at any time so as to retain abundant root and vigor and be safely shipped long distances. The seed is sown and the plant-beds treated much as one would treat a bed of onions for sets or pickles, except that in many cases the rows are as close as 3 inches and the bed receives little or no cultivation after the seed is planted.

Objections that are sometimes well founded to plants from such farms are, that they are slow "taking hold" and a large proportion of them "shoot to seed" without heading, or the heads are small and of poor quality; but such failures often come from the use by the plant-raiser of cheap and inferior seed, or from the crowded rows and careless handling, or from the farmer sending for and setting the plants too early, or from holding them too long before setting. Some plant-raisers take pains to advertise that they do not guarantee plants shipped by them before December 1 to give satisfactory results (though they often do), but that they are willing to guarantee that plants shipped by them from December 1 to April 1 will, in suitable soil and exposure and with good cultivation, produce full crops of marketable cabbage. Most farmers who use 20,000 to 30,000 plants could grow on their own farms as good plants or better than they could buy from even the best and most reliable growers, and often at materially less cost; but it is questionable whether many of them would do so, and it is not surprising that the practice of buying plants, particularly when earliness in market maturity is desirable, is rapidly extending.

The best distance between plants will depend not only upon the variety used but upon the character of the soil, kind of labor available and the condition and way in which the crop is to be marketed. Such small upright-growing sorts as Early York, Etampes, or true Jersey Wakefield, which are to be marketed when still quite soft, can be well grown set as close as 6 or 8 by 18 to 24 inches, requiring 20,000 to 30,000 plants to the acre; but in America such close planting necessitates so much hand labor that it is seldom profitable, and 8 to 12 by 28 to 30 or 36 inches, requiring from 8,000 to 15,000 or 20;000 plants to the acre, is usually found the more profitable distance.

The best method of setting, whether by hand, hand- planters, or machine, will be determined by local conditions. The plants should "take hold" in two to four days and start into vigorous growth in ten days to three weeks, the time depending upon the condition of the plants, and the way they are handled, quite as much as upon the weather. After active growth has commenced, it should continue at a constantly accelerated rate until the head begins to harden, and although toward the last the plants may not seem to increase in size, the heads will gain in weight. The cabbage suffers less than most vegetables from mutilation of the root, yet deep cultivation is undesirable because unnecessary. The essential thing is to prevent any crusting over, and the keeping of the surface in such good tilth as to permit of the free aeration of the soil.

One of the best crops of early cabbage on record was secured from what was regarded as naturally a rather unfavorable soil that was not very heavily fertilized, but received a shallow cultivation with a harrow tooth cultivator every day (except Sundays and on four days when the surface was so wet from rain that it would puddle) after the plants were set until the crop was in market condition.

The time of planting for fall and winter cabbage and the general cultural methods most likely to give good results in any particular location are the same for both seasons, the time of maturity being determined more by the varietal character of the seed than by method of culture. The cultural practice usually followed by neighboring and equally successful growers is often radically different. One planter may always, on some fixed day in May or June, sow seed in flats and as soon as the seedlings are well started pick them out into other flats, and then again into a plant-bed and wait for a favorable day, if necessary until August, before putting them in the field. An equally successful neighboring grower may wait until as late as the last of June and sow thinly in well-prepared seed-beds and transplant from them to the field, while still another may wait for favorable weather even until the last of July and then plant seed in place as is the usual practice of some most successful growers. In New England, growers often drill the seed in place, and when the plants are well established chop out the superfluous ones.

The weight or quantity of seed used for a given area varies greatly, as the size of the individual seeds vary, not only with different varieties but with different lots of the same sort. Some growers expect to get plants enough for an acre from less than an ounce, while others require two to five times as much, and those who sow in place often will use four to eight ounces to the acre. Superlative crops have been known to be grown by radically different methods, and very often successful growers have some peculiarity of practice which they deem essential to the best results, but which a neighboring and equally successful grower regards as a foolish waste of labor; but, however the practice of successful growers may differ, there are some points in which they all agree. Among these are, the use of the best obtainable seed of some particular variety which they have found by experience, or which they believe is best adapted to their conditions and is uniform in time of maturity, so that all the heads are in prime condition and may be gathered at the same time, which is an important factor in determining cost of production, while uniformity in shape, form and color are equally important in determining salability. The quality of the seed used, while not the only factor, is generally the most important one in determining the uniformity of product of any particular culture. Unchecked and constantly accelerated rate of growth are most important factors in securing the best possible development of any particular culture. Every check, whether it come from overcrowding of the seedlings, careless transplanting, or the caking and want of friability in the surface soil, tends to divert the energy of the plant from the unnatural and excessive leaf-formation upon which its value as a cultivated vegetable depends to the more natural but less useful formation of blossoms and seed. Just how on any particular farm the most favorable conditions can be secured cannot be told in general cultural directions, but must be decided by the grower from his knowledge of the character and wants of the plant, the condition of the soil, and last, but by no means least, his facilities for controlling the conditions upon which the growth of the crop depends.


This is the simplest and easiest part of cabbage-growing. With an easily acquired dexterity, each head in five or six rows can be cut, trimmed and tossed into a central windrow by a single well-directed stroke of a well-sharpened spade or heavy hoe. Occasionally, because of some unnatural growth of the plant, or want of attention, a head will need retrimming, but by the exercise of a little care, practically all of them can be kept in marketable shape. From the windrows, the heads are gathered and loaded loose into cars, delivered to factories or placed in storage. Yields secured vary greatly, being influenced by the sort, the quality of the seed, the character of the soil, loss from insects and disease; they generally range from five to twenty tons to the acre. The crop is usually readily salable in the fall, delivered at factory or on board cars at prices ranging from $4, or even less, to S10 to $20 a ton.


Cabbage greens.— In some sections, notably southern Mississippi and Louisiana, considerable acreage is grown and marketed as cabbage greens. The seed is sown in place or the plants are set quite close in the row, and as soon as they have commenced active growth and long before they have formed a distinct head, they are cut and marketed much in the same manner as spinach or kale, but this method of culture and use is very limited.

Early cabbage is generally considered marketable as soon as the leaves have closed into a head, even if this is still so soft and loose that it would be quite unmarketable later in the season. If cabbages are cut when soft and immature, they soon wilt and lose all crispness and palatability; to avoid this, the earlier shipments are made in small open crates containing less than a score of heads, or sometimes in larger closed ones carrying ice, and often in refrigerator cars. Later in the season, as the heads become larger and harder, they are shipped in slat crates about 12 by 18 by 38 inches, or in ventilated burlap-covered barrels holding about two and three-fourths bushels.

Fall and winter cabbages are usually sold by the ton, of much more closely trimmed heads than are considered marketable earlier in the season, and are commonly shipped in open and well-ventilated cars without special container or packing, except as may be necessary to protect from hard freezing. Many acres are grown on contracts with shippers, packers of sauerkraut, and the like, who contract for the delivery direct from the field to factory or on board cars, of the usable product of a certain acreage at an agreed price per ton. While this is sometimes a very satisfactory arrangement, many careless and incompetent growers are induced to contract, and their neglected crops become infected with disease and insects which spread to the fields of even the most careful growers, and the crop in the vicinity of such factories and shipping-points soon becomes unprofitable. Storing.

Formerly the most common practice was to let the plants stand until danger of hard freezing, then pulling, allowing the roots to retain what earth they would, but breaking off some of the most spreading leaves and crowding the plants together (with heads all up or all down and at a uniform height), with earth packed between them, in long shallow trenches that were gradually covered with sufficient coarse straw or litter to protect from severe freezing. A variation of this method is to pull, leaving what roots and earth adheres, and set as closely and level as possible in a shallow cellar not over 3 feet deep, which after filling is covered with a roof of boards, tarred paper and litter sufficient to keep out rain and frost, and high enough in the center to allow of handling the cabbage. It is essential to success with either trench or cellar that they be located where there is the least possible danger from standing water, rats and other vermin, and as well protected as possible from severe winds and cold. Advantages of this method are that heads quite too soft to be salable become hard and firm, and that cabbages so stored retain to a remarkable degree their crispness and flavor, and are thought by some to be even better than when fresh from the field; but when taken from the trench or cellar, they soon lose their crispness and will not stand shipment so well as heads which were trimmed before storing. A very common method is to cut and partially trim the heads and place in piles 4 to 6 feet high and broad, and of convenient length, built over a board-covered trench which is ventilated by open ends and tiles up through the cabbage, the piles being gradually covered and the openings closed so as to prevent hard freezing (Fig. 708).

In certain sections a large proportion of the cabbages grown for late winter and early spring market are trimmed and stored in bins or on shelves in frostproof storehouses (Fig. 709).


Clubroot (Platmodiophora brassicx). — A soil parasite affecting cabbage and other cruciferous plants. It thrives best in acid soils and in some cases can be checked by a liberal use of lime, but its presence in any field in destructive abundance is seldom suspected until too late to save the crop. Planting cabbage or other cruciferous crops on such a field should not be repeated for several years, during which it should have continued dressings of lime and ashes. Care should be taken to secure uncontaminated soil for seed-beds, and to destroy all affected plants before cattle have access to them, as the disease may be carried by such refuse in the manure from cattle who have eaten it.

Wilt or Yellows, Black-rot. Stem-rot, Fusarium, Phoma. — Infectious diseases which sometimes become so abundant in certain sections as to prevent the profitable culture of cabbage. They are all distributed by means of contaminated seed, by manure from cattle fed on diseased refuse, by soil carried on tools from affected fields; distribution in this way should be carefully avoided. All diseased plants should be destroyed by fire as soon as noticed. The soil used in the seed-beds should be sterilised by live steam or soaked in a weak solution of formaldehyde (one part to 260 of water). The seed should be soaked fifteen minutes in the weak solution of formaldehyde, then rinsed in clear water and immediately planted.

Animal pests.

Flea beetles.—The securing of vigorous plants is sometimes prevented by the attacks of innumerable flea beetles, Phyllotreta vittata. This may be prevented by surrounding the beds with frames made of 10- to 12-inch boards connected across the top with 2-inch strips and then covered with 20- to 40-thread to the inch cheesecloth. This should be put on as soon as the seed is planted and be removed, in order to harden the plants, four to six days before they go to the field.

Cut-worm.—These are best guarded against by keeping the field perfectly clear of all vegetation for six to ten days before setting, then mix four quarts of bran meal or flour, one cup of molasses or sugar, and two tablespoonfuls of paris green, with water enough to make about the consistency of milk, and sprinkle on twenty to fifty times its bulk of fresh-cut grass and scatter over the field the night before setting the plants.

Cabbage worm.—Keep careful watch of the plants and if the green worms appear in abundance and seem to reach full size, sprinkle or spray the plants with kerosene and whale-oil soap emulsion, or paris green and water in the proportion of four gallons of emulsion and one pound of paris green to fifty gallons of water. After the heads are two-thirds grown, powdered hellebore, one ounce to two gallons of water, should be substituted for the poisonous paris green mixture.

Root-knot (Nematodes).—Although seldom very destructive north of Philadelphia, this is often the unsuspected cause of failure in the South, particularly of fall crops in light lands. The only practical remedy is the avoidance of affected fields or sterilizing the soil by freezing or live steam.

Seed-breeding and -growing. Figs. 710, 711.

It is only through careful study of the practical value and correlation of varietal differences, the exercise of great care in selection and growing of the plants, and in the saving of the seed, that this or any vegetable can be improved or even its present good qualities maintained. Under favorable conditions the plant is capable of producing abundant seed, a single plant having been known to yield thirty-five ounces, enough to plant 25 to 40 acres, but such yields are very exceptional, and one-half to four ounces a plant is much more common. Although botanically the plant is self-fertile, when isolated it seldom yields much and often no viable seed. It transmits very persistently through many generations any distinct variation, but often without expression, although such hitherto unexpressed variations are apt to appear in the seed of self-fertilized plants, so that such seed is frequently less uniform than that from a field of plants of the same ancestry. At least one of our popular varieties is made up of the descendents of a single isolated plant, but it is a curious fact that in the second and subsequent generations 90 per cent of the plants, although quite uniform, were very different in character from that of the selected individual from which they were descended. The originator of one of our best varieties maintains that it is essential to the production of the best seed of that sort that seed-plants of very different types should be set together, and by crossing they will produce seed giving plants of the desired type. In spite of these facts, it is thought that the practice which will give the best results with other plants is equally desirable for the cabbage, and that first a distinct and well-defined conception of the varietal form desired must be formed and the stock started from the plant or plants whose seed most uniformly developed into plants of the desired character, rather than from those in which it was exceptionally well developed. Often even professional seed-growers have but a very vague and constantly changing conception of what a given variety should be. The greatest profit is not from the field that produces even a good many of the most perfect specimens, but from that in which the largest proportion of the plants are most uniformly of the desired character. In order to produce seed which will give such results, one must first form a very clear conception of just what one wants in plant and head, and learn the relation between easily noted but economically unimportant qualities, and others not so easily seen but more important in determining value. Having selected a number of ideal plants, one should grow these either singly, or in groups of three or four that are nearest alike. Save and number the seed of each plant separately and plant a small sample of each number, carefully noting the numbers in which the product was most uniformly of the desired character. From the reserved seed of the numbers which most uniformly developed the desired form, one can start a stock for field planting. It is not safe, however, to rest there; one must start a new selection of the desired character so as to continually renew one’s stock. In raising seed, plantings should be made a little later than one would for fall market cabbage. As the plants develop, each lot should be repeatedly looked over and not only those which show no disposition to form a head, or one in which the inclosing leaves do not pass over the center, but also those which show any departure (even if it be of itself a desirable one) from the desired form, should be removed. The plants should be left in place until there is danger of the ground being closed by frost and should then be pulled, a few of the larger leaves removed and then packed into narrow trenches in sheltered and well- drained localities, taking pains to pack the earth closely about the roots and stems. Gradually, as necessary to prevent hard freezing, they should be covered with earth and with coarse litter, the aim being to keep them as cold as possible without actually freezing, and to prevent them starting into growth. As early in the spring as possible, they should be set for seeding, giving each plant about twice the space needed for market cabbage. In setting, the plants, should be more or less inclined, so that while the top of the head is but little above the surface, the roots are not buried in hard and cold subsoil. As they are set, the heads should be scarred across the top, not deep enough to injure the sprouting center, but so as to facilitate its pushing its way through the head. The seedstalks should not be cut until they begin to shed the seed, which turns black and seems ripe before it is fully mature. The entire plant should be cut and stored until quite dry, when the seed can be easily threshed, cleaned, and spread not over 1/2 inch deep in full sunlight for a few days and then stored.

Commercial seed-growing.—Although one occasionally sees heavily seeded plants in all parts of the United States, cabbage seed rarely proves a profitable crop, except in very limited areas along Long Island Sound, the eastern shores of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, and in the Puget Sound region, where the yield commonly secured varies from 300 to 700 pounds to the acre, although exceptional crops sometimes reach 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. The common method of growing does not vary materially from that described, except that very often too little care is exercised in securing stock seed, and it is sowed or the plants set so late that they fail to develop sufficiently to enable one to do very effective rogueing out of inferior stock. In Holland, seed is often raised from much better matured heads than are commonly used in America and which are cut from the root, but leaving more stem than for market use, and planted so that the top is level with or slightly below the surface. Treated in this way, they root like a great cutting and form loose, well-branched plants which are not so liable to injury from wind, and are said to yield more seed than would be produced if the entire plant was used. It is possible that this method might give good results in the Puget Sound region, but it would not in the East. W. W. Tracy. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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