Monday, August 24, 2009

Root-Pruning Cabbage

Dang! Usually I don't have to worry about my cabbages splitting until mid-September. They do just fine on their every-third-day soaker hose watering. But we had a very-rare-in-August rainy morning yesterday, and today this is what I found.

Split cabbages will continue growing, but the leaf-edges die where the split is, and any layers down inside that are cut off from the stem also die. So using a split cabbage gets more difficult the longer you leave it. I'd just cut a fresh head a couple of days ago, but this one will now be used first.

I have another one just starting to split, and three more heads still intact. I don't have much room in my refrigerator. It's too early to be making sauerkraut - I haven't ever started the cellar to cooling down. The warmer the temperature, the faster kraut ferments. I prefer letting my kraut ferment slowly, over eight to twelve weeks, in Fall's cooler cellar temperatures (I don't can my sauerkraut either - I just store it in the crock over the Winter in the cellar, and move what's left into the refrigerator in the Spring). So I want to keep my cabbages "on the hoof" out there in the garden as long as possible.

Splitting happens when cabbages take up too much water too quickly. Yesterday's rain was enough to cause it here. They're also prone to splitting as they get closer to harvest size. In our short season, early cabbages usually grow just fine until early fall, and then root-pruning will hold them until harvest time, just before the nights drop below freezing.

Today, I cut the top right split cabbage, and root-pruned the rest. I just sunk the shovel blade all the way in between each cabbage stem and the soaker hose. This cuts a good portion of the roots and slows the growth. Old-timers say to give a good quarter-twist to each plant to break off some of the roots, but I'm afraid of breaking the stem and/or not breaking enough of the roots so will just stick with my shovel method. I'll keep an eye on the top left one. If that split starts to go deeper, I'll have to get it into the refrigerator too. This year, I'm also growing some late cabbage for the first time, just to see how it does. It hasn't even started to head yet, so I'm hoping for a long, mellow Fall - cabbage to store, and a slowly-fermenting crock-o-kraut in the cellar.

6 comments:

livinginalocalzone said...

Very interesting how quickly they reacted to a day or two of downpours. I'll join you in hopes for a long fall....

risa said...

I have seen tomatoes go to wrack after a downpour but never seen this in cabbages. Buggy as all heck, yah, but not split. Learn something every day....

I'd like to put in for a long fall, too, but the signs of it are early here this year.

Annodear said...

Very interesting! "Root" pruning. Makes sense...

Sincerely, Emily said...

Thanks for the info. Saw your post on Simple-Green-Frugal) I am just getting a garden started (s. Texas) and might just add cabbage to the list of things to plant. What do you have growing in between the cabbages? is it a "companion-type" plant to keep some of the bugs from the cabbage? thanks again for the information. Oh is this a special variety of cabbage? Emily

Sadge said...

Hi Emily: That's a carrot inbetween the cabbages. The carrots are right next to the early cabbages in my wide bed, and one of the seeds must have washed down there so I just let it stay. I haven't had any worms at all this year on my brassicas but the aphids have been terrible.

In Texas, you'll probably have to grow cabbages as a winter crop, harvesting around February, but they should do well.

Sincerely, Emily said...

Thank you so much for the information. I am going to add them to my list of things to plant. Emily