So what’s hard about growing Savoy or Red Cabbage, you may be asking? Well, nothing really. I guess it’s more based on the fact that why would you want to grow the humble green cabbage when there are so many more interesting varieties to challenge yourself with.
Savoy cabbage is that wrinkled variety that resembles your fingers when they’ve been soaking in water for too long. It’s origins stem back to middle-ages England where it was one of the first hard-headed (tightly grown) cabbages in that part of Europe.
The Red cabbage, on the other hand, was an introduced variety to the UK and its background isn’t as well-defined. However, it’s fair to say that with the history of cabbages red varieties were probably travelled from Asia Minor before gaining acceptance by Western civilisation.
Even today, the greatest producers of cabbages are China, India, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Japan – according to FAOSTAT.
While it’s helpful to know some history it doesn’t achieve much in the way of growing them, does it? So let’s look at how to maximise your yields when growing cabbages and see if they can’t improve somewhat.
Savoy and Red cabbage, like any cabbages, don’t require copious amounts of maintenance while they’re growing. They’re best grown when planted in the cooler months (mid-winter to early spring) which removes any watering concerns and the main issues they struggle with are pests.
Yet, talk to any veggie gardener that’s been growing cabbages for a while and they will certainly have their own “secret method” for success. If you distill these anecdotes down you’ll find that the main ingredients are mulch, fertiliser and sun.
The fertiliser doesn’t come from a packet. Savoy and Red cabbage are very fond of manures and compost teas or worm wee. For my money, I’m happy to shovel a heap load of well-rotted cow manure around these increasing the application as they grow. Mulching with lucerne hay should also keep the snails and sowbugs at bay while they progress from seedlings and companion planting with marigolds will deter the caterpillars and cabbage moth.
Red cabbage needs a heap of sun as well. At least 4-6 hours of winter sunshine will help them grow to their potential while growing them in shade will stunt their growth and they will become leggy as they try to reach light.
The final consideration is water. While most winter climates offer enough rainfall for these to be successful and they are quite impervious to frosts they may still need some extra water in more temperate zones. Those who garden in areas where the winters are more dry should consider at least a once per week deep watering regime to encourage the cabbages growth.