By: Jackie Carroll
The trick to growing cabbage is cool temperatures and steady growth. That means regular irrigation to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season. Cabbage head splitting is more likely to occur late in the season when the heads are moderately firm and almost ready for harvest. So what causes split cabbage heads and how do you treat these splitting cabbages once it occurs?
Split cabbage heads usually follows a heavy rain, especially after a period of dry weather. When the roots absorb excess moisture after the cabbage head is firm, the pressure from internal growth causes the head to split.
The same thing may happen when the heads are fertilized late in the season. Early varieties are more susceptible to splitting cabbages than late varieties, but all varieties can split under the right conditions.
There are no easy fixes for splitting cabbage so prevention is important. Here are a few things you can do to prevent cabbage head splitting:
When cabbage heads split despite your best efforts to prevent it, harvest the split head as soon as possible. Split heads don’t store as long as solid heads, so use the split heads first.
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Q. What causes cabbage heads to be loose and puffy rather than firm and hard?
A. Some varieties of cabbage produce a looser, less dense head than others although this condition is generally associated with improper growing conditions. Cabbage grows best planted in time to head when daytime temperatures are under 80 degrees F. High fertility, improper water conditions and heat can cause loose, puffy heads.
Q. How can I prevent my cabbage heads from splitting when they are ready for harvest?
A. Cabbage head splitting can be avoided by keeping the soil uniformly moist near harvest time. Splitting can also be prevented by root pruning the plant about the time the heads mature. This can be done by cultivating near the plant or simply twisting the plant to break some of the roots. Splitting is seldom a problem with varieties maturing during cool weather.
Q. What causes my cabbage to send up a flower stalk?
A. Bolting, or flower of cabbage, is directly related to temperature. If the plants become dormant because of extended periods of cold weather, they will often go to seed, or bolt, when growth resumes. This condition can also occur if the temperature becomes too hot. Spring-planted cabbage is often seen flowering in gardens during mid-summer.
Q. I often have trouble in getting my cabbage to form a head. What is wrong?
A. Cabbage and all members of the cabbage family, such as cauliflower and broccoli, require cool temperatures, adequate moisture and high fertility to produce high yields of quality produce. Any condition which results in a stunting or stress on the plants during the growing period can result in some extent of crop failure.
Q. What is "Chinese cabbage" and how is it different from regular cabbage?
A. Chinese cabbage describes several greens which differ considerably. Like cabbage, they are cool season crops and bolt or go to seed in long days of late spring and summer. They grow best as a fall or early winter crop . Cultural practices are the same as for regular cabbage although Chinese cabbage matures quicker and may be ready in as few as 60 to 65 days from seeding. Chinese cabbage is used fresh in salads or cooked like regular cabbage.
A. Savoy cabbage is a crinkled or crumpled leaf variety. It is cultivated and harvested the same way as common types of cabbage.
Q. I have heard that cabbage plants will produce small secondary heads resembling Brussels sprouts. Is there any truth to this?
A. Small lateral heads may be harvested from early cabbage if the plants are left in the garden after the main head is removed. This is done by cutting carefully just beneath the solid head leaving the loose, older leaves uninjured. Sprinkle a small amount of fertilizer around each plant and water in. These small, Brussels sprout-like heads develop from buds located in the axils of older leaves. They should be harvested when of good size and firm. Their flavor, color and texture is excellent. Cabbage grows best under cool conditions and so do the secondary heads.
Q. What are "ornamental" cabbage and kale and are they edible?
A. Certain varieties of cabbage and kale produce decorative, non-heading plants with green or purple leaves and colorful white, cream, pink, red or purple interleaves. These are sold as flowering cabbage and can be used as attractive edging or for low accent plants in flower beds. Ornamental cabbage, like other members of the cole crop family, matures best under cool temperatures. The leaves are edible, but taste tough and strong. The plants are subject to the same insects and diseases as common cabbage.
Q. What causes the dark or black areas on the leaves inside cabbage heads?
A. You are describing internal tip burn. Although the cause is unknown, tip burn has been related to low soil moisture, high fertility and boron or calcium deficiency. To avoid this problem, maintain adequate fertility, especially during formation of the cabbage head and avoid excessive fertilization near maturity. Applications of a small amount of Twenty Mule Team Borax to the soil can compensate for boron deficiencies, but please remember excessive amounts can be toxic to plants. This treatment should be avoided until a boron deficiency is certain.
Q. As my cabbage approaches maturity, the head develops black, circular spots. These may be from the size of a penny up to the size of a half dollar.
A. This is Alternaria leaf spot and can be controlled with fungicide sprays.
Q. I recently harvested a head of cabbage that had black streaks throughout the stem and core area. This extended into the head, causing a foul-smelling decay.
A. This is black rot of cabbage and is caused by a seed-borne bacteria. The only control for this is use of resistant cabbage varieties. Cabbage which has been temporarily flooded is susceptible to this infection.
Q. The outer foliage of my cabbage plants develops a yellow lesion with downy growth underneath and is brittle.
A. This is downy mildew and can be controlled with chlorothalonil sprays beginning at the first sign of the disease. Repeat at 10 to 14 day intervals for two to three applications.
Q. What are the shield-shaped, brightly colored insects that seem to enjoy my cabbage more than I do?
A. No doubt you are describing harlequin bugs. This is one of the stinkbugs and can be a real problem on cabbage and related plants if left unchecked. At the first sign of problem with this insect, applications of most general-purpose insecticides result in satisfactory control. Always remove harvested or over mature cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower plants as these serve as excellent breeding and nesting places for harlequin bugs and as a good source of problems for next season's garden.
Q. What are these inch worms that are literally destroying my cabbage?
A. Although cabbage and related vegetable crops are bothered by many different types of worms, chances are you are describing cabbage loopers. Loopers, although a severe pest of cabbage, are relatively easy to control utilizing the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis. This material gives excellent control of worms and can be used with complete safety around the home. It is sold under many trade names such as Biotrol, Thuricide, Dipel and Biological Worm Killer. Be sure to use 1 to 2 teaspoons of a liquid detergent per gallon of spray mixed to insure complete wetting of the waxy leaf surface.
Q. Occasionally my cabbage plants seem to be growing slowly and upon examining the roots, there are white webs and small crawling insects on the roots. Is this the cause of my problem and what can be done?
A. You are describing soil aphids. They can become a problem on members of the cabbage family and result in stunting, poor growth, low quality and poor yields of infested plants. This problem is relatively unpredictable and consequently control recommendations are generally not recommended. Applications of recommended soil insecticides such as diazinon generally give satisfactory control of soil aphids. Apply diazinon when the ground is being prepared and before seeding or transplanting.
Q. Occasionally some of my young cabbage plants become stunted and weak-looking, and upon inspection are covered by small, green bugs. What could be used to control these insects?
A. Aphids, called plant lice, are sometimes a real problem on cabbage and other members of this family. They are relatively easy to control utilizing insecticides such as malathion or diazinon, if applications are begun early before they become too numerous. Aphids reproduce rapidly which necessitates early control for satisfactory results.
Q. Could you please tell me how to control the green velvety worms that get in my cabbage?
A. Chances are these are imported cabbage worms, or perhaps head worms. Regardless of the type worm, satisfactory control can be obtained using a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis. This is a biological-type insecticide that gives excellent control for most types of worms. For this material to be effective, it must be eaten by the worm. Please note that it takes 2 to 3 days to be effective, which means that worm kill is not immediate. This is a completely safe chemical and can be used for controlling most types of worms on most commonly-grown garden vegetables. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of a liquid detergent per gallon of spray mixed to insure adequate wetting of the waxy leaf surface. | Vegetable Page | Parson's Archive Home | Aggie Horticulture |
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Cabbage belonging to Brassicaceae family is one of the most important vegetables cultivated worldwide. The economically important part of cabbage crop is head, formed by leaves which may be of splitting and non-splitting types. Cabbage varieties showing head splitting causes huge loss to the farmers and therefore finding the molecular and structural basis of splitting types would be helpful to breeders. To determine which anatomical characteristics were related to head-splitting in cabbage, we analyzed two contrasting cabbage lines and their offspring using a field emission scanning electron microscope. The inbred line “747” is an early head-splitting type, while the inbred line “748” is a head-splitting-resistant type. The petiole cells of “747” seems to be larger than those of “748” at maturity however, there was no significant difference in petiole cell size at both pre-heading and maturity stages. The lower epidermis cells of “747” were larger than those of “748” at the pre-heading and maturity stages. “747” had thinner epidermis cell wall than “748” at maturity stage, however, there was no difference of the epidermis cell wall thickness in the two lines at the pre-heading stage. The head-splitting plants in the F1 and F2 population inherited the larger cell size and thinner cell walls of epidermis cells in the petiole. In the petiole cell walls of “747” and the F1 and F2 plants that formed splitting heads, the cellulose microfibrils were loose and had separated from each other. These findings verified that anomalous cellulose microfibrils, larger cell size and thinner-walled epidermis cells are important genetic factors that make cabbage heads prone to splitting.
Citation: Pang W, Kim Y-Y, Li X, Choi SR, Wang Y, Sung C-k, et al. (2015) Anatomic Characteristics Associated with Head Splitting in Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata L.). PLoS ONE 10(11): e0142202. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0142202
Editor: Maoteng Li, Huazhong university of Science and Technology, CHINA
Received: June 4, 2015 Accepted: October 18, 2015 Published: November 4, 2015
Copyright: © 2015 Pang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: This work was supported by the Golden Seed Project (No. 213002-04-1-SB110), Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), Rural Development Administration (RDA) and Korea Forest Service (KFS).
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Two of our 30 Elisa F1 cabbage have finally split.
The cabbage have been ready for several weeks, with hard, compact, round shiny heads.
Most F1s, including Elisa cabbage, have good standing – which means they stay in this firm state for many weeks. Even though Elisa is not generally prone to splitting, the long period of dry weather experienced when the heads were mature, followed by a heavy downpour, has caused the cabbage to crack and split wide open.
The main causes of cabbages splitting are:
Ways to avoid cabbages splitting
cut the roots, by pushing a spade down either side of the cabbage, so that it cannot take up too much water
or, lift the head & twist to one side so that the roots break – but the cabbage will have to be harvested quite soon after this
Harvest split cabbage heads as soon as possible because the open surface will allow disease to enter & the head will deteriorate
Cabbage Growing Problems: Avoid many cabbage growing problems by sowing cabbage seed so that plants come to harvest in cool weather.
Grow cabbage as rapidly as possible. Give cabbage plenty of moisture and be sure to feed it through the season–a planting bed amended with aged compost and side dressings of compost tea every two weeks will do the job.
Cabbage can be grown in three distinct crops: early, midseason and late. Early cabbage can be wintered over in cold frames from seed started the preceding fall (or sow early cabbage in hotbeds in late winter and transplant in early spring). Midseason cabbage may be sown in the cold frame 6 weeks before transplanting into the garden after the last frost in spring. Late varieties may be sown in early summer directly in the garden where they are to mature.
While cabbage is hardy at maturity, young plants should not be subjected to frost.
For cabbage growing tips see Cabbage Growing Success Tips at the bottom of this post.
Here are common cabbage growing problems with cures and controls:
• Seedlings fail to emerge from soil seedlings are eaten roots are tunneled. Cabbage maggot is a small gray-white, legless worm to ⅓-inch long adult is the cabbage root fly, looks like a housefly. Flies lay eggs in the soil near the seedling or plant. Maggots will tunnel into roots leaving brown scars some plants may be honeycombed with slimy tunnels. Exclude flies with floating row covers. Remove and dispose of damaged plants. Apply lime or wood ashes around the base of plants time planting to avoid insect growth cycle. Plant a bit later when the weather is drier. Companion plant with mint.
• Seeds rot or seedlings collapse with dark water-soaked stems as soon as they appear. Damping off is a fungus that lives in the soil, particularly where humidity is high. Do not plant in cold, moist soil. Make sure soil is well drained.
• Seedlings are eaten or cut off near soil level. Cutworms are gray grubs ½- to ¾-inch long that can be found curled under the soil. They chew stems, roots, and leaves. Place a 3-inch paper collar around the stem of the plant. Keep the garden free of weeds sprinkle wood ash around base of plants.
• Young sprouts fail to grow or die back bluish-black spot on leaves and stems. Blackleg is a fungal disease which leaves sprouts girdled and rotting at soil level–“blacklegs.” Blackleg is spread by cutworms and cabbage maggots. Remove and destroy infected plants keep the garden free of plant debris. Add organic matter to planting bed make sure soil is well-drained. Rotate crops.
• Young plants flower. Cold will cause young plants to flower and produce seed without forming a head. Protect young plants from cold weather with floating row covers set transplants into the garden no sooner than 1 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.
• Main stem becomes dark and wiry. Wirestem is caused by the Rhizoctonia fungus which also caused damping off. Infected plant will not produce strong heads. Do not plant in cold, moist soil. Make sure soil is well drained.
• Irregular yellowish to brownish spots on upper leaf surfaces grayish powder or mold on undersides. Downy mildew is caused by a fungus. Improve air circulation. Plant resistant varieties. Rotate crops. Keep garden free of plant debris.
• Plant wilts roots are swollen and misshapen, roots rot. Clubroot is a soilborne fungal disease. Fungus interferes with water and nutrient uptake of roots. Keep the garden clean of plant debris and weeds that can harbor the fungus. Remove and destroy infected plants including soil around roots. Clubroot is found in acid soils add lime if soil pH below 7.2. Rotate crops for at least 2 years. Purchase transplants from disease-free supplier.
• Leaves become dull yellow, curl, and plant may die. Cabbage yellows is caused by the Fusarium soil fungus that infects plants usually where the soil is warm. The disease is spread by leafhoppers. Remove infected plants. Control leafhopper. Keep the garden free of weeds which can harbor disease. Keep soil evenly moist, but not wet. Rotate crops. Plant resistant varieties: Early Snowball.
• Leaves yellow plant stunted small glistening white specks on roots. Cyst nematode is a microscopic worm-like animal that lives in the film of water that coats soil particles. Rotate cabbage family crops. Solarize the soil with clear plastic in mid-summer.
• Plant stunted worms tunnel into roots. Plump grayish grub with brown head is the larva of the June beetle, a reddish brown or black hard-shelled beetle to 1 inch long. Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles they look like wiry-jointed worms. Check soil before planting hand pick and destroy pests flood the soil if wireworms are present. Remove infested plants and surrounding soil. Keep the garden free of refuse that could shelter beetle eggs.
• Leaves are yellowish and slightly curled with small shiny specks. Aphids are tiny, oval, whitish-green, pink, or black pear-shaped insects that colonize on leaves. They leave behind sticky excrement called honeydew which can turn into a black sooty mold. Remove with a blast of water. Use insecticidal soap solution. Mulch with aluminum foil to disorient aphids.
• Leaves have whitish or yellowish spots leaves are deformed plant wilts. Harlequin bugs or stink bugs. Harlequin are black with bright red yellow or orange markings. They suck fluids from plant tissue causing white and yellow blotches. Handpick and destroy bugs and egg masses. Keep garden free of crop residue and weeds where bugs breed. Spray plants wit Sevin, pyrethrum and rotenone. Stink bugs are gray or green shield-shaped bugs about ¼-inch long they feed on fruits. Remove garden debris and weeds where bugs can overwinter. Hand-pick egg masses and bugs and destroy.
• Tiny shot-holes in leaves of seedlings. Flea beetles are tiny bronze or black beetles a sixteenth of an inch long. They eat small holes in the leaves of seedlings and small transplants. The larvae feed on roots of germinating plants. Spread diatomaceous earth around seedling. Handpick off plants, Cultivate often to disrupt life cycle. Keep garden clean. Spade garden soil deeply to destroy larvae in earl spring. Treat plants with Sevin, pyrethrum, or rotenone.
• Leaves partially eaten leaves webbed together eggs in rows on undersides of leaves. Cabbage webworms are green with a light stripe to ¾ inches long the webworm is the larvae of a brownish yellow moth with gray markings. Larvae spin light webs. Clip off and destroy webbed leaves. Destroy caterpillars. Keep garden weed free.
• Leaves are eaten and plants are partially defoliated. Blister beetles are slender gray or metallic black beetles to ¾-inch long they may have striped spots on their wings. Handpick beetles and destroy. Keep the garden weeds and debris. Cultivate in spring to kill larvae and interrupt the life cycle. Spray or dust with Sevin or use a pyrethrum or rotenone spray.
• Small holes in leaves loose cocoons about ⅓-inch long on leaves. Pale green caterpillar is the larvae of the gray diamondback moth. Moth has yellow diamondback-shapes on folded wings. Keep garden free of weeds, particularly mustard plants. Handpick and destroy caterpillars. Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis is very effective.
• Large holes in leaves leaves skeletonized. Cabbage loopers or armyworms. (1) Cabbage looper is a light green caterpillar with yellow stripes running down the back it loops as it walks. Keep garden clean of debris where adult brownish night-flying moth can lay eggs. Cover plants with spun polyester to exclude moths. Pick loppers off by hand. Use Bacillus thuringiensis. Dust with Sevin or rotenone. (2) Armyworms are dark green caterpillars the larvae of a mottled gray moth with a wingspan of 1½ inches. Armyworms mass and eat leaves, stems, and roots of many crops. Armyworms will live inside webs on leaves. Handpick caterpillars and destroy. Cultivate after harvest to expose the pupae. Use commercial traps with floral lures.
• Leaves are chewed and slimed. Snails and slugs eat leaves. Collect these pests at night. Set beer traps at soil level to attract and drown snails and slugs.
• Leaves chewed tunnels inside cabbage and cauliflower heads. Imported cabbage worm is a pale green caterpillar with yellow stripes to about 1¼ inches long the adult is a white moth with two or three black spots on the forewing. Use Bacillus thuringiensis. Destroy all remains and weeds after harvest. Companion plant with mint. Encourage the predatory trichogramma wasp.
• Browning along margins of old leaves water spots at core of plant leaves are bitter and tough. Boron deficiency, often found in alkaline soils. Test soil. If deficient, add 2 ounces of borax per 30 square yards. Plant resistant varieties: Plant Wisconsin Ballhead, Wisconsin Hollander No. 8.
• Leaves and head become pale green leaves wilt slimy rot develops in stem, leaves, and head. Bacterial soft rot is caused by Erwinia bacteria. Water-soaked spots appear on leaves and roots spots enlarge and turn dark and mushy. Black ooze develops in cracks in roots and stems. Rot can not be cured. Collect and burn infected plants Promote good drainage by adding aged compost and organic materials to planting beds. Avoid over-head watering. Rotate crops.
• Bolting plants flower and go to seed. Cabbage will bolt prematurely if plants are exposed to 20 or more days with temperatures below 50°F this can happen with cabbage planted to over winter. Protect young plants from cold use horticultural cloth or cloches when temperatures are low. Don’t plant too early.
• Plants do not set heads or heading is poor. Overcrowding or dry soil. Give cabbage plenty of room to spread out this will aid heading. Keep plants evenly moist.
• Leaves are pitted. Blowing soil particles can pit leaves and cause wart-like projections the size of a pinhead. Protect plants from blowing soil and sand with floating row covers or use windbreaks in large gardens.
• Margins of internal leaves turn brown. Tipburn is caused when leaves do not take up enough water. This can happen if there is a calcium deficiency in the soil. Test soil. Maintain consistent and even soil moisture. Mulch and cultivate only shallowly during drought. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0, add limestone which contains calcium if the pH is below 6.0.
• Heads split and crack. Too much water too much nitrogen. Keep plants evenly moist avoid wetting and drying soil. Do not overwater. If plants go dry, apply water slowly at first. Prune roots to slow uptake of water and slow growth do this by turning the head a half turn to break off some of the roots and slow growth. Feed plants will aged compost avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Harvest plants when they are mature do not allow them to sit too long in the garden.
Planting. Grow cabbage in full sun in cool weather. Plant cabbage in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed in advance of planting. Cabbage is most easily grown from transplants which are better able to withstand pests and disease. For small heads, space cabbage about 12 inches apart and harvest as soon as heads are the size of a softball. For larger heads, space plants from 18 to 24 inches apart.
Planting time. Cabbage is a cool-weather crop that grows best in spring and fall, when temperatures average between 60° and 70°F. Cabbage grows best when it comes to maturity in cool weather however, long periods of temperatures below 50°F will cause cabbage to flower and go to seed. Grow cabbage in summer in cool-summer regions and in winter in mild-winter regions. Start cabbage indoors as early as 7 to 9 weeks before the last average frost date in spring set transplants into the garden 1 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date. For a fall crop, set cabbage transplants in the garden 6 weeks before the first average frost date in fall sow seed for a fall crop 12 weeks before the first hard frost.
Care. Keep cabbage evenly moist. Avoid allowing the soil to dry out dry and wet and dry and wet periods will cause cabbage heads to either not grow well or to split and crack. Side dress cabbage with compost tea as soon as heads start to form cabbage requires a steady supply of nitrogen. Rotate cabbage family crops on a regular basis cabbage family crops share many of the same soilborne diseases. Use floating row covers to keep cabbage pests away from crops early in the growing season.
Harvest. Cabbage is ready for harvest as soon as heads are about the size of a softball and firm. A firm head to ready for harvest. Leafy cabbage such as napa cabbages and Asian cabbages can be cut when leaves are about 12 inches tall.
Cabbage flavor is compatible with many herbs and spices. Steamed cabbage can be seasoned with anise, basil, caraway and celery seeds, dill, mustard, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, black pepper, savory and tarragon.
Braised Green Cabbage with Garden Vegetables
If you are lucky, the cabbage, green bell peppers and onions will all come from your garden. This recipe can be cut in half by using only half a head of cabbage.
Have all ingredients ready before you start to cook. Remove any decaying outer leaves and wash cabbage remove core. Remove dark green leaves, cut away tough ribs, roll together into a scroll and cut across into thin shreds. Set aside. Cut cabbage into quarters and shred thinly. Set aside separate from dark green outer leaves. Chop onions and bell pepper and set aside. Peel and smash garlic cloves with side of knife, chop coarsely, set aside.
Use a large (5 quart) stainless steel Dutch oven or pan with lid or use a nonstick surface wok. Heat pan over medium high heat for a few seconds until hot. Add oil to hot pan, immediately add onions and bell peppers and stir for about one minute. Add shredded dark green cabbage, stir for another 30 seconds. Add crushed red pepper and garlic, continue to cook and stir for 15 seconds. Do not allow garlic to brown. Add two handfuls of cabbage stirring for about 30 seconds, continue adding cabbage and stirring at 30 second intervals until all of the cabbage is in the pot. Add water or chicken stock, cover immediately and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Add more water if necessary. When cabbage is done, almost all of the liquid will have cooked away.
Savoy Slaw with Buttermilk Dressing
This slaw can be made using all green cabbage or any combination of green, red and Savoy.
Combine all ingredients in a pint size jar or small bowl and refrigerate. The dressing can be prepared up to three days in advance.
Mix vegetables together in a large bowl. Toss with hands. Add dressing, toss using two spoons, refrigerate. Makes six servings.