Cabbage can be grown all year round and there are many different types, colours, and shapes. Varieties of cabbage range from white flesh to red and purple types, and from loose leaf to pointed and large ballhead varieties. Perhaps the most important distinction is the time of year different cabbage varieties are harvested.
The large range of cabbage types can be confusing. My preference is to concentrate on growing winter cabbages, as summer cabbages occupy space that can be used for faster growing salad crops, and spring cabbages seem a long time to wait.
The growing method is very similar for all types of cabbage, the only difference being the time of year to sow the seed and harvest time. Birds and butterflies love cabbage so a net, and ideally butterfly netting, may be essential to secure a good harvest.
Typically spring cabbages are of the loose leaf type and they are also referred to as spring greens. An easy method for germination is to use seed trays with plastic dividers for individual seeds. When the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be planted out into their final growing position. Care is needed to ensure that they do not mature too early in autumn, or alternatively are too small to survive the onset of winter. One way of mitigating the risk is to sow seedlings in batches two weeks apart.
These are typically pointed or ballhead cabbage varieties (which are excellent for coleslaw). They are best started early under cover in February ready for planting out in March or April. As these varieties need to develop their fleshy leaves through the summer months, it is essential to provide them with sufficient water.
The famous savoy cabbages with their wrinkled or curly leaves are ideal for winter harvesting. Winter cabbage is quite slow to grow, so I prefer to start the seeds in a seed tray in April or May and transplant to their final growing position when they have matured to show two full adult leaves. Transplanting the seedlings provides the opportunity to give them the correct spacing and protection. Winter cabbage is extremely hardy, and the plants can be left in their growing position overwinter and harvested when you want to eat them.