I frequently get emails from impatient gardeners. Growing plants is a process that naturally takes time, I tell them. Seeds germinate on their time, not ours. Plants flower when they’re ready, not when we want them too. There are, however, ways to speed up parts of the process.
If you’re an impatient gardener and want to grow something fast, the first thing to do is to choose an early-season variety. Let’s take cabbage, since that is the subject of the last email I received.
Your best bet to get a quick head of cabbage is to choose varieties such as Parel, Rubicon or Fast Ball. These varieties take anywhere from 45 to 50 days to harvest, as opposed to others which may take as long as 140 days from planting to harvest.
While you should have your soil pH tested, the tests take time. I don’t recommend home tests as I recently read a university study that found them highly unreliable. So, that leaves the cooperative extension service. To gather your samples, mail them in and wait for the results defeats the purpose of growing the crop quickly.
So, were I having a “cabbage emergency,” where I needed to grow it fast, I would skip the pH test and amend the soil with 3 or 4 inches of manure or compost and then throw in a starter fertilizer — about 5 cups for every 50 foot row.
After planting, keep the cabbage starter plants moist. About an inch to an inch and a half of water a week is ideal, unless it rains. Watering is the single most important thing you can do to get the cabbage to grow quickly.
Fertilizer helps as well. When the plants start producing new leaves, sidedress them with 20-20-20. Don’t forget to water the fertilizer in.
Cutting corners isn’t the ideal way to garden, but for those. . .ahem. . . lazy bugs among us, this ought to get the job done.
I am now sufficiently craving a nice Chinese chicken cabbage salad.
Image courtesty: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos