Les’s Patch: Ways to enjoy your cabbage all year

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I have been asked about a sowing programme that will provide cabbage all year round.

For spring cabbage sow outdoors in late July or early August, planting where the cabbage will grow in September.

Suitable varieties include Harbinger, Durham Early and Offenham. They will be ready between March and May.

For summer cabbage start sowing in April and May, planting from May to June. Suitable varieties include Hispi, Stonehead and Minicole.

I would suggest that the one to use is Minicole because it is a smaller cabbage which can be planted close together and it will last on the plant for up to three months without splitting, so no wastage.

For winter cabbage sow in mid-May planting towards the end of June, using any savoys, January King or Celtic.

There will be ready around December to February.

The winter cabbage needs protection from pigeons which devour cabbage in no time.

At the nursery we would place nets over the cabbage fastened down with long wire pegs, just simply a piece of strong wire with a hook bent in at one end. Don’t ignore this job.

When growing vegetables there are certain things you can do to eliminate time and problems.

Firstly grow the onions from sets.

These are specially produced miniature onion bulbs. They can be planted in spring when the ground is unsuitable for sowing, are easy to handle and the food reserves in the sets give the onions a head start over the ones raised from seed.

They are also less susceptible to attack from onion fly.

The drawback is that they are more likely to bolt (run to seed) than seed grown onions.

To minimise this risk select the smallest sets or use heat treated ones (which cannot be planted until late March).

Sets are more expensive than seed but they make up for this because of time spent sowing and pricking-out, and compost used.

Also you can soon lose a tray of seedlings if not looked after carefully. Some people complain that onions don’t keep very well.

Firstly make sure you are growing storing varieties such as Sturon, Hygro or the Rijnsburger types.

Good harvesting is also the key to successful storage. When the onion leaves die back naturally don’t bend them over which can cause damage.

Ease the onions out of the soil, place in trays and dry in the sun for several days.

Dry them as fast and as thoroughly as possible bringing indoors to finish off if the weather turns wet.

Handle carefully as storage rot starts from tiny cuts and bruises.

Store the onions somewhere dry and frost free with plenty of air – suspend them in nets or nylon stockings or lay in single layers in seed trays.

If, because of health or age problems, you are struggling with work in the garden and you have a greenhouse, why not grow something in the greenhouse to keep you happily pottering about?

The idea is to grow something which doesn’t need a lot of care.

Ideal plants for this purpose include cacti and succulents.

To start maximum light is important, and frost free conditions, although there are some hardy species.

It is wrong to assume that this type of plant can go without water indefinitely, no plant can.

They are, however, well equipped to withstand short periods of neglect so are ideal if you have to be away from home and the greenhouse from time to time.

During active growth the plants can be well watered, but in winter they should be hardly watered or even left dry.

With proper care many varieties of these plants flower beautifully and can be extremely decorative.

Free-draining compost is essential.

Most modern potting types will be okay if you add extra grit.

The most important tip for gardeners at the moment is to keep an eye on children at all times, especially if they are playing near a garden pond.

The best idea is to cover ponds while children are likely to be around, especially during school holidays.