Growing cabbage in South Florida ain’t an easy thing to do.
There are several pests that love to feast on it, including snails and aphids. (Chickens will also go to town on them). Snails tend to get the cabbage plants when they are small, and aphids start colonizing it when they get larger. But I’ve stumbled upon a trick that really seems to work. Let me break it down for you.
First, you’ll only want to end up with one cabbage plant per square foot. When successful, they end up pretty freaking huge. But to increase my chances for success, I like to plant two to three plants per square foot (close to the middle of the square foot) and then keep only the most successful plant. But before I plant the cabbage, I plant a liberal amount of dill (usually in lines around each square foot) a week or two before putting the cabbage seeds in the ground. Why? Because the dill keeps the pests away like a jacked up bouncer at a night club. It really does work, and the plants are given a chance to grow to full size.
When the cabbages are young, your main task is to keep slugs and snails away from them, as they’ll take down an entire seedling. How do you keep them away? I’ve tried the cabbage collars, which are round pieces of plastic that prevent the pests from getting to the stem, but eventually the plant outgrows the collar and you end up with a broken collar and a weird stem with plastic embedded in it. So what is the trick for those slimy bastards, pull the eggshells (and break them into little pieces) and coffee grounds from your compost and sprinkle them all around the young plants. The shells and coffee grounds will eventually break down, fertilizing the plants, and then you’ll need to add more, so make sure to monitor your garden bed.
Important Cabbage Tips to Remember
Remember that cabbage needs lots of water, so use weeper hoses, and it’s best to water in the early morning. While the plants are young, I’ll also give the bed a good soaking with the garden hose. Make sure to wait until October or November to plant, when pest activity starts to decrease, and the weather starts to cool down. Some great varieties for growing cabbage in South Florida are flat and round dutch, or a hybrid which was designed for growing in hotter climates. Park Seed carries the giant tropical hybrid variety that does pretty well.
And finally, for those of us who keep chickens, make sure to never ever let your flock come into contact with your cabbage bed. Those birds will decimate an entire crop in less than an hour. Chickens just freaking love cabbage. If your birds are free range, it’s best to keep your your cabbages completely protected as chickens will go to great lengths to get a bite of the tasty treat. As a side note, if you buy a large cabbage, drill a hole through it, and then hang it in your chicken yard, just out of reach of your flock, you’ll be treating yourself to a hilarious viewing as you watch your birds hop up and snag a bite for hours.
Mike W is a passionate gardener from Fort Lauderdale and a developer at a digital media agency. He loves growing stuff and he loves his wife and daughter. He also loves relaxing with a nice glass of wine.