Diary of a Rocket Gardener – Why hasn’t my cabbage formed a head?

Back in July I planted out several red cabbage seedlings with visions of harvesting beautifully neat, deep purple cabbages to cook up for Christmas Day. Sadly, the vast majority of my cabbage patch babies did not survive. Slugs and pigeons can be very ruthless I find. I felt a bit like Nemo’s father, finding just one surviving baby one morning and, like him, I have been a little over-protective.

But it seems that all the nurturing in the world hasn’t been enough for this cabbage and it hasn’t grown up properly. It’s headless. It has plenty of leaves but there’s no “cabbage” at the centre. After some research I now know a bit more about this condition, which is apparently called “blindness”.

What causes cabbage blindness? 

There are a number of possible reasons:

  • Too much nitrogen in the soil
  • Planting the seedlings out when the weather is too hot (I don’t think this would have been the problem!)
  • Being damaged by cutworms or club rot
  • Not getting enough water
  • Cold weather
  • Overcrowding
  • Not having enough time to mature (they can take 70-100 days)
  • Not being firmed in (i.e. growing in loose soil)

Sometimes it can be a bit of a minefield! It’s difficult to say with any certainty where my little cabbage went wrong, but I’d imagine a combination of some of the points above were the cause. One thing I have read is that if you puddle in the seedlings (fill the hole with water several times as you plant them before firming them in) then this can really help them grow well. So, I shall definitely try again next July, but I will be puddling in, firming the soil and making sure they’re well spaced and well watered. In the meantime, I’m going to leave my little cabbage plant in the ground a little longer, just in case!