The Q&A Archives: Cabbage heads splitting

Question: This past spring I planted two dozen early cabbage seedlings. They grew fine, but many of the heads split. What causes this? Mike Bellock Aliquippa, PA

Answer: The heads were probably overmature, says Mike Orzolek, vegetable crops specialist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. It's important to pick cabbages as soon as the heads are tight and firm, he notes. Leaving mature cabbages in thegarden until you're ready to eat them often results in splitting. Even if you can't eat all the cabbages right away, it's better to harvest anyway and then store them at 55_F and 75% humidity indoors for four to six weeks, advises Orzolek.. Don't use the days to maturity listed on the seed package as an absolute in judging when to harvest, either. During warm summers, a 75 day cabbage may be mature in 65 or 70 days. During cool weather it may be 80 days to harvest, Orzolek explains. Splitting can also occur on maturing heads following rapid uptake of water from rains after a dry period. Applying a four inch thick straw mulch when plants are young will help moderate any moisture fluctuations and prevent splitting, says Orzolek. Another trick is to reduce water uptake by severing the roots before rain either lift the plant slightly or cut the roots on one side with a spade.

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