Most farmers have been accustomed to cultivate cabbages in a small way in the garden and for family use. The methods of raising them are, therefore, well known. Now the great want of New England, and of any country where the winter is long, and the necessity for stall feeding so imperative, is an abundance of food for stock. With more food we can keep more stock, with more stock we obtain more manure, with more manure we can increase the fertility of our land.
The farmer’s chief study ought to be to see by what means he can increase his supply of animal food in the cheapest and most economical manner. His success as a farmer turns very much upon this. His grass lands should be kept in the best condition; but that is not enough. He should raise a liberal supply of root crops; and even with them most farmers who are aiming at the higher point of excellence, will still want something more.
There are certain crops that are very convenient to use in the late fall, and serve not only to prevent a too early encroachment upon the haymow, but to break the too sudden change from green and succulent grass to dry hay. Such are pumpkins in October and November, as they come from the field; round turnips in December, when they may be fed freely and to great advantage. After these follow ruta bagas through January and February, and then mangolds still later. Cabbages are conveniently fed out late in the season, about the time that pumpkins come into use, and they not only increase the milk of cows, but are nutritive and greatly relished by all kinds of stock. Cabbages contain a large percentage of flesh-forming substances as compared with most other articles of food.
For a field crop the late varieties are preferable. The seed is sown about the first of May, in beds, and by the tenth or middle of June the plants will be sufficiently large and strong to be transplanted. A piece of sod land well ploughed will answer very well, and a light clover sod is the best. The liberal supply of manure may be partly spread and ploughed under, and partly spread on the furrow and harrowed in. It is best to select wet weather, if possible, for transplanting. A smart man can easily set out five thousand plants a day. The market gardeners can set six thousand five hundred. The plants may wilt a little during the first week if the weather is dry and warm, but as soon as they get hold of the soil and hold their heads up, run a cultivator through them, to keep down the weeds and stir the soil. If the plants are set two feet by two and a half, this operation is easily performed. At those distances the number of plants will be eight thousand nine hundred to the acre. Of these it will be fair to expect six thousand heads. Some will fail to head, and others may be destroyed by disease or insects after it is too late to replace them. They will be worth, to feed out to dairy cows, say from thirty to forty dollars a thousand. The amount of feeding material on an acre of well-grown cabbages is something enormous.
The culture of this plant, for the purposes proposed, is worthy of a careful trial by every farmer. Try it under favorable circumstances, and estimate the cost of the crop as compared with the other farm crops, and then report your experience for the benefit of other farmers. Farmers ought to remember that noble old precept, “Do good and communicate.” It is a grand rule to follow.
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]