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My cabbages have been growing strongly, but until recently mostly big loose leaves, not hearts.

Now they're beginning to heart up, but some way up the stalk and off the ground (about 12-15cm up the stalk, possibly more [photo probably shows the most extreme example]).

enter image description here

They look like decent hearts.

But is this a problem? In a lettuce (which I am more used to growing) this would look like a plant that had started to bolt. And also, archetypal illustrations of healthy cabbages always show tight balls close to the ground.

Edit:
Further thought: Could it be connected to overcrowding and/or being shaded by nearby beans and broccoli? Are these guys reaching up for more light?

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were the cabbages transplants (if yes, how far along were they when transplanted?) or did you sow directly? –  Mike Perry Aug 7 '11 at 16:49
    
@Mike yes, transplants, maybe 5-10cm along when transplanted. did i leave them too long before planting out? –  Tea Drinker Aug 8 '11 at 7:08
    
Regarding "reaching up for more light", refer to @simiansuter feedback in this answer. –  Mike Perry Aug 8 '11 at 16:59
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2 Answers

My cabbages, for whatever reason, seem to all do what you're describing. (A picture of yours would confirm if they're the same as what I have.) They end up with a stem a few inches long (10-15cm) and then a good head (heart). Nothing to worry about.

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photo added, look the same as yours? –  Tea Drinker Aug 8 '11 at 7:06
    
@TeaDrinker: No, mine aren't quite that high! Your suspicion about reaching up for more light sounds reasonable to me. –  bstpierre Sep 23 '11 at 18:02
    
@TeaDrinker: I'd probably mound up soil around it as mentioned in Mike's answer. When it forms a good sized head, I'm not sure that stalk will hold it... –  bstpierre Sep 23 '11 at 18:03
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First, I've never seen or heard of such a thing happen to cabbages before.

A photo or two on the cabbages would be helpful (IMHO), so we can see exactly what you are talking about.

Also, I've just returned home from my local feed mill, while there I asked them about your particular situation, below is a summary of what they had to say:

  • Never seen or heard of such a thing before.

  • If the cabbages had bolted, you would have seen flowers, then seed heads ie The cabbages would have gone to seed.

  • Sounds almost like some kind of "mutation" has occurred.

  • Leave at least one cabbage in the ground to see what happens.


Below is what a few gardening "experts" on twitter have had to say, after asking them to take a look at the question:

@simiansuter - I've found what's described can happen where conditions are not "A1":

  • Not enough light or water.

  • Lack of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. The mutation is "normal" when grown organically.

  • I've always grown organically and have often had "tall" cabbages. Generally they taste just fine, which is the important thing.

@Rhizowen - If they were transplanted before getting into head mode, this could have put them into shock, the result being the "mutation".

  • Earthing them up is probably worthwhile, might get adventitious roots developing for enhanced feeding and stability against wind-rock.

@MarkDoc - Mutant veg should be encouraged! If it tastes great, who cares.

@timandjoe - No we've not seen anything like that, but it makes harvesting them a whole lot easier :)

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thanks for reporting back from the Twittersphere, hope those guys are thinking about joining our beta. some things to consider in the answers you've received. –  Tea Drinker Aug 8 '11 at 7:05
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