This year, I overwintered my mostly f2-3 San Michele x Red Rock Mammoth cabbage stems in a trench with straw and dirt. It worked extremely well with very little loss. Most cabbage stems showed exceptional liveliness, meaning full survival including remaining leaves. They also leafed out very quickly when re-planted.
Cabbage seedlings were started inside early April. Variations were immediately apparent with some being more green and most having some purple coloration. This f3 generation seemed to have very few pure reds unlike previous. This mean, all red stemmed were the phenotype that I was hoping for. Though I selectively planted out seedlings with some red veining, I think I can further restrict this to only those with all red veining and get closer to what I want, as the others were more likely to be green and very saved - i.e., like San Michele. I did get one almost pure red savoy which I really liked.
Young seedlings were initially row covered to protect against snails, earwigs, flea beetles and so forth. Unfortunately, something was getting in underneath despite a full dirt closure at the edges so I removed it to allow in predators. Thankfully this was after max flea beetle time. You can see variations on savoy above. I might do some selection at this stage next year. I'm looking for more savoy rather than less, as long as they are not pure green.
I generally work alone and this year this was even more so as the two farmers that shared my field last year have moved on to other jobs. This mean that weed control was even more a challenge. To phrase this another way, check out my competition trials... I am working on finding ways to make this easier but funnily enough they all involve finding the time.
Problems and Selection Criteria
As usual, the challenges of growing cabbage were many: bugs - especially earwigs here, hail, and some head rot secondary to the insect damage. I cut those heads early. No heavily affected cabbages were allowed to continue into the next generation. Selection criteria was very strict this year. Often, my projects go through a couple stages. First is increase diversity, second is to decide on the best characteristics once I have everything growing. I usually have some idea but that gets furthered defined after I get a sense of the range of possibilities. Then, after babying the diversity for awhile, I might decide to restrict. This is not always the case. The C. moschata butternut landrace is undergoing further genetic diversification for example. However, I really like the Blushing Mammoth (yes this cabbage finally has a name) phenotype so I'm going to see if we can get something that more reliably produces it.
All the heads are eaten of course so getting X'ed from the breeding program doesn't mean that those cabbages go to waste! I don't overwinter heads as they don't overwinter well, rather just the stems. My favourite phenotype - the Blushing Mammoth - is on the right above, though I also like this more lilac version on the left.
Selection piles included the 1. Chicken Food, 2. Keep in case of failure of best and 3. Best. These were disease free which normally means very little bug damage as well, thrifty space users with big heads that were partially savoyed and veined purple with green leaves.
The seed parents from this year sprouted a little forest of cabbage beneath them as well. I'm curious to see if any make it overwinter under the snow. On the right above you can see one of the many ways this cabbage cross is quite vigorous. It produces shoots from the roots.
If you have been following my adventures into making this cabbage - which incidentally was my first footfall that dropped me down the rabbit hole of plant breeding - then you know that it took years to develop techniques for successful overwintering. I'm still learning about best ways to tunnel for seed production and trench stems etc... As I had enough material to collect a lot of seed and to do some serious restriction on the phenotype this year, 2018 will be year one in refinement. Woohoo! I also expect to sell the seed, barring disaster.
Farmers involved in the 2017 West Carelton Calorie Project, were gifted seedlings of this as well, and anyone participating in 2018's grow out is welcome to extras. It is a lovely and tasty cabbage.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.