Happy New Years fellow gardening enthusiasts! Hope the holiday season was a pleasant experience for all and that 2013 brings a bounty of fruits and vegetables to fill your tummies.


Here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in Poway CA, we have been greeted frequently with light frosts over the past few weeks. I can see the ice starting to blanket the scenery out my window as I type. It is time to sharpen our pruners and start to cut back our naked deciduous fruit trees and struggling roses in preparation of massive blooming in the spring. All of our gardens are packed with fall and winter cool season crops and we have been harvesting hundreds of pounds of broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and bok choy for the residents in our 86-bed facility. White row covers blanket our gardens, to warm things up a bit and keep whatever chilly bugs that are hanging around, off our plants. My roots are from growing warm season crops such as tomatoes and peppers, but I have really grown to love the cole crop season. I get a real thrill harvesting 2 lb plus heads of cauliflower and beautiful clean crispy heads of lettuce this time of year. Plantings of these crops will continue through April.

Let’s talk about one of our smaller supporting cast members for this time of year- CABBAGE.


Cabbage is a leafy biennial, grown as an annual vegetable for its densely-leaved heads. It is a key member of the Brassica family of cruciferous veggies which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kale. Cabbage is a very hardy vegetable and grows especially well in home gardens. They require a very fertile soil, full sun and come in an array of colors and leave textures. The most common cabbage is of the green smooth head type. Heads can get up to 8 lbs depending on the variety. Many shapes, colors and leaf textures are found in the cabbage world. Leaf types are generally divided between crinkled-leaf, loose-head savoys and smooth-leaf firm head cabbages. Colors range from white to greens to purples. Oblate, round and pointed varieties are found in the family.


Cabbage is a great source of vitamin B and C, minerals and calcium. It is also full of beta-carotene and fiber (very low cal also). Being a member of the crucifer family, it has been shown to reduce the risks of some cancers. This is probably due to the metabolic detoxicants found in all cole crops. Boiling as a form of cooking, has been shown to reduce the anti-carcinogenic properties.

So let’s go over some of the types of cabbage to grow in your garden.

GREEN CABBAGE- This is your basic, solid, compact and long lasting standard of the industry. When harvesting, look for heads that feel heavy for their size. They can range from softball to basketball size. The heads should be tightly packed with moist looking leaves. You will probably notice a sweeter flavor of those grown at home, over the store- bought heads. I have had good results with King Cole. This variety will be ready for harvest in about 75 days. It will produce large 3-5 lb heads which are firm and uniform in size. Great in salads, slaws and soups.


SAVOY CABBAGE- Also known as “curly cabbage”. This type has ruffled, large, deeply ridged leaves. I find it to be the most attractive cabbage out there. The leaves are more loosely layered and less tightly packed than green and red types. We have been growing the Savoy King variety. It will take about 85 days and is very dark green with uniform heads that are slightly flattened. Heads can get up to 4 lbs. Delicious thinly sliced in salads and stir-fried. Try braising it in butter for a real treat.

RED CABBAGE- Heads look like green types but are RED. Actually magenta would be the proper description. Heads are generally smaller than green varieties. Again, look for tightly packed, moist looking leaves and heads that look heavy for their size. Super Red 80 (73 days) and Ruby Perfection (85 days) have worked well for us. Both are extremely flavorful and add a little zip to your slaws when sliced thinly and mixed with green cabbage.

NAPA- Otherwise known as Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage Napa looks nothing like head cabbage. It has long, light green leaves that flower off of thick white stalks. It looks more like Romaine lettuce or green swiss chard. We grow Bilko from Johnny Seeds. We let it get full size up to 12” in about 54 days. It is very dark green, slow to bolt with a mild peppery flavor. Great in salads, stir-fries and of course the Korean staple-spicy kimchi

BOK CHOY- We grow more bok choy than any other cabbage. We grow it in between our broccoli and cauliflower rows, just like we do our lettuce. Bok choy and side kick baby bok choy have distinct leaves growing from a central stalk. Looks a bit like swiss chard with green stalks and leaves. We have had great success with the Joi Choi variety from Johnny’s Seed. This variety forms a 12”-15” tall, broad,heavy plant with dark green leaves and thick flattened white petioles. It is heat and cold tolerant and harvests in about 50 days.. It has a mild but bright cabbage flavor and is most often used in stir fried dishes. Braising bok choi brings out a sweeter flavor. Baby bok choy can be cooked whole. I love it grilled on the BBQ.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS- These are actually tiny cabbages that are found either loose packed or on the stalk in the grocery store. Buying them on the stalk will insure they last several weeks when chilled. I have very little experience growing them due to the fact that they take generally about 110days to harvest and aphid control is imperative to keep them out of the little leaves that form. I have heard good things about the Nautic variety from Johnny’s Seed. The sprouts are medium sized with good plant vigor and yield potential. It has excellent cold tolerance.

To grow cabbage is basically the same as that of growing broccoli and cauliflower. Check the archives at The Mulch, where last cool season, I went through, in detail the ins and outs of growing cole crops. Be wary of insect problems such as aphids, loopers and flea beetles, all of which are easily controlled with floating row covers. Be prepared to fertilize more frequently also.


Please contact me, if you have any questions or would like to tour our gardens.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care- 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway CA 92064

858-472-6059, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or www.sunshinecare.com.

Also don’t forget to join us for our free monthly garden lectures on the 3rd Saturday each month at 10:30 am. Door prizes, refreshments and valuable insight abound.

January 19, 2013- Deciduous Fruit Tree Care and Pruning

February 16, 2013- Edible landscaping

March 16, 2013- Successes and Failures in your Fall/ Winter Crops and Preparing for Spring/Summer Crops



Roy Wilburn

Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.  Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year.  Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.  We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care.  I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray.  I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months.  In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed.  We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.


As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce.  I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs.  We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers.  Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants.  Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.


At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch.  Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge. 


Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world.  On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production.  We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home.  They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them.  After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS!  It’s a beautiful thing.


We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”.  The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go.  They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-


Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower

Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape

Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower

Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower

And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.


Let’s go through these crops one by one.


Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower.  Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color.  For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character.  The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral.  In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal.  Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.  This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels.  Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!!  Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids.  The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.


Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress.  They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.


Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color.  It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters.  It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants.  The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese.  The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels.  It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads.  This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color.  Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.


To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained.  Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way.  To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.


Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.


Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots.  Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties.  As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days).  These are no-brainers.  Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions.  These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.


For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care.  We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents.  Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards.  So bring a friend and come on by.


Call me, Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture (858) 472-6059 or e-mail me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations (858) 752-8197 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , for more info and to RSVP.If you can’t make it, we would be happy to show you around anytime at your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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