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ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Soil test can combat sad cabbage syndrome

Submitted photo.

Q: Attached are pictures of a couple of the saddest cabbages I’ve ever seen, from my sister’s garden in Beaver Bay. The entire row looks like this, stunted, with brown leaf tips in the center. The cabbages won’t form heads. What could be causing this?

A: Those are sad looking! What a bummer, to get this far in the summer and then lose the cabbages.

It looks like a mineral deficiency. Calcium deficiency can cause brown leaf tips (tipburn) on veggies in the cabbage family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, collards and cabbage. Usually with cabbage you don’t see the problem until you cut the cabbage open, but it can show up like this, too.

Calcium deficiency can be caused by too little calcium in the soil, or by a soil pH that’s wrong for the plant, but it can also be caused by uneven soil moisture. Hot, humid summer weather can contribute to the problem. Watering infrequently and deeply, rather than a little bit every day, can help prevent tipburn.

Before planting next year, it would be a good idea to get a soil test to make sure the pH is right for cabbage and there isn’t a mineral deficiency. When buying seeds, look for a variety that is resistant to tipburn.

More information on growing cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in Minnesota is available at