Ten-year-old Jordan Bogarty thought he could grow a big cabbage, but he didn’t think he’d grow one as big as he did. Or that he’d win $1,000 for his feat.
As part of a school project last year through the Bonnie Plants Third-Grade Cabbage Program, Jordan grew a 26.52-pound cabbage on his family farm in Jarrettsville.
“I wasn’t thinking it would get that big, but it did,” Jordan, who attends Jarrettsville Elementary, said. “I was like, ‘whoa!’ ”
Jordan was randomly selected by Maryland’s Agriculture Department to receive a $1,000 saving bond toward education from Bonnie Plants, which has been hosting the contest since 1996.
More than one million third-graders in the 48 contiguous states — and 12,326 from Maryland — got hands-on gardening experience, growing colossal cabbages with high hopes of winning “best in state” and receiving a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants, according to a news release from the company, which says it’s the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America.
Each year, Bonnie Plants distributes free O.S. Cross, or "oversized," cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program online.www.bonnieplants.com. If nurtured and cared for, kids can cultivate, nurture and grow giant cabbages, some much bigger than a basketball, tipping the scales, often more than 40 pounds, the news release states.
The program was started in and around the company’s headquarters in Union Springs, Ala., with a mission to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people and continue to “grow” its next generation of gardeners.
By 2002, the Cabbage Program became a national endeavor. The program awards a $1,000 scholarship to one student in each participating state. At the end of the season, teachers from each third grade class select the student who has grown the “best” cabbage, based on size and appearance. A digital image of the cabbage and student is submitted online at www.bonnieplants.com. That student's name is then entered in a statewide drawing. State winners are randomly selected by the office of the Commission of Agriculture, in each of the 48 participating states.
“The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening, but the importance of our food systems and growing our own,” Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, said in the release. This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from. The program also affords our youth with some valuable life lessons in nurture, nature, responsibility, self-confidence and accomplishment.”
To grow his cabbage, Jordan said he put fertilizer in the water to help it grow and hand picked the bugs off it every day.
Jordan chose to participate in the optional project, “because we live on a farm.”
He got some help from his father, Dan, who took it on as a father-son project. They photographed their cabbage every Sunday.
Dan Bogarty was surprised at how big the cabbage got.
“It’s total width was 54 inches,” he said. “We wanted to take it to school so he could show his classmates, but we couldn’t get it through the doors.”
Dan Bogarty said he and Jordan will grow another cabbage this year, to see if they can grow it bigger than last year’s.
“I learned that if you’re going to grow something, you have to keep an eye on it,” Jordan said.
The family intended to turn the cabbage into sauerkraut, using a recipe from Dan Bogarty’s aunt, but when they cut it open, it had started to rot in the middle, Bogarty said.
He suspects it was because how much water they put into it.
“That thing was thirsty. It drank some water to keep it looking fresh,” he said. “Even if the soil was damp, the leaves would start to wilt. It took more water than I thought it would take.”
The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program has proven to be “an exciting, successful and worth-while experience that children, teachers, parents and grandparents across the country have embraced. We're certainly extremely proud of our Maryland State Winner, Jordan Bogarty! We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide our youth with this enjoyable and enriching opportunity and engage their interest in the art and joy of gardening,” Bonnie Plants Cope said in a statement.
Growing a colossal cabbage may seem like a giant undertaking for young kids, but it’s easier than you think. All you need to do is:
· Let the sun shine in: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.
· Survey your space: Bonnie O.S. Cross cabbages need at least 3 feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that much space, use a large container.
· Supplement soil: Work some compost into the soil – cabbages love nutrient-rich soil.
· Feed your food plant: Start your cabbage off right with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, then fertilize it according to label directions to keep it growing strong.
· Water wisely: Your cabbage needs at least one inch of rainfall each week. If it doesn’t rain, use a watering can or garden hose to gently water your plant at soil level.
· Tend to trouble: Keep weeds out of the cabbage patch – they compete for the food and water your cabbage needs. Be on the lookout for brown or white moths – these come from worms that love to munch on cabbage. If you see any, get rid of them right away. Cold weather can damage your cabbage. If the weather gets below 32 degrees, cover your cabbage with a bucket or cloth covering.
· Hefty harvest: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.
Teachers can register for the 2018 program at bonniecabbageprogram.com/. Bonnie Plants will truck 2-inch cabbage plants to every registered third grade classroom in the country; delivery will be scheduled based on geographic region.
Cabbages were the first profitable plant sold by Bonnie Plants in 1918, and are known to be a hearty vegetable, according to the company.