Kids Grow Green: Cashing in on Cabbages

Oh my cabbages! Kids across America are growing, and some are earning, a lot of “green” while participating in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. In 2016, more than 1.5 million third graders in 48 states had hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages, with high hopes to win “best in state” and receive a $1,000 scholarship towards education from Bonnie Plants.
Alyssa Byers has been announced as the Washington State winner. She grew a beautiful, huge cabbage (36 pounds!) and was randomly selected by the Washington Agriculture Department from the 15,876 Washington State kids that participated, including over 1,000 students from Pierce County. Alyssa will receive a $1,000 saving bond towards education from Bonnie Plants.
Each year Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, trucks free O.S. Cross, or “oversized,” cabbage plants to third grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program. Kids can cultivate, nurture and grow giant cabbages, some bigger than a basketball, tipping the scales, often over 40 pounds!
In 1996 Bonnie Plants initiated the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program near headquarters in Union Springs, Alabama, with a mission to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people and grow our next generation of gardeners. By 2002, the program grew to become a national endeavor, including the 48 contiguous states. Bonnie Plants has delivered over 14 million cabbage plants nationwide. The program awards a $1,000 scholarship to one student in each participating state. At the end of the season, teachers from each 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 That student’s name is then entered in a statewide drawing; winners are randomly selected by the Commission of Agriculture’s office, in each of 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,” said Stan Cope, President of Bonnie Plants. “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.”
“Over the course of the past 14 years, the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program has proved to be an exciting, worth-while experience that children, teachers, parents and grandparents across the country have embraced. We’re pleased and proud to announce our Washington State Winner: Alyssa Byers. 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, gifts that kids never outgrow.” said Cope.
Why cabbages? Cabbages were the first profitable crop sold by Bonnie Plants, in 1918. The cabbages utilized for the program are the O.S. Cross variety, known for producing giant, oversized heads, making the process even more exciting for kids. To date, the largest cabbage grown tipped the scales at 75 pounds! Seeds for this program are generously donated by American Takii Seed Company, the breeders of O.S. Cross. This is an impressive old variety that was an All-America Winner in 1951.
Getting Growing:
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 Sunshine In: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.
· Survey Your Space: Bonnie O.S. cabbages need at least three 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 plant food. Follow 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° F, cover your cabbage with a bucket or clothe covering.
· Hefty Harvest: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.
Green thumbs and perseverance can pay off, providing participating children with a great sense of pride and accomplishment, a humongous cabbage, and for the lucky state winner…. the beginning of an educational fund for college.
A great way to get kids started in the garden is the National Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program, it’s free to any third grade classroom in the country and teachers can register NOW at for the 2017 program. Bonnie Plants will truck 2” cabbage plants to every registered third grade classroom in the country, delivery will be scheduled based on geographic region. To see the 2016 winners as they’re announced, and to learn more about the 2017 contest, visit
- Green Earth Media Group

WA WINNER-Alyssa Byers 2.7.17Bonnie Plants O.S. Cabbage