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How to Grow Cabbage

Cabbage is a compact and tasty crop that is a dream to grow in the garden. In addition to its fairytale garden appeal and its flavorful crunch, cabbage has tons of health benefits. It is loaded with Vitamin B, niacin, iron, calcium, and protein. Growing cabbage to add to your diet can reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, improve digestion, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and boost heart health.

Check out our complete guide that will teach you how to grow cabbage in your own garden so that you can reap all the benefits from this crop.

Organic Head Cabbage in a cottage garden.

How Does Cabbage Grow?

Cabbage plants produce broad leaves in an upright habit that creates a densely packed leaf ball at its center. This tidy, cool-season plant comes in a wide array of varieties that can be successfully grown from season to season. Varying leaf shapes, textures, colors, and head shapes add variation and visual interest to the garden as plants grow to maturity.

Light & Temperature Requirements for Growing Cabbage

Plant cabbage in an area of the garden that receives full sun for 6-8 hours or more each day. This is especially important since cabbage is often grown in the early spring and fall when the sun is not as intense and prominent in the sky. This vigorous grower needs as much energy from the sun as possible to reach its full potential.

Cabbage is a fantastic, high-performing cool-weather crop and should be planted when temperatures are a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal growing temperature for cabbages is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, many varieties can withstand temperatures that drop slightly lower from time to time, withstanding temps that dip down to up to 20-30 degrees.

Additionally, some varieties have been adapted over the years to withstand the heat of summer, but most types will bolt if the temperatures are too warm. Always check your seed packets’ planting instructions and grow tags for information pertinent to your particular variety.

How to Grow Cabbage

Cabbage comes from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale and is so rewarding to grow. You can direct sow seeds into the garden bed, start seeds indoors, or purchase already growing cabbage plant varieties from your local garden center or nursery.

Different types of cabbage plants are assimilated for different growing seasons, so check your planting information before starting seeds or planting. Follow these fundamental planting guidelines for growing this super-producing crop.

How To Direct Sow Cabbage Seeds

  • Sow seeds directly into the soil in early spring for an early summer crop, in late spring for a summer crop, in late spring for a summer crop, or in late summer for a fall crop.
  • Sow seeds 6 inches apart in rows that are 18-24 inches apart.
  • Lightly sprinkle seeds in a line 1/2-inch-deep and cover in a light layer of soil.
  • Water in well.
  • As seedlings sprout, thin them to 18-24 inches apart.
gardener's hands planting a cabbage seedling

How To Start Cabbage Seeds Indoors

Get a jumpstart on the planting season by starting cabbage seeds indoors either 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area for a spring crop or 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost for a fall crop. Transplant seedlings into the ground after the danger of frost has passed, hardening them off for a few days before planting to allow them to acclimate to the outdoors.

How To Transplant Cabbage Seedlings

When transplanting cabbage seedlings that you’ve started indoors or purchased from a garden center or nursery:

  • Dig holes that are twice the size of the plant’s root ball.
  • Space seedlings 18-24 inches apart in rows that are 18-24 inches apart.
  • Cover the root ball with fertile soil and firmly press the soil down to secure the roots.
  • Water in well to secure soil around roots.

Growing Cabbage In Containers, Pots, & Raised Beds

When considering growing cabbage, this fantastic crop can be grown just about anywhere. Cabbage plants grow well in-ground in backyard gardens, and they perform well when planted individually in pots, containers, and raised garden beds.

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The Best Way to Water Cabbage

Cabbage plants need to be watered regularly to maintain steady growth. Soil should be kept consistently moist. Inadequate water supply can cause cabbage plant growth to be stunted and result in bitter-tasting cabbages.  Mulch the area with organic mulch to help retain moisture and ward off weeds that will compete with your plants for water and nutrients.

Nutrients Needed for Growing Cabbage

Cabbage is a heavy feeder in the garden bed. Provide plants a side-dressing of fertilizer, compost, and other organic soil amendments for optimal growth. The addition of well-decomposed compost, worm castings, fish meal, blood meal, or bat guano will keep plants growing strong. You can also add an organic fertilizer to the soil before planting your crops. Consider planting nitrogen-fixing legumes, which can help enrich the soil.

Common Cabbage Plant Pests & Diseases

Pests love cabbage nearly as much as gardeners do. Cabbage plants can attract some garden pests that seek to munch on your crop of delicious greens. Row covers, organic gardening pest control methods, and companion planting can help prevent pest problems that plague brassica plants like cabbage. Interplanting marigolds as a companion plant with cabbage can reduce the impact of common pests.

  • Slugs – Pick slugs off by hand or create slug traps by burying a pie plate so that the plate’s rim is flush with the soil surface. Fill the trough with beer to trap slugs.
  • Cabbage Loopers– Use netting or row covers to keep cabbage loopers from seeking out your cabbage plants. Keep an eye on your crops and pick off any caterpillars that you find on your plants.
  • Caterpillars– Keep butterflies from laying their eggs on cabbage plants by using butterfly netting or row covers.
  • Whiteflies– Pick up some sticky whitefly traps at your local nursery or garden center. Their bright yellow hue is appealing and attractive to whiteflies, and the sticky surface stops them in their tracks. Add beneficial insects like ladybugs to the garden, which feed on whiteflies.
  • AphidsPlant nasturtium flowers nearby as a trap crop for aphids. You can also spray plants with a sharp spray of the hose.
  • Flea Beetles– Plant mint nearby to deter flea beetles.
cabbage in the garden with flowers

How To Harvest Cabbage

Each cabbage plant produces one harvestable compact leaved cabbage, which forms at the center of each plant. To harvest, look for cabbage plants that have developed tightly-layered, firm heads. Cut the stem just below the head, leaving the rest of the plant intact. While most cabbage plants only produce one cabbage, quite often, smaller cabbage heads develop near the base of harvested heads, doubling your reward.

Cabbage stores very well, so if you are planting crops for more than one season, you can have plenty of cabbage ready to use all year long.

Recommended Cabbage Varieties to Grow

There are hundreds of cabbage varieties that come in an array of textures, leaf-shape, colors, and head-shape. Check out some of our favorite types to grow in the backyard garden.

  • ‘Golden Acre’
  • ‘Savoy’
  • ‘Brunswick’
  • ‘Earliana’
  • ‘Napa Barrelhead’
  • ‘Napa Red Dragon’
  • ‘Chinese Pak Choi’

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