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Cabbage Seed Starting Tips

Seedling Cabbage

Cabbage seed starting requires the prospect of cool days and nights.

Cabbage is a cool-season crop best planted in early spring or mid-to-late summer. Cabbage thrives in temperatures between 65°F and 75°F (18-24°C) and can withstand cold temperatures down to 25°F (-4°C).

To grow cabbage where summers are warm, sow the seed of a fast-maturing variety in early spring. Where summers are cool, sow seed in mid-to-late spring for a fall and early winter harvest. Where summers are very warm or hot, sow seed in midsummer for a late fall and winter harvest.

There are many varieties of cabbage to choose from—savoy, looseleaf, ballhead, red, green, purple, or white. Some varieties mature quickly, others take longer. Some are suited for warm regions, others can withstand freezing winters.

Cabbage matures in 65 to 100 days depending on the variety.

More tips at How to Grow Cabbage.

Cabbage seedling plant grow
Cabbage seedling

Cabbage Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Start cabbage from seed or transplants.
  • Cabbage seeds are viable for 4 years.
  • Start seeds indoors 6 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in autumn for a fall or winter crop.
  • Start seeds in individual pots or flats.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ (6-8 mm) inch deep in the seed-starting mix.
  • Keep the mix moist but not wet.
  • Seeds should germinate in 5 to 8 days at an optimal temperature of 77°F (25°C) or thereabouts.
  • Transplant seedlings into the garden when they are 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall with 2- to 4-leaves and after daytime temperatures reach 50°F (10°C); firm transplants into the soil by hand.
  • Cabbage prefers a soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.5; a pH of 7.2 to 7.5 is best if clubroot disease has been a problem in the past.
  • When transplanting out seedlings set them deeper than they grew in pots or flats.
  • Grow cabbage in full sun for best yield—tolerates partial shade.
  • Add 3- to 4- inches (7-10 cm) of compost and well-aged manure into planting bed, before transplanting; cabbage needs friable, moisture-holding soil.
  • Avoid planting where cabbage family crops have grown recently.
  • Space plants 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) apart.
  • Space rows 24-42 inches (60-106 cm) apart.
  • Protect the seedlings from the cold for 2 to 3 weeks after planting covering them with a cloche or plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common pest enemies are aphids, cabbage worms and loopers, cabbage worms, and cutworms.

Interplanting: Interplant cabbage with beets, green onions, spinach, and herbs.

Container Growing: Choose a container with a minimum depth of 20 inches (51 cm).

Cabbage Planting Calendar

Planting beets for spring harvest

  • 10-8 weeks before the last frost in spring start seed indoors for transplanting later.
  • 6-4 weeks before the last frost in spring: set out transplants in the garden or direct-sow seed in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • 4-3 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct sow in the garden when the minimum soil temperature is 45°

Planting beets for fall and winter harvest

  • 14-12 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden for fall and winter harvest.
  • 12-10 weeks before the first frost in fall: transplant seedlings into the garden for fall harvest.
Cabbage plant grow
Start cabbage seeds indoors 6 to 4 weeks before the last frost or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in autumn for a fall or winter crop.
  • ‘Dynamo’ disease and split resistant, early season.
  • ‘Fargo’ green, early maturing.
  • ‘Primax’ is open-pollinated, split-resistant, early season.
  • ‘Red Express’ early maturing.
  • ‘Gonzales’ dwarf, green.
  • ‘Tendersweet’ midseason, green, disease, and split resistant.
  • ‘Regal Red’ midseason.
  • ‘Drumhead’ savoy, curled leaf.
  • ‘Red Perfection’ long growing season.
  • ‘Storage No. 4’ weather stress performer, stores well.
  • ‘Savoy King’ split-resistant All-America winter.

Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea var. capitata

Cabbage is a member of the Brassicacea (Cruciferae) or cabbage family.

More tips at Cabbage Planting.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. I wanted to thank whomever for this website. I have been creating my planting calendar and do a Google search for the time to plant each seed in trays or direct sow and this website keeps coming up with the right information and then some. I just wanted to offer some praise to the authors/creators.

  2. Issue with cabbages not getting big enough & not much leaf around the ball
    Any idea why, was a new bed, with rotted manure (would it be too much manure ? ?

    • Yes, it could be too much manure; add commercial organic planting mix to the bed to dilute the high nitrogen in the manure. You can use the planting mix to mulch around the cabbage plants.

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