Cabbage Planting

Cabbage Sprout1

Cabbage SproutCabbage matures best in cool weather. Sow cabbage in early spring for an early summer harvest. You can also sow cabbage in late summer for autumn harvest. Cabbage matures in 70 to 120 days.

Green cabbage is an old-time favorite. Red cabbage is often found in salads and excellent cooked and served as a hot vegetable. Savoy cabbage with its crinkly green leaves can be used just like green cabbage but is both more showy and tender.

Cabbage you use right after harvest is called new cabbage. Often cabbage is held in storage for winter use and is called old cabbage.

Site. Cabbage grows best in full sun to light shade. Cabbage is hardy and can withstand some sub-freezing temperatures.

Soil. Cabbage prefers deep well drained loamy soil. Spring plantings do best in lighter, sandier soils. Autumn plantings do best in soil that contains more clay.

Planting. Sow cabbage seed indoors 5 to 7 weeks before the last frost. Transplant seedlings to the garden when they are 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall. Direct sow cabbage in the garden between 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost and 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost. Use floating row covers to protect the start of early crops.

Sow seeds ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Later plant or thin 4 inch seedlings to about 18 inches apart.

Watering. Cabbage requires heavy water from planting to head formation, moderate water late in the season. Do not let cabbage wilt. Uneven water, such as a heavy watering after a dry period, may cause stunted or cracked heads. Water at the base of plants and keep the soil moist, and mulch to keep the soil moist and cool.

Feeding. Apply fish emulsion or compost tea three weeks after planting and then again every 3 to 4 weeks.

Companions. Interplant cabbage with early crops in the garden.

Pests. Remove cabbage worms and loopers by hand or use Bt. Dust plant bases with diatomaceous earth to prevent cabbage maggots. Use a cutworn collar around seedlings. Knock off aphids with a strong stream of water from the garden hose.

Diseases. Control clubroot and black rot through clean cultivation and crop rotation. Choose varieties resistant to yellows. Rotate cabbage-family plantings to avoid soil borne diseases.

Harvest. Cut head with a sharp knife at ground level when the heads are tight and firm and 4 to 10 inches in diameter. Young, small cabbages are tastier. Cracked head are past their peak.

Early maturing varieties. Choose ‘Charmant’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, ‘Farao’, green cabbage varieties. ‘Red Express’ is an early red cabbage. ‘Gonzales’ is an early green dwarf variety.

Midseason varieties. Choose ‘Tendersweet’ which is green or ‘Regal Red’, a red cabbage.

Savoy types. Choose ‘Drumhead’, ‘Savoy King’ or ‘Red Perfection’.

Winter or late-season green varieties. Choose ‘January King’, ‘Late Flat Dutch’, or ‘Storage No. 4’.

The botanical name for cabbage is Brassica oleracea var. capitata.

Pictured above is a cabbage seedling.

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. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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