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How to Grow Cabbage

Grow cabbage

Cabbage is a cool-weather crop. Grow cabbage in spring so that it comes to harvest before the summer heat or start cabbage in mid to late summer so that it comes to harvest during the cool days of autumn, winter, or early spring.

  • Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Place cabbage transplants in the garden when they are 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) tall as early as 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Direct sow seed outdoors when the soil can be worked in spring.
  • In mild-winter regions, start seed in late summer for a winter or spring harvest.

Where to Grow Cabbage

  • Grow cabbage in soil rich in organic matter that is well-drained. Prepare the planting beds ahead of planting by covering beds with 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix and turning it under to 12 inches (30cm) deep.
  • Cabbage grows best where the soil pH is between 6.5 and 6.8.
  • If clubroot disease has been a problem, adjust the soil pH to 7.0 or slightly higher by adding lime.
  • Add plenty of well-aged compost to planting beds before planting. In regions where the soil is sandy or where there is heavy rain, supplement the soil with nitrogen.
  • Adding a moderate amount of nitrogen-rich blood meal or cottonseed meal to the soil ahead of planting will enhance leafy growth.
Cabbage seedlings growing in spring
How to Grow Cabbage: Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring. Sow seed outdoors when the soil can be worked in spring.

Cabbage Planting Time

  • Cabbage grows best in regions where there is a long, cool growing season with temperatures between 45° and 75°F (7-24°C).
  • Cabbage can tolerate frost and briefly temperatures as low as 20°F (-6.70°C).
  • Cabbage will bolt and go to seed in temperatures greater than 80°F (26°C).
  • Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Sow seed outdoors when the soil can be worked in spring.
  • Place transplants in the garden when they are 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) tall as early as 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • In cool-summer regions, plant cabbage in late spring for a fall harvest.
  • In mild-winter regions, start seed in late summer—about 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost–for a winter or spring harvest.
  • Cabbage comes to harvest in 80 to 180 days from seed and in 60 to 105 days from transplants depending upon the variety.

Spring cabbage starting tips: Plant Spring Cabbage in Fall.

Cabbage planting in spring
Transplant cabbage to the garden when plants are 4 to 6 weeks old with 4 to 5 true leaves. These seedlings are protected from birds and cutworms.

Cabbage Planting and Spacing

  • Sow cabbage seeds a ½ inch deep spaced 1 inch (2.5cm) apart; thin plants to 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.
  • Transplant cabbage to the garden when plants are 4 to 6 weeks old with 4 to 5 true leaves.
  • Set leggy or crooked stemmed plants deeply; you can bury 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) of the main stem even up to just below the top two sets of leaves.
  • Space seedlings 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart in rows 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) apart. You can space plants closer but the heads will be smaller at maturity.
  • In early spring plant cabbage through black plastic or garden fabric set in place to warm the soil. Cut an x in the fabric to set out transplants.
  • Plant succession crops every two weeks or plant seeds and transplants at the same time or plant early and midseason varieties at the same time so that they come to harvest at different times.
  • Plant 4 to 8 cabbage plants for each household member.

More tips: Cabbage Seed Starting Tips.

Container Growing Cabbage

  • A cabbage will grow easily in a container at least 8 inches (20cm) deep and wide.
  • In large containers grow cabbage on 12-inch (30cm)centers.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist, do not let the soil go dry, and do not overwater.
  • Feed cabbage growing in containers with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion every two weeks.

Cabbage in raised bedWatering and Feeding Cabbage

  • Cabbage requires regular, even watering. Uneven watering can result in stunted or cracked heads. Give cabbage 1 to 1½ inches of water every week; 1 inch equal 16 gallons (60.5 liters).
  • As plants reach maturity, cut back on watering to avoid splitting heads.
  • Fertilize cabbage at midseason when plants are established with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as 10-5-5 or feed plants a dilute solution of fish emulsion every two weeks.

Companion Plants for Cabbage

  • Grow cabbage with beets, celery, fragrant herbs, onions, potatoes; avoid pole beans, strawberries, tomatoes.

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Caring for Cabbage Care

  • Mulch around cabbage—especially in warm weather—to preserve soil moisture and keep the soil cool in warm weather.
  • Cabbage heads will split when they grow too fast and take up too much water.
  • To prevent this damage, twist heads a quarter turn to separate some roots and interrupt water uptake a week in advance of harvest.
  • If heads are small at harvest, add nitrogen to the soil next season and plant earlier.

Cabbage Pests

  • Cabbage can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), imported cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, slugs, and aphids.
  • Place a protective collar around young plants to exclude cutworms.
  • Handpick loopers and worms and destroy them or spray with insecticidal soap or Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Cabbage maggots are the larvae of a fly. Plant radishes near cabbages to repel the flies. Place row covers over seedlings or plant through the garden fabric to keep flies from laying eggs in the soil. Mound diatomaceous earth or hot pepper around stems if maggots are in the soil.
Cabbage must be protected from pest insect
Cabbage looper and other insects will damage heads

Cabbage Diseases

  • Black rot, also called blackleg, clubroot, and yellows are fungal diseases which can attack cabbage
  • Blackleg leaves yellow, V-shaped lesions on leaf edges. Plants with clubroot wilt and look stunted; there will be galls on the roots. Cabbage yellows are marked by the yellowing of lower leaves.
  • To avoid fungal diseases plant disease-resistant varieties or seeds that have been hot water treated. Plant in well-drained soil. Water with compost tea.
  • Remove and destroy diseased plants immediately.
  • Rotate crops on a three-year cycle.

More tips: Cabbage Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Cabbage in winter
Cabbage for fall or winter harvest can sit under a blanket of snow without harm.

Harvesting Cabbage

  • Cabbage will be ready for harvest in 80 to 180 days from seed depending on the variety or in 60 to 105 days from transplanting.
  • Cut cabbage when heads are firm and the base of the head is 4 to 10 inches (10-25cm) across.
  • Harvest before the weather becomes too warm in spring. Cabbage will be sweet if harvested in cool weather.
  • Cabbage for fall or winter harvest can sit under a blanket of snow without harm. Simply pull away the spoiled outer leaves after harvest.
  • If you want additional heads from the same plant, cut the head at the center of the stem but leaves several leaves attached to the stem stump. Small heads—about the size of a baseball–will grow from the stalks for later harvest.

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Cabbage.

Storing and Preserving Cabbage

  • Cabbage will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks or longer.
  • Cabbage also can be dried and frozen or cured in brine as sauerkraut.
  • Cabbage seeds can be sprouted.
Savoy cabbage at harvest
Savoy cabbage has crinkled leaves.

Cabbage Varieties to Grow

  • Green cabbage varieties: ‘Stovehead’ (60 days); ‘Jersey Wakefield’ (63 days); ‘Golden Acre’ (65 days); ‘Market Prize’ (73 days); ‘Green Boy’ (75 days); ‘Round Up’ (76 days); ‘Blue Ribbon’ (76 days); ‘Blue Boy’ (78 days); ‘Rio Verde’ (70 days); ‘Badger Ban Head’ (98 days); ‘Flat Dutch’ (105 days).
  • Savoy cabbage varieties: ‘Savoy Ace’ (80 days); ‘Savoy King’ (85 days).
  • Red cabbage varieties: ‘Red Acre’ (76 days); ‘Red Ball’ (70 days); ‘Red Ribbon’ (78 days); ‘Ruby Perfection’ (90 days).

See Garden Products Recommended by Harvest to Table

Cabbage Varieties by Time of Harvest

  • Early-season green cabbage: ‘Bergkabis, Charmant’ (52-65 days); ‘Derby Day’ (58-65 days), ‘Discovery’, ‘Dynamo’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ (63-70 days); ‘Golden Acre’ (58-65 days); ‘Jingan’; ‘Julius’; ‘Mini Cole’; ‘Parel’; ‘Primo’; ‘Stonehead’ (50-70 days).
  • Early-season red cabbage: ‘Barteolo’; ‘Bentley’; ‘Cardinal’; ‘Copenhagen Market Red’; ‘Lasso’; ‘Lennox’; ‘Mammoth Red Rock’ (90-95 days); ‘Red Acre’ (75-85 days); ‘Red Debut’; ‘Red Drumhead’ (95 days); ‘Red Rodan’ (140 days); ‘Red Rookie’ (78 days); ‘Rona Red’ (98 days), ‘Rougette’; ‘Ruby Perfection’ (83-85 days); ‘Solid Red’ (83 days).
  • Midseason cabbage varieties: ‘Blue Vantage’ (76 days); ‘Copenhagen Market’ (72 days); ‘Fortuna’ (80-85 days).
  • Late-season cabbage varieties: ‘Bruswick’; ‘Danish Ballhead’ (100-105);’Gloria’; ‘January King’; ‘Late Flat Dutch’ (100-110 days); ‘Savonarch’ (110 days); ‘Solid Blue’; ‘Wivoy’.

More about cabbage varieties: Choosing Cabbage Varieties to Grow.

About Cabbage

  • Cabbage is a hardy biennial grown as a cool-weather annual that can tolerate frost but not heat.
  • Cabbage grows an enlarged terminal bud of broad, overlapping leaves called a “head” atop a short, stubby stem. Heads can be round, flat, or pointed. Leaves can be smooth or crinkled in shades of green or reddish-purple and the head can be round, flat or pointed.
  • Cabbage varieties can come to harvest early in the season, midseason, or late season.
  • Exposed to severe frost, too little moisture, or too much heat cabbage will not form a head but instead bolt and go directly to seed.
  • Cabbage heads–which are mostly water–will expand and split if the weather grows too warm as the heads take up water more quickly than the moisture can transpire from tightly wrapped leaves.
  • Botanical name: Brassica oleracea capitata
  • Origin: Southern Europe

More tips: Planting Cabbage.

Grow 80 vegetables and herbs: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

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102 Comments

      • It is best to grow cabbage (and all vegetables) in compost-rich that is well-drained. Clay soil is commonly not well-draining and sandy soil may not hold the nutrients that cabbage need for quick growth. Amend the soil with aged compost or commercial organic planting mix and if the native soil is not well-drained, raise the cabbage above it by planting in a raised bed or on a mound. Loamy soil commonly has a neutral or slightly acidic pH. Cabbage prefers soil pH in the 6.5 to 7.5 range.

    • To choose cabbage for your region, go to the websites for seed growers such as Baker Heirloom Seeds, Johnny’s Select Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange. Purchase a package of open-pollinated seed and you will then be able to save seed for next season–after your first crop is harvested. Be sure to let one or two or your plants flower and set seed so that you can save the seed.

    • Keep a notebook of when you plant, the variety you plant, daily sun and water, and how your crop reacts to cold and heat and the weather in general–and you will soon become an expert cabbage grower!

  1. thanks for such good information on growing cabbage ………as for me i will try and intercrop it with spring onion as it is a cultural method of controling pests pests

    • If your indoor growing environment can replicate sunlight and temperature required of cabbage, you should be able to grow your plants on indoors. If you can transplant some of your plants outdoors, you can keep records of both crops–the indoor and outdoor crops–and compare your growing results. Next season, plant under the optimal conditions after you have observed the results this season.

    • Time your harvest with the help of the seed packet which will tell you the number of days to maturity. You should begin your harvest within a week on either side of the suggested harvest date. But another way to know when to pick leafy crops is the taste test. Pick a few leaves and eat them raw or prepare them–if the taste is right, begin your harvest. Leafy crops should not be left too long in the garden past the suggested harvest date; the natural sugars in the leaves will become starchy and bitter.

  2. It is very interesting to know l can save my own seeds. However, l am in Ghana West Africa where we have raining and dry seasons. Can l grow biannual crops continues without uprooting for seeds harvesting. I will glad for your quick response. Thanks

    • Yes you can grow biannual crops–as long as you can protect them from the soil from going too dry or too wet. Plant in compost rich raised beds and use plastic sheeting to keep the beds from becoming drenched in the rainy season–or place plastic tunnels over your beds. Keep the soil evenly moist in the dry time of the year.

    • A cabbage for warm summer growing regions is “All Seasons” (87 days to maturity). It has also been known as “The Vandergaw” and “Novelty”. This is an open-pollinated, heirloom variety. You can find seeds for sale online.

  3. Very good information. I need to know if I should harvest my cabbage before we have a temperature below 30 Like you stated we had frost a few times which did not effect it.

    • Mature cabbage can easily withstand temperatures below freezing. The outer leaves may be damaged and not edible, but the head generally will withstand freezing temperatures. Harvest as soon as the head is large enough to eat. If you want to store cabbage in the garden for several weeks, cover the heads with straw.

  4. Thanks a lot for your information, I really wanted to start my project for cabbage growing but I wasn’t sure of which variety to grow,,we are almost in mid April so I wanted a variety that can extended to August through the dry conditions of June and July,, because for me am in Uganda East Africa. ..

    • Thank you for the information.New to cabbage farming but want to try,I’m in Kenya Bungoma county,which variety can I plant in September when rains are still on and harvest when the temp is a bit warm in Jan 2021?

      • Cabbage can be difficult to grow in rainy regions; the heads take up moisture and tend to crack. Check with the nearby agriculture university for recommended varieties for your region. Plant on mounds or in raised beds that are well-drained; you may want to plant in plastic tunnels so the cabbage does not soak up rain. Choose the coolest time of the year to grow cabbage.

    • The short answer is no; you need to start cabbage from seed or from starts (which are seedlings started from seed). If you harvest a cabbage head by cutting off the leaves about one inch above the soil, the stem left in the ground will produce one or two new small heads–but the bottom line is that all of the new growth was started from seed.

  5. I transplanted a 58 day cabbage (Golden Acre) plus an 85-95 day cabbage (Brunswick) in the ground a few weeks late this year. My 58 day cabbage looks like it’s done – second/third week of June – and the heads are smaller than usual, maybe because they were planted out late and its just too warm for them. The 95 day cabbage has huge outer leaves but a teeny, tiny head. I pulled the biggest 95 day cabbage yesterday, thinking it wasn’t going to do anything, so I could plant something else there. Today I’m wondering if I should have left it. I’m not in the north and not in the south, but in between (No Calif at 3200 ft). Days have been in the 80s for the last 2 weeks, nights in the 50s, mostly. Our average summer heat is mid-90s, but we will have a week, at least, over 100F; nights usually stay in the 50-60s all summer; first frost is usually mid-November; avg lowest temp is 18 but I’ve seldom seen that, though we may see some low 20s, most likely in Feb. My question is: Should I leave the other 95 day cabbage (Brunswick) in the garden for the rest of this summer (is it likely they will form big heads?) or pull them so I can plant something else in their place? Again, they have huge outer leaves and a tiny head right now. If they should be pulled, then do I start over and plant Brunswick in August or September for winter or spring harvest?

    • Summer temperatures in the 8os during the day is a bit warm for cabbage; this is likely the reason heads are not forming. If the leaves that are growing are tender and flavorful use them in salads now. If you wait and summer temperatures continue to warm, the plants will bolt and flower, and the leaves will become bitter flavored. Now is the time to grow summer crops; so you may want to use the summer weeks ahead for warm season crops. About 12 weeks before the first expected fall frost, sow cabbage seed again for a fall and winter harvest (in cool weather). As for the present, leave a few cabbage plants in the garden for the summer and see how they do; it will inform your planting schedule for next season.

  6. Thank you for your excellent blogposts like this one. They are very informative, easy to read and are written with the authority and experience of a Master Gardener. I often link to your articles like this one from my blog (ediblegardens52.com) because they are so useful. Exciting to see that gardeners and farmers around the world are reading your post on cabbages.

  7. I had begun planting minus your guide. I am an amateur in the field and hope for the best. Can I intercrop cabbage with banana since temperatures are high in northern Kenya? Thanks for the information.

    • Cabbage is a cool-weather crop and will not do well in temperatures in the 80sF. Planting cabbage in the shadows of banana plants will keep cabbage cooler so it is good to try. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to gardening. Plant a small crop of cabbage underneath the bananas and see how they do. Plant in the coolest time of the year.

    • Plant cabbages so that they grow and come to harvest in the coolest time of the year where you live. Cabbages prefer temperatures in the 50s and 60sF (10 to 18C). Allow 70 to 100 days of cool temperatures.

  8. I live in Memphis Tn and have no luck with cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower planted in the spring. When the plants are maturing the bugs are most active. However when I set out plants in late summer they mature in the fall and produce an almost bug free harvest.

    • Yes, thank you for passing along this tip, Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are better planted in summer for fall harvest in southern regions.

  9. Thank you for such a wealthy tip-off….but is it possible to intercrop cabbage with short-season-ornamentals? Or does that have an impact(negative) on the yield of either or both of the crop types? Thank you.

    ..#Zimbabwe Command Agriculture.

    • Yes, you can intercrop cabbage with cool-season ornamentals. Choose ornamentals that are shallow-rooted so that they do not compete for nutrients and moisture.

  10. Good day, Steve.

    Please, how many heads of cabbage one cultivate on acre of land? Or what is the average planting distance or spacing?
    Thanks for your good works

  11. My first time growing cabbage- thank you- learned a lot and made some notes. I obviously planted in March so too late. Question, do you just allow the large lower leaves to continue to grow as you cabbage grows or should they be trimmed?

    • You can allow the larger leaves to grow, or you can trim them. Late in the cool-weather season, it may be best to cut leaves off and eat them young rather than let them grow larger; warm weather is coming and the plant will not head in warm weather.

    • It is likely that the weather has warmed and the cabbage will not form a head; you can still eat the leaves. Just harvest leaves as you need them or you can up the whole plant to clean and prepare for a meal.

  12. Thanks for the detailed tutorial it was really informative and will surely help improve my cabbage farm. But pls can you link me to any of your manual/guide.

  13. THANK ALOT FOR THE GOOD LINK YOU PROVIDED. I’M UGANDAN IN NORTERN REGION I WANT TO PLANTBARAKAF1 AND AM SO GLAD TO BE INFORM WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE, I WANT TO ASK U THE IS GOING GROW WELL IN THIS SUMMER .? OR WHAT IS BEST CABBAGE SEED THIS SUMMER.

    • Cabbage is a cool-season crop. Plant cabbage at the end of summer or in fall. Check with a nearby seed dealer for recommended varieties to grow in your region.

        • Plant cabbage when temperatures are in the 70sF/21C and trending cooler. Start cabbage with an optimal temperature of 72F to mature 60 to 90 days later when temperatures are consistently in the 60s-50sF/15-10C.

    • 1. My last frost date is May 20
      2. “Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring.” So If I choose 5 weeks old seedling, I should start seeds on April 15.
      3. “Cabbage seedlings can be transplanted into the garden without protection 3 or 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.” So if I choose 25 days before the last frost to transplant my seedlings, my transplanting date should be April 25.
      4. From April 15 to April 25, my seedlings are only 10 days old. I’m soooooo confused. Please help me.

    • Yes, you can purchase cabbage seeds, or you can allow it to flower and collect the seed; however, seed collected from a hybrid variety will not grow true to the parent.

    • Cabbage seedlings can be transplanted into the garden without protection 3 or 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. We protect young plants under row covers or plastic tunnels until the last frost; this ensures we do not lose plants. Young plants should be hardened off for about 5 days–introduce them to the outside for a few hours each day until they spend the full day outdoors. In our garden, we hand weed around young plants and then use a hoe when plants are well established.

    • A conservative estimate would be about 11,000 heads of cabbage per acre. Get in touch with a nearby ag agency or ag college for production estimates in your region.

  14. I never had was an idea to start up an agribusiness on small scale. I have my tin of cabbage seeds and tomorrow I am starting my project. Thank you for the advice
    Practice to prosper

  15. This was awesome ,I’m so incur encouraged. By your information about cabbage gardening.I’m about to start my cabbage garden and I need someone to guide me and I’m happy to meet you on this platform, I have already done seedlings preparation a week ago.I will asking for more information Sichimba Felix Zambia central Africa

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