Start cabbage seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Then harden off plants over the course of a week before transplanting.
In the meanwhile prepare the soil, by tilling in aged manure or compost. Transplant outdoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date.
Plant 12 to 24 inches apart in rows, depending on size of head desired. The closer the plant it is to each other the smaller the head. To retain moisture apply thick mulch.
When to Water
Cabbage needs about 1 ½ inches of rain per week for best results. Deep soaking is much better than several shallow soaks as cabbage roots run deep in the soil.
Cabbage likes cool temperatures as low as 26 degrees depending on the variety. In fact, you will find they do best in cool fall weather and are rather disappointing in a summer garden. However, if you start them early enough, you can still get a crop before the weather gets too hot. A light frost is thought to improve the sweetness of cabbages.
Watch for insects such as cabbage maggots, imported cabbageworms, cabbage loopers, and cutworms who also like to munch on sweet cabbage plants. The harlequin bug, a small shiny black insect with red markings, causes black spots and wilting leaves; control by hand picking or applying insecticidal soap. Slugs may chew ragged holes in leaves.
Between sandy and loamy soil. Growing cabbage works best in sunny well-drained garden soils enriched with compost or a nitrogen/potash rich fertilizer. Cabbage prefers soils with a pH level of at least 5.5. Plan to grow cabbages rapidly. The more fertile your soil, the faster the cabbage grows.
Cabbage plants can reach a height of 1 to 3 feet.Take that into consideration when planning your garden. Make sure there is enough distance between your tall vegetables and short vegetables. That way both will get enough sun light.
The most successful technique for how to harvest cabbage is cutting. Cut at the lowest point possible, leaving the loose outer leaves attached to the stalk. This will allow for a later cabbage harvest of sprouts which will grow on the stem after the cabbage head is removed. Knowing when to pick cabbage is particularly important if rain is expected. Mature heads may be split by excessive rainfall or over watering, making them inedible. Harvesting cabbage should happen before the rainfall has a chance to damage the cabbage heads.
Cabbage grows in the cool-season garden, making it a suitable crop for spring or fall.
Cabbage plants are heavy feeders and will do well with a couple of doses of fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Fertilizing and watering cabbage plants is important because they are such heavy feeders. A lack of food will stunt their growth, leading to undersized and poorly developed heads. They use water to absorb the nutrients from the soil. Additionally, cabbage has a high water content, so without enough water, the heads will dry out, crack and become bitter.
A variety of caterpillars find cabbage leaves tasty (cabbage moth, white butterfly, center grub, corn ear worm). Downy mildew and magnesium deficiency are common cabbage diseases.
Once a head is full size and firm when you squeeze it, cut it off near ground level with a sharp knife. If left too long in the garden, the head may split. After the main head is harvested allow the stub to regrow. Often it will form several smaller heads that you can harvest later in the season.
Like most vegetables, cabbage needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day; more is better.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Strawberries, and Tomatoes should not be planted next to cabbage.
The following vegetables will do well when planted next to cabbage: Beans, Celery, Cucumbers, Dill, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Potatoes, Sage, Spinach, and Thyme. Planting certain vegetables next to each other can deter insects and encourage growth.
"Next year, DO NOT plant broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and radishes in the same location where you planted cabbage this year. Because they are all members of the Mustard/Brassica family. Instead use that spot to plant other vegetables from a different family such as:
- Allium (Amaryllidaceae) - onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives.
- Carrot (Umbelliferae): celery, carrots, parsley.
- Legume (Leguminosae): peas, beans, lentils.
- Mustard/Brassica (Cruciferae): broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes.
- Sunflower (Compositae): lettuce, artichokes.
- Cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae): pumpkins, melons, squash, gourds, cucumbers.
- Nightshade (Solanaceae): tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers.
- Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae): spinach, Swiss chard, beets.
Growing Cabbage Overview
Cabbage is not hard to grow as long as it gets enough sun light and cool temperatures below 70 degrees F. They are members of the Mustard/Brassica family, which also includes broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and radishes. For more planting information, please visit our Farming Tips homepage.