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Growing Cabbage: Plant, Grow and Harvest Tasty Heads (2023)

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how to plant and grow cabbageYou’re eager to nurture some homegrown cabbage, aren’t you? Well, don’t rush out to the garden just yet. Growing a thriving cabbage crop takes know-how. With a little gardening wisdom under your belt, though, you’ll be harvesting crazy delicious cabbages before you know it.

Start by testing your soil’s pH. Cabbage thrives in slightly acidic conditions, so add some sulfur if needed. Then choose a variety suited for your climate – Jersey Wakefield for short summers or Brunswick for longer seasons.

Pay close attention once those seedlings are in the ground. Consistent moisture and side-dressing with fertilizer are key. And be vigilant about pests! With smart practices, you’ll reap a bountiful cabbage crop and enjoy these nutritious greens for months to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Start cabbage seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
  • Transplant cabbage 2-3 weeks before the last frost, spacing them 12-24 inches apart.
  • Provide proper care, including compost, fertilizer, irrigation, and row covers.
  • Monitor and control pests while preventing diseases through crop rotation and tool sterilization.

Quick Guide to Growing Cabbage

Quick Guide to Growing Cabbage
For the best cabbages, start your seeds indoors, transplant ’em at the right time, and use organic sprays like neem oil to keep pests off while lettin’ beneficials thrive.

It’s all about givin’ cabbage ideal growin’ conditions from start to finish.

Pick a sunny spot with nutrient-rich soil, spaced properly so the heads have room to size up.

Make sure to water ’em regularly – about 2 inches per week should do it.

And don’t forget to fertilize with nitrogen a few weeks after transplantin’ to fuel growth.

With a little TLC, you’ll be reapin’ gorgeous, healthy cabbages ready for harvest in no time.

Whether you’re whippin’ up some homemade sauerkraut or a big pot of cabbage soup, homegrown is the way to go.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Soil, Planting, and Care
When starting your cabbage patch, you’ll need to decide whether to begin from seedlings or seeds. For quick-maturing varieties like Golden Acre, Brunswick, and Early Jersey Wakefield, starting with transplants is the best route for growing big, firm heads in your garden.


You’ll want to start those cabbage seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last expected frost date for spring planting. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in seed trays filled with potting mix. Keep the soil moist and seedlings near a sunny window.

Thin to the strongest seedling per cell when plants reach 3 inches. Transplant seedlings 12-24 inches apart in the garden 2-3 weeks before the last frost once they have 5 true leaves. Dig in compost and organic fertilizer when preparing beds. Use drip irrigation and floating row covers to protect young plants.

From Seedlings/Transplanting

Cabbage is a cool-weather crop, so start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and move transplants to the garden 2-3 weeks before the last frost for spring planting.

  • Amend soil with compost and adjust pH to 6.5-6.8 before transplanting.
  • Space transplants 12-24 inches apart in full sun.
  • Prune lower leaves and bury stem halfway when planting.
  • Mulch beds to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

From Seed

You can direct sow cabbage seeds in mid to late summer for a fall harvest.

Cabbage varieties for fall planting:

Quick maturing Early Jersey Wakefield Red cabbage
Golden Acre Ruby Perfection
Quick Start

Timing is important – sow seeds 14-21 days before the first frost date. Prepare the soil well in advance by mixing in compost and fertilizer. Control weeds and pests through crop rotation, row covers, and organic sprays. Water regularly for steady growth until heads form.

Harvest cabbage when firm and remove discolored outer leaves. With some care, you’ll enjoy a bountiful fall cabbage crop.

Growing Tips

To enjoy healthy cabbage, rotate crops regularly.

  • Add compost or organic matter to improve soil drainage. Cabbage thrives in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
  • Allow proper spacing between plants when sowing seeds or transplanting. Dense planting stunts growth.
  • Harvest cabbage once heads feel firm and solid. Timely picking prevents splitting. Store harvested heads in a cool place.
  • Cabbage offers antioxidants like vitamin C plus fiber for digestion. But beware of diseases like clubroot and pests like cabbage worms. Diligence pays off for this nutritional, budget-friendly vegetable.

Golden Acre

Quick maturing Golden Acres are a good pick if you want cabbages real soon. With its early season maturity, you can harvest perfect heads in the open field before summer heat. Space these leafy greens 18-24 inches apart in partial shade. Plant cabbage in spring, keep the soil moist, and harvest in cool weather for the best flavor.

The compact Golden Acre variety reaches maturity quickly, allowing you to grow and harvest heads in the early season. This makes it a good choice if you want to produce cabbage soon after planting. Space the plants appropriately and care for them well to get nice, full heads before the heat of summer arrives.

With good growing conditions, you can enjoy tender, flavorful cabbages from this early variety.


For Brunswick cabbages, sparrows nibble tender leaves while skunks gently cultivate the soil. This nutritious, high-yielding variety is a great choice for homegrown fall cabbage. Transplant 4-6 weeks before the last frost into well-draining soil with a pH around 6.

5-6n8. Monitor for diseases like black rot. With proper care, you’ll enjoy harvesting your own Brunswick cabbage.

Early Jersey Wakefield

You’ll love the delicious, tender taste of Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage from your garden. This heirloom variety thrives when planted in early July. Be sure to protect it from any late July frosts. Its heat tolerance allows it to mature before the hottest summer days. Fertilize and water Wakefield regularly for best results.

Managing Pests and Disease

Managing Pests and Disease
Cabbage can be susceptible to several pests and diseases that may damage plants and reduce yields. Controlling these potential problems is crucial for any gardener looking to successfully grow cabbage through good cultural practices, organic sprays, beneficial insects, and other integrated methods.


Don’t let those pesky critters nibble your cabbage to shreds – arm yourself with natural sprays like neem oil or pyrethrins to send those invaders packing! Aphid colonies, cabbage loopers, root maggots, flea beetles, and imported cabbageworms can be controlled with neem oil, organic caterpillar killer, or botanical insecticides.

Spray plants thoroughly to disrupt breeding and repel pests while protecting pollinators.


Keep your cabbage patch free of clubroot by rotating crops and choosing resistant varieties.

  1. Rotate cabbage plantings every 3-4 years.
  2. Plant resistant varieties like Stonehead, Comodo, or Cheers.
  3. Disinfect tools to prevent spreading disease.
  4. Remove and destroy infected plants.

Downy mildew and other fungal diseases thrive in humid conditions. Improve airflow and space plants properly to prevent disease. At first signs, remove affected leaves and treat organically with sprays like copper soap or Bacillus subtilis.

With diligent prevention and early treatment, you can grow robust, healthy cabbages.

Harvesting Cabbage

Harvesting Cabbage
Now that you’ve successfully managed pests and disease, it’s time to harvest your cabbage. Keep an eye out for firm, compact heads – this signals peak ripeness. Use a sharp knife to cut heads off at the base when the outer leaves are still tight.

Cabbage can be harvested over multiple pickings or all at once depending on your preference. After harvesting, remove any loose outer leaves and store heads in perforated bags in the fridge for a few weeks.

Preserving Cabbage

Preserving Cabbage
You can keep cabbage fresh for months by placing whole heads in a cabbage pit dug into the ground or by storing them in a cool root cellar. To freeze cabbage for long-term storage, blanch chopped or shredded cabbage briefly in boiling water before packing it into freezer bags or containers.

Storing Cabbage in a Cabbage Pit

After picking the last heads, dig a hole and bury the cabbage to store them in the ground through winter. Pick a well-drained spot and make a pit 3 feet deep and wide enough for all your cabbage. Line the walls with straw or wood to prevent soil contact. Place cabbage heads 2-3 inches apart stem-side up in a cone shape.

Cover with more straw, then shovel the dirt back in. The cold ground prevents rot while the liner protects against critters burrowing in.

Storing Cabbage in a Root Cellar

You’ll prolong cabbage’s freshness by storing it in your root cellar’s cool, dark space. Monitor temperature fluctuations and humidity levels, around 32-40°F, to prevent spoilage risks. Time cabbage harvest season for proper winter storage, and maintain ventilation without drafts.

Storing cabbage in an ideal root cellar provides natural refrigeration, maximizing its post-harvest life.

Freezing Cabbage

When freezing cabbage, blanch the leaves first.

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge cabbage leaves for 2-3 minutes. Cool in an ice bath.
  2. Drain excess water. Pack leaves in freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.
  3. Freeze for up to 8 months. Blanching prevents enzymatic breakdown and preserves texture and color.

Freezing allows you to enjoy the bounty of cabbage year-round. Proper blanching and storage provide maximum nutrition and flavor.

Stock Up Your Kitchen

Stock Up Your Kitchen
Stock up your kitchen.

Stocking your kitchen with cabbage-friendly tools like organic sprays, ladybugs, and row covers makes growing hearty heads a breeze.

As you plan your cabbage patch, consider what you’ll do with the bountiful harvest.

Waste nothing by fermenting excess into sauerkraut or kimchi.

Organize carefully by blanching and freezing trimmed leaves for winter soups and stews.

Preserve abundance by pickling tender little heads for tasty sandwiches and salads.

Enjoy surplus by gifting braised red cabbage and roasted cabbage steaks to nourish family and friends.

Feed the community by donating extra heads to food pantries so anyone can savor the versatile veggie.

With a well-stocked pantry, you’ll savor cabbage all year long.

Types of Cabbage

Types of Cabbage
There are several tasty cabbage varieties to try growing, like Early Jersey Wakefield for heirlooms or Quick Start for fast harvests.

Heirlooms like Early Jersey Wakefield are prized for their sweet, tender flavor. They take around 100 days to mature.

Quick maturing hybrids like Quick Start and Early Thunder can be harvested just 60 days from transplanting.

Look for disease-resistant, cold-hardy varieties if planting a fall crop. Red cabbage adds color to the garden and is extra crunchy.

Bok choy and Napa cabbage are oriental varieties with thin, tender leaves great for stir-fries.

With proper planting times, pest management, and TLC, you can enjoy a bountiful cabbage harvest.

Caring for Cabbage

Caring for Cabbage
When growing cabbage, proper watering and fertilizing are crucial to getting a good harvest. Give your cabbage about 2 inches of water per week and fertilize 2 weeks after transplanting and again 3 weeks later using a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer to promote steady, uninterrupted growth.

Watering Cabbage

You’d best water cabbage deep and steady, friend, lest growth get ungainly. Supplying at least 2 inches of water weekly gives the roots ample moisture. Test the top few inches before watering again. Prepare soil to drain freely, retaining just the right amount.

Firm heads and healthy leaves say you’ve hydrated sufficiently. Withhold water as maturity nears to avoid split heads.

Feeding Cabbage

After leaching those destructive pests, you’ll want to dose your cabbages with a measured splash of nitrogen every few weeks so they can thrive. This will keep the soil fertility ideal for steady, uninterrupted growth. Stagger the feedings, starting 2 weeks post-transplant, then again in 3 more.

Companion Plants for Cabbage

Companion Plants for Cabbage
You’ll wanna plant beans and cucumbers near your cabbages for better growth, but keep ’em far from strawberries and tomatoes unless you want a headache dealing with pests down the line.

Certain plants just thrive next to one another, while others don’t mix well at all. Understanding these relationships helps you get the most out of your veggie patch.

Beans enrich the soil for cabbage by fixing nitrogen. Cucumbers seem to repel cabbage worms.

Broccoli is cabbage’s cousin, so rotating them prevents disease buildup. Mixing up plant families each season keeps everyone healthy.

A little planning goes a long way for happy plants and plentiful harvests.

Cabbage Diseases and Pests

Cabbage Diseases and Pests
Watch out! Destructive cabbage worms and diseases like clubroot can wreck your crop. Be vigilant in scouting for signs of infestation. Cabbage worms start as tiny white butterflies before maturing into hungry green worms.

Check undersides of leaves for eggs and small holes. Handpick pests when spotted.

Clubroot prevention starts with practicing crop rotation and adding lime to balance soil pH. If wilting occurs despite good growing conditions, leaf yellowing and stunted heads may signal clubroot fungus.

Shift future plantings to an unaffected area for 2-3 years. Choosing disease-resistant varieties like Stonehead can help avoid clubroot.

When pests persist, use organic pesticides like Bt or spinosad accordingly. A healthy cabbage patch begins with proper site selection, crop rotation, and variety selection. Stay observant and take action early to protect your harvest from pest and disease damage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much sunlight does cabbage need each day?

Cabbage needs 6-8 hours of full sun daily for optimal growth. Provide at least this much direct sunlight in your garden location when planting.

Should I use black plastic mulch when planting cabbage?

Yes, use black plastic mulch when planting cabbage. It helps regulate soil temperature, retains moisture, and controls weeds. Lay it down before transplanting seedlings. Be sure to cut X’s for plants. It boosts growth and yields.

Is it better to start cabbage seeds indoors or direct sow them?

Starting seeds indoors ensures earlier maturity and larger heads, but direct sowing allows for successive plantings for continuous harvests. Choose your method based on your climate, schedule, and preferred harvest times.

How far apart should I space my cabbage plants?

Space cabbage plants 12-24 inches apart in rows, depending on variety. Closer spacing creates competition, slowing growth. Wider spacing allows full-size heads to develop with good air circulation to prevent disease.

What is the optimal soil pH for growing cabbage?

You’ll want your soil pH to be around 5-8 for optimal cabbage growth. This slightly acidic range helps cabbage access nutrients and protects against common diseases.


Grow tasty, nutritious cabbage with proper planning and care. Select the right variety, tend to the soil, control pests, and harvest at peak maturity. Enjoy fresh cabbage immediately or preserve bountiful harvests by storing, freezing, or fermenting.

With knowledge of ideal growing conditions, attentive cultivation, and prompt pest management, your cabbage patch will thrive, providing robust heads for salads, slaws, soups, and more.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.