Crispy, crunchy cabbage is a versatile vegetable that’s delicious any way you slice it. It’s the star of the show in dishes like cole slaw, kimchi, and sauerkraut, and it makes a great addition to green salads, soups, and stir-fries.
If you want more of this tasty and nutritious vegetable in your life, this guide is for you.
I’ll show you everything you need to know to learn how to plant cabbage, including what kind of soil you need, how to start cabbage seeds, how much to water, and more. Soon you’ll be on your way to growing your own delicious supply of cabbage!
Types of Cabbage
There are hundreds of different varieties of cabbage. They come in green, white, purple, and red.
The most well-known cabbages come in tight round heads. These are the kind you usually find at the grocery store in red (like this Red Jewel variety) or light green (like this stunning Golden Acre cabbage).
Ornamental cabbage is another type you’ve probably seen at garden centers but not at the grocery store. These types are technically edible, but they’re more often grown as ornamental garden plants. They’re sometimes called flowering cabbage because the centers look like blooming flowers. As lovely as they look, these cabbages usually have a bitter flavor which is why they’re better as ornamentals!
The growing process for planting cabbage is pretty much the same, regardless of which variety you grow. The most important thing to know is whether your variety is early, mid-season, or late-maturing. That will help you decide when to plant it.
What Cabbage Needs to Grow
How to plant cabbage starts with providing the right growing conditions. With the right conditions, cabbage is easy to grow and doesn’t need much care in order to thrive.
Cabbage does well in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. For container growing, choose a pot that’s at least eight inches in diameter.
Cabbage does best in loose, rich, well-draining soil. Add organic matter like compost or leaf mold when planting to ensure the soil has plenty of nutrients to feed your cabbage plants as they grow.
The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8. If you’re not sure what soil pH you have, it’s easy to check with a soil test kit.
To produce the best-tasting cabbage, make sure your plants have plenty of sunlight. Cabbage needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable. It grows best in temperatures around 60-65 degrees. Temperatures above 80 degrees cause it to bolt which results in a bitter flavor and poorly developed heads.
In most growing zones, cabbage does best as a spring or fall crop. It can handle cold weather and a light frost but it doesn’t like the heat of summer.
How to Plant Cabbage
Cabbage takes anywhere from 2-6 months to reach maturity depending on the variety. Early-season varieties can be ready in as little as 45-50 days while many late-maturing varieties can take over 150 days from seed to harvest.
Knowing how long each variety takes to grow is a big consideration in deciding how to plant cabbage. It’s possible to plant early-season varieties directly into the garden but late-season varieties usually need to be started indoors.
Starting Cabbage Indoors
Whatever variety you’re growing, starting cabbage indoors is a great way to get a head start on the growing season. For Late-maturing varieties, it may be the only way to get a harvest because these types of cabbage need such a long time with the right weather in order to produce.
Seed Starting Supplies
Starting cabbage seeds indoors is easier with some good equipment. Here are some things I recommend.
You don’t necessarily need everything on this list to grow a successful cabbage crop. You can get by with a container to grow in, some seed starting mix, and something to water with. If you don’t have a good spot indoors that gets plenty of direct sunlight, you’ll also need a grow light.
Most importantly of all, you’ll need cabbage seeds! Hoss Tools is a great seed retailer — all of their seeds are non-GMO, and they have a huge variety to choose from.
How to Start Cabbage Indoors
Start cabbage seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
Choose a planting container and fill it with seed starting mix. Sprinkle a few seeds onto the top of the mix and gently work them in about 1/4 inch deep. Water thoroughly but gently to avoid displacing seeds. Using a spray bottle to water is great because it adds water gently without disturbing the seeds.
If you have a heating pad, set your container on top of it to keep the seeds nice and warm while they’re germinating.
As soon as sprouts begin to appear, make sure to give them plenty of light. A sunny window often works well, or use a grow light.
When the seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, thin the plants to one per container or cell in a seed tray. Choose the healthiest-looking plant in each cell and use scissors to snip the extras away at the soil level.
Planting Cabbage Seedlings Outdoors
When the weather is right, start getting ready to transplant the seedlings outdoors by hardening them off. Set the plants outside for a few hours each day, slowly increasing the time until they’re left out overnight.
Plant your cabbage seedlings 24-36 inches apart. The proper spacing varies depending on the particular cabbage variety you’re growing. Check the back of your seed packet for the most specific recommendation.
Once the cabbage is planted, ensure it stays evenly moist while the plants get established.
Direct Sowing Cabbage
Direct sowing is a great way to grow cabbage if you choose the right variety and plant it at the right time. Check the back of your seed packet to see how long your chosen variety needs to grow to ensure you’ll have enough time with the right weather.
In many cases, direct sowing cabbage works better in the fall than in spring. Fall cabbage often has a better flavor, and it’s much less likely to bolt. If you’re planting cabbage in the spring, make sure to start it early enough that it has time to mature before summer heat arrives.
How to Start Cabbage Seeds Outdoors
Choose a suitable location to plant your cabbage and prepare the soil by adding organic matter. Sow the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep about 12 inches apart. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.
When the seedlings are about three inches tall, thin the plants to one every 24-36 inches.
Caring for Cabbage Plants
Once cabbage is planted and established, caring for it is simple. Here’s what you need to keep your plants healthy and thriving.
Cabbage plants need about an inch of water each week. Regular, even watering is best for producing large, round heads of cabbage.
Uneven watering often results in misshapen or cracked heads of cabbage. To reduce the risk of cracking or splitting, reduce watering when the cabbages get close to full size. This will just be the last couple of weeks before harvesting.
Cabbage plants are heavy feeders. They need lots of nutrients to produce strong, healthy plants and good-sized heads.
Begin fertilizing 2-3 weeks after planting cabbage in the garden and continue every few weeks through the growing season.
Use a fertilizer slightly higher in nitrogen, such as Hoss 5-4-3 organic fertilizer. Nitrogen encourages lots of leafy growth, which we want to see in a good cabbage.
Pests and Disease
Common cabbage pests include cutworms, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers. Diseases you might see are leaf spot, black rot, or mildew.
When it comes to pests and disease, an ounce of prevention is usually worth a pound of cure. There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of problems developing.
Keep weeds and garden debris like rotting leaves away from your plants. Follow the recommended spacing to help prevent pests and diseases from spreading between plants.
To avoid diseases like mildew, always water at the base of the plants rather than overhead.
Wrapping up How to Plant Cabbage
Once you learn how to plant cabbage, you’ll be rewarded with the freshest, best-tasting cabbage you’ve ever had! Which variety do you want to grow this year?
For more growing guides, make sure to visit the Seed Starting page on our website. You’ll find information on how to grow all kinds of flowers, vegetables, and herbs for your garden. There are tips and tricks, product recommendations, and much more to help you get your garden off to a great start.
- About the Author
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Sadie Teh has experience writing on a wide range of topics including gardening, outdoor life, crafts, travel, and more. She currently lives on 5 acres near Nashville, Tennessee, where she enjoys growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers (there’s always room for one more plant!)
Sadie’s writing is driven by a genuine desire to help people grow beautiful, thriving gardens while sharing the joy and satisfaction that gardening brings. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in education, Sadie’s background not only adds depth to her writing but also allows her to effectively communicate with a wide range of readers.
Sadie’s favorite things to grow are flowers (especially sunflowers) and tomatoes. When she’s not writing or working in the garden, you can find Sadie substitute teaching at her kids’ school, curled up with a good book, or poring over seed catalogs.
Sadie can be reached at email@example.com