Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cabbage

If you’re new to growing a vegetables garden, cabbage may be a little tricky. In this post I’ll cover everything to get your started growing cabbage.

I wasn’t fond of cabbage until I met my husband. Growing up in a German household, he grew up on braised cabbage.

beginner's guide to growing cabbage

After spending 5 years in Okinawa, he developed a love for cabbage salad, and even kimchi.

While I haven’t tried making kimchi (yet!), I have come to appreciate this homely, humble leaf.

Why Growing Cabbage?

Before we talk about why you should plant the, let’s first talk about cabbage.

Cabbage was likely domesticated in Europe sometime before 1000 BC, but it didn’t look like the heads of cabbage we’ve come to know. They were loose-leafed, more resembling kale.

The tight “heads” of cabbage didn’t appear until the 14th century.

Cole crops (such as broccoli and cauliflower) reached the high of their popularity by the Middle Ages as a cold-hardy, un-fussy crop.

Medicinally, cabbage has been said to provide relief from gout, headaches and indigestion.

Cold cabbage leaves can also be applied to the breasts of a breastfeeding mother to provide relief from engorgement.

Cabbage is a produce that is packed with nutrients such as calories, protein, fiber, vitamin K and C, folate, manganese, vitamin B6, and even more!

This green vegetable helps improve digestion and helps keep your precious heart healthy.

It also helps lower blood pressure and can lower cholesterol levels, too.

Although the best season to plant cabbages is in early Spring, you can sow them simultaneously around middle of April, and expect to harvest them in succession!

These green babies love the cool weather to the point that it can tolerate even the coolest nights, but as much as they love the cold, they don’t enjoy much heat.

small head of cabbage

Things to Consider Before Planting

Before sowing the seeds, you need to prepare a modular tray and a good seed compost mix.

To prepare this, you can use grit sand, a third of peat, and lastly a third of topsoil.

Sieve them all together to make sure to get unnecessary things out of the way and voila!

You got yourself some fine compost mix. Now, with your seed compost, just fill your modular tray away with them.

Make sure to use only your hands to fill the trays by rubbing the lumps off.

To make sure your seed compost has fully settled on to your trays, give it two to three firm hits to the ground.

Make little holes by poking at least an inch or two deep for every cell. Now, you are ready to start sowing your seeds!

Planting Cabbages

Sowing cabbage seeds onto your modular tray is easy. Place one seed for every cell you have prepared.

To make things easier for you, you can place all your seeds in a paper, fold it, and use a stick or anything you can use to push a single seed onto your cells.

Once you have placed all your seeds to your tray, overfill your tray again with seed compost, and scrape off the excess soil. Proceed with watering the seeds.

Make sure not to overwater them, though as this might cost foliage to the seeds.

You will want to do this preparation indoors some four to six weeks before the last frost in spring.

Cabbages are great because it only takes them a week to germinate and in four weeks, they are ready to be planted out!

Once they are around three to four inches tall and have around four to five true leaves, you can start planting them outside.

With fertile soil, plant them in until their neck. Cabbages love soil with pH level ranging between 6.5 and 6.8.

To make sure that your cabbages can grow well, plant them 18 to 24 inches apart in rows 24 to 36 inches apart.

If you are thinking of growing your cabbages in containers, you can place them in containers that are at least 8 inches deep.

This way, your cabbage can grow nice and easy. Always remember to keep your soil moist—not too dry, not too wet.

In your container, feed cabbage with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion once every two weeks.

Cabbage needs moist soil. To make sure your cabbage gets good water intake, water them once a week, applying 1.5inches of water to the soil.

You can water your cabbage more frequently if you notice that your soil gets dry around 3 inches deep.

You can cut back on watering cabbage once they have started reaching the point of their maturity.

You can also make the most out of your gardening by growing other plants together with cabbage.

Cabbage goes well with beets, celery and fragrant herbs. You can also add in onions and potatoes.

But, you should keep away from planting pole beans, strawberries and tomatoes when caring for cabbage.

Having these plants grow together with cabbage boosts growth, helps repel pests and even helps improve the flavor of cabbage!

Another way to care for your cabbage is to mulch around them. This way, when the weather gets warmer, soil moisture is preserved.

Consider adding nitrogen to the soil before planting for the next season once you notice that your heads are small at harvest.

Try planting earlier for that batch, too.

half a head of red cabbage

Harvesting Cabbage

The harvest is always the best part! It’s always rewarding to walk around your garden and look at your crops and see how well they are doing.

You will know your cabbage are ready for harvest once you notice that their heads are firm and the base of the head is around 4 to 10 inches across.

Once they are, you are all set!

The best time to harvest is before Spring gets too warm. This gives cabbage a sweeter taste to it.

If you are harvesting in Fall or Winter, you wouldn’t have to worry as they can tolerate snow.

Upon harvest, just make sure to take away the outer leaves that are spoiled.

Remember that cabbages do not regrow a single central head, but if there are baby sprouts that do show up, they are still delicious and harvest-worthy.

Cabbages make a great harvest. You can store them in the fridge for about 1 to 2 weeks before they rot.

You can also try drying, freezing, or curing them in brine to enjoy different recipes from your great produce.

Check out my post on how to make a small batch of sauerkraut with just one head.

It’s always beautiful to look around your garden and see those beautiful leaves just waiting for them to be picked!

close up of cabbage head

Growing Cabbage

If you’re growing Cabbage this year, here’s what you need to know:

Soil pH

6.5-6.8

Sunlight

6 hours

Water

1-1.5 inches per week

Planting Time

Direct sow 4 weeks before last frost or start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last Spring frost.

For tips and tricks on how to start seeds indoors, check out my post How to Start Seeds.

Compatible With

Celery, Cucumbers, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Potatoes

Avoid Planting With

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Strawberries, Tomatoes

Spacing

12-24 inches

Maintenance

Low maintenance. Manage pests.

For more info on using companion plants to manage cabbage pests, check out my post Hillsborough Homesteading’s Long List of Companion Plants.

Harvesting Fruit

80-180 days

Saving The Seeds

Cabbages are mostly biennial, which means to produce seed, they will mature their first year, die down and set flower their second year.

The other concern with harvesting cabbage seeds is that they will cross pollinate with other members of the Brassica family such as collards, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi and kale.

To prevent cross pollination, they need up to a mile of distance.

If you do harvest the seeds, allow them to dry completely on the plant before harvesting.

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