Cabbage grows best in cool weather. Plant it in the spring so it will be ready to harvest before the summer heat comes, or in mid to late summer so it will be ready to harvest during the cool days of autumn, winter, or early spring.
How long does it take to grow cabbage?
The amount of time it will take for your cabbage to grow will depend on whether you start with cabbage seeds or if you choose to get a transplant. Luckily, if you don’t want to wait, both options grow relatively quickly once they are in the soil.
If you plant seeds, you can expect a full cabbage head in 3-6 months. If you plant transplants, you can expect to be eating your favorite cabbage dishes in 2-4 months.
When to plant cabbage
Cabbage is best when grown in cooler weather, particularly in the spring. Three to four weeks before the last frost date of spring is the best time to start planting. In warmer climates, late summer is the best time to start planting for a winter or early 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 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.
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.
How to grow cabbage
You can grow cabbage in a traditional garden or raised bed.
To start, plant your seeds about a quarter of an inch deep into the soil, spacing them between 15 and 23 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart. Give them a supple amount of water and some fertilizer, and make sure they get plenty of sunlight. Once they begin to sprout, you might want to shade them with row covers to prevent pests from laying eggs on the young plants. Continue to water and fertilize regularly, then harvest when the heads of your lettuce become tough to the touch.
Growing cabbage in containers
Cabbage can be grown in a large pot with plenty of sunlight.
Planting cabbage in a container is a space-efficient way to grow this vegetable. Cabbage needs a lot of sunlight, so it may need to be moved around your outdoor space. This is most easily done when the plant is in a portable and well-draining container.
This is what you need to do to start your cabbage container.
Choose your cabbage variety
There are many different types of cabbage, such as red, savoy, Napa (celery), bok choy, and even Brussels sprouts. If you plan to grow in a container, we recommend savoy, red, or early Jersey Wakefield cabbage.
Pick a large container with great drainage
The container that you use for your cabbage plant needs to be big enough to accommodate a plant that can grow up to four feet tall. A five-gallon pot with good drainage will work well to prevent overwatering. If the pot has handles or grips, that will make it easier to move around, which is important because the cabbage plant needs six hours of sunlight each day.
Fill the container with proper potting soil
Your soil should be able to drain well, have organic matter, and be fertilized. Make sure to fill the container mostly with soil so the plant can develop a strong root system.
Plant your cabbage plants in a container or pot
If you start with a transplant, bury the roots 1-2 inches deep. If you plant seeds, bury them about 1/4 inch deep. Don’t plant more than 1 cabbage per container.
Choose companion plants
Planting cabbage alongside other plants can help it to thrive. Reap the benefits by planting them in a nearby container.
Cabbage growing stages
This is what you can expect as your cabbage grows.
This is the first stage of cabbage. Seeds start to germinate underground and develop roots. They also begin to transform into a healthy plant.
The first signs of growth you will see are dark green leaves coming out of the soil. The leaves will continue to multiply, eventually leading to a stage called cupping. It is during cupping that the leaves will begin to come together and form the classic cabbage heads.
It’s time to harvest
When the head of your cabbage is hard to the touch, it’s ready to harvest.
I waited too long, now what?
If you delay harvesting your cabbage for too long, it will probably split, making it too tough to eat in some places. Therefore, cut down the entire plant, including the outer leaves. Remove the inedible parts of the plant, and enjoy the rest as usual.
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.
Common cabbage growing problems & issues
Cabbage, like any other vegetable, can get diseases that can hurt the plant, both on the outside and the inside. Some diseases to look for are downy mildew, bacillus thuringiensis, and black rot, which can be seen on the leaves of the cabbage plant.
The text is discussing what to do if a cabbage head splits. If this happens, the inner plant should be harvested immediately and the split part should be cut off before enjoying. If the outer cabbage leaves are left, another head should be able to grow.
Cabbage plant care tips & cabbage growing conditions
Picking the right potting soil and fertilizer and nailing down your watering schedule are the key to successfully growing cabbage. Here are a few things you need to know about cabbage to set you up for success.
Ideal potting soil for growing cabbage
Picking the right potting soil is important for the health and wellbeing of your plant. Cabbage does best in a mix of well-draining soil, organic matter, and nitrogen-rich fertilizer. The ideal soil pH for cabbage is neutral, around 6.5-6.8 on the pH scale.
The best fertilizer for cabbage is a nitrogen-rich one, as it provides the nutrients the plant needs for growth. You can start using it when you first plant the cabbage, within the first week for transplants. Then, fertilize again around two weeks later, and continue to do so at regular intervals throughout the growing cycle. For each cabbage plant, you’ll need about one to two teaspoons of liquid fertilizer.
The ideal cabbage growing temperature
Cabbage grows best at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees, but can also grow in temperatures as low as 45 degrees or as high as 80 degrees.
How much sun does cabbage need to grow
Cabbage needs a lot of sunlight to grow properly, so it’s a good idea to grow them in containers that can be moved around so they can get enough sun.
How much water does cabbage need
Water your cabbage plant regularly, making sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged. The plant should have around 1.5 inches of water per week. If the soil is of good quality, it will help to keep moisture in between waterings. To further help with this, add organic matter and/or mulch to the area around the plant.
Aphids, cabbage loopers, cutworms, diamondback moths, caterpillars, slugs, cabbage worms, flea beetles, and root maggots are the most common pests of cabbage plants. Checking your plant for larvae, looking under the leaves and at the base of the stem each time you water, and making sure your plant is getting plenty of sunlight will help prevent these pests.
If there is an infestation, a gentle insecticide should be enough to get rid of most of the common pests. Another option is to put a row cover around young cabbage plants to stop pests from laying eggs there early on.
Ideal cabbage companion plants
The use of companion plants is a good gardening practice as they can help the growth of the main plant. Whether you plant them together in the ground or in containers, companion plants can help by attracting good insects, driving away bad ones, and even enhancing the flavor of other plants.
Cabbage grows best with other plants from the Brassica family, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and cauliflower. They all have similar growing requirements, so planting them together is a good way to save time and effort. Aromatic herbs planted nearby can help to repel pests such as cabbage moths and spider mites. Try planting chamomile, sage, mint, dill, oregano, chive, thyme, and chervil. These herbs will also attract pollinators that will help your other plants to grow.
Do not grow near cucumbers.
- Black rot, also called blackleg, clubroot, and yellows are fungal diseases that 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.
- 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.