How to Grow the Best Cabbage

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Here are some tips on how to grow cabbage, a delicious, nutritious, and versatile vegetable.

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Here is how to grow cabbage, a hearty and delicious vegetable that is easy to love.

Cabbage is one of the best cool season vegetables to grow. Not only is cabbage considered to be a healthy vegetable, it’s also incredibly versatile. You can use cabbage to make everything from salads and coleslaw to stuffed cabbage rolls.

Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi.

During spring and fall, you may notice that garden centers sell cabbage plants, which can be an easy way to start growing cabbage.

You can even grow cabbage in containers. Smaller cabbage varieties, like Golden Acre cabbage or Gonzales cabbage—which is known for producing softball sized heads—can be good for growing in small spaces.

This post includes tips on how to grow cabbage from seeds and how to grow cabbage from plants.

Cabbage Types + Varieties

There are different types of cabbage, including Chinese cabbage, oxheart cabbage, and drumhead cabbage.

Chinese Cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage, is often used for making Asian dishes, like stir fry and kimchi. Varieties include heading varieties, like Michihili Chinese cabbage and Baby Choi Chinese cabbage, Hilton Chinese cabbage, and fast growing Tokyo Bekana cabbage, a variety that can be harvested in about 45 days.

Cabbage types with oxheart-shaped heads include Brunswick, Cour di Bue, and Early Jersey Wakefield cabbages. Early Jersey Wakefield is a popular heirloom cabbage variety that is known for being resistant to splitting.

Cabbages that produce round heads, also known as drumheads, include Brunswick, Golden Acre, and Stonehead cabbages. Glory of Enkhuizen cabbage produces medium to large, round heads that can be used to make sauerkraut. It is also a good storing cabbage. Premium Late Dutch cabbage produces large heads (up to 10 pounds). These plants need a lot of space and time to grow.

Some cabbage varieties produce red cabbage. These include Mammoth Red Rock, Red Acre, and Tête Noire cabbages. Red cabbages are popular to plant in fall, since cooler weather can help their colors to develop better.

Savoy cabbages have ruffled leaves, and are a very beautiful variety to grow in the garden. They also have a slightly different flavor from white and red cabbages. Savoy cabbage varieties include Mantovano, Pasqualino, and Perfection cabbages. Savoy cabbages are known for being cold hardy and having good storage capabilities.

How to Grow Cabbage from Seed

When growing cabbage from seed, allow at least 8 to 12 weeks for the cabbage seeds to germinate and grow into cabbage seedling plants that are large enough to plant outdoors. The cabbage seedlings should be about 6 to 8 inches tall and have four to five true leaves before planting them outside..

To get started with growing cabbage from seed, buy a package of cabbage seeds. Plan to start cabbage seedlings indoors at least 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date or before the date that you plan to plant them outside.

Fill seed starting pots with soil. Dig a small hole about ¼-inch deep at the center of each pot. Place 2 to 3 cabbage seeds in each hole, and then backfill the hole with soil.

Place the pots in a sunny place to allow the seeds to germinate. Cabbage seeds generally take about 7 to 10 days to germinate.

Cabbage seeds can germinate at temperatures that range from 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures at the warmer end of the range may help seeds to germinate more quickly. If you do germinate cabbage seeds at a warmer temperature (such as using a heating mat), then move the seedlings to a slightly cooler environment to grow once the seeds have germinated.

Allow the new cabbage seedlings to grow indoors for about 6 to 8 weeks before planting them outside. Before planting the cabbage seedlings outdoors, harden the plants by placing the plants outside for a few hours each day for 1 to 2 weeks.

Cabbage seeds may germinate and produce seedlings that are ready to plant outside sooner or later than these estimated times, depending on a number of factors including temperature and variety.

When it’s time to plant the cabbage seedlings outside, plant the seedlings about 12 to 24 inches apart in all directions, depending on the variety. Spacing cabbage plants properly is important for allowing adequate air circulation that may help to prevent disease. Check the seed package or label of the cabbage variety that you are growing for tips on how to grow and space the cabbage plants.

To plant the cabbage plant, dig a hole that is about twice the size of the cabbage’s root ball. Loosen up the soil, and then replace the soil in the hole, leaving just enough space for the root ball of the cabbage plant.

Place the root ball in the hole, and then fill in the space around the roots with soil, packing it lightly. Don’t bury more than 1 to 2 inches of the plant’s stem.

Cabbage plants prefer cooler temperatures to grow well. Mild temperatures, like those in the low to mid 60s, are great for growing cabbage. Hotter temperatures can cause cabbage heads to bolt.

Most cabbage varieties mature between 65 and 120 days after planting the cabbage seedlings out into the garden.

To harvest mature cabbage, use a sharp knife to cut the head of cabbage at the base. Smaller cabbage heads may continue to grow if the plant is left growing in the garden.

Only compost healthy plants or plant materials. Remove the cabbage plants from the garden at the end of the season.

More Tips for Growing Cabbage

  • Start cabbage seeds early enough to allow them plenty of time to grow into large seedlings before planting them outside after the last frost date in spring or before the first frost date in fall.
  • In summer, cabbage plants grow best during cooler spring and early summer months before it gets too hot in the summer. In fall, cabbage plants need enough time to mature before days become too short and frosts appear. In many cases, fall cabbages should be planted outside at least 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date.
  • Grow cabbage plants in fertile, well draining soil with a pH of about 6.5 to 6.8. Mixing compost into the soil may help to enrich the soil. A soil test can tell you may nutrients may be present or lacking in the soil.
  • Provide cabbage with plenty of room to grow. Some varieties are known for producing large heads and leaves.
  • Fertilize cabbage plants throughout the growing season, especially as the cabbages start to form heads. An all-purpose vegetable fertilizer can be used to fertilize cabbage. Liquid kelp fertilizer can also be good to use for growing cabbages.
  • Cabbage plants grow best when they receive at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day. In places where the sun is harsh, plants may benefit from having some shade.
  • Common cabbage pests include aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage moths, cut worms, flea beetles, slugs, snails, and white flies. In particular, the cabbage moth is a white moth that flies around cabbage plants looking for a place to lay eggs that develop into caterpillars that can do a lot of damage to cabbage—and other Brassicas—in a short amount of time.
  • Covering cabbage plants with insect cloth, removing pests by hand, and spraying plants with organic insecticides can help to lower pest pressure in the garden. Bacillus thuringiesis (BT) is a popular spray to use to control cabbage worms on plants.
  • Common cabbage diseases include black rot, clubroot, downy mildew, and gray leaf spot. To help prevent diseases, space cabbage plants properly to encourage adequate air flow. Grow cabbage in well draining soil, as standing water can cause the plants to rot.
  • Place mulch around the base of each plant to help prevent soil from splashing up on the leaves. Discard diseased plants and plant material after removing them from the garden. Rotate crops each season to help prevent diseases from building up in the soil.
  • Placing mulch around cabbage plants can also help to retain moisture and discourage weeds from growing. Maintaining consistent moisture may help cabbage plants to head up better and prevent splitting.

Cabbage Companion Plants

Companion plants can provide benefits like helping to discourage or distract harmful pests. They also add beauty to the garden. Like many other things that have to do with gardening, some trial and error may be needed to find out what works for you.

Good companion plants for cabbage include:

  • Aromatic Herbs. Aromatic herbs like chives, cilantro, dill, rosemary, sage, and thyme can help to distract or discourage pests from visiting areas of the garden where they are planted. Mint is another great aromatic herb, but caution should be used when growing mint in a garden as it spreads readily and can be quite invasive.
  • Borage. Borage helps to attract pollinators, like bees, to a garden.
  • Celery. Celery is an aromatic vegetable that puts out a scent that many bugs don’t like.
  • Marigold. Certain types of marigolds may discourage nematodes and other harmful insects and pests from areas where they grow in the garden. French marigold is a great companion plant to grow in the garden.
  • Onion. Onion plants make good companions for cabbage. Onions can repel a number of bugs and insects, including aphids, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms.

How to Use Cabbage in Recipes

Wash and dry cabbage. Peel and discard the outer cabbage leaves (or add them to your compost pile). Then remove the cabbage stem and core, before slicing the cabbage to use it as in ingredient in recipes.

  • Add shredded cabbage to salads, or use shredded cabbage to make coleslaw.
  • Sauté sliced cabbage in olive oil to make a tasty side dish.
  • Use cabbage leaves to make cabbage rolls. Beef and cabbage casserole is another great cabbage recipe to make.
  • Add sliced cabbage to soups, stews, and casseroles. Cabbage soup is an easy recipe to make.
  • Use fresh cabbage to make recipes like corned beef and cabbage, colcannon, or cabbage and noodles.  
  • Fermented cabbage is used to make sauerkraut and kimchi.

This post was all about how to grow cabbage.

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  • Photo by freestocks.org / Pexels
  • Photos are for illustrative purposes only.

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