How To Grow Cabbage

Cabbage Heads
Cabbage Heads

A cool-season vegetable, cabbage is simple and fun to grow. Cabbage ranges in color from the green that is found commonly in the grocery store, to red, purple, and white. Armed with some cabbage cultivation tips and this short cabbage growing manual, you can have this beautiful vegetable easily thriving in your garden.

Choosing Which Cabbage To Grow

The best cabbage to grow depends on how you intend to use it. All cabbages make good coleslaw. However, red cabbage is outstanding for this because of its color. Savoy cabbage varieties have a crinkly textured leaf and are an excellent addition to salads and also make a great coleslaw. They also don’t have the sulfur-like aroma that other cabbages have. Green cabbages with a long growing season and therefore larger heads at harvesting are preferred for making sauerkraut. Some varieties are great for long-term storage (up to 3 months) while others are best eaten soon after harvest.

Choose a cabbage variety that fits with your growing season. Early season cabbage varieties can reach maturity in 60-65 days while late-season varieties can take 100 days or more. When buying seeds or seedlings, check to see whether it is marked as an early-season, mid-season, or late-season variety. If you can, plant several types with different maturity rates so you can enjoy cabbage all season long.

How To Plant Cabbage

Cabbage can be planted in the garden as seed or transplanted. Start seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before you plan on transferring them to the garden. When the plants have 3-4 leaves, they can be transplanted.

The best time to plant cabbage is when the soil is workable, and the anticipated outdoor temperature is not going to exceed 80F. Cabbage does not enjoy the overly hot weather. On the other hand, it does just fine in cool weather down to 25F, which means early varieties can be transplanted 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost. Cabbage does best if it is scheduled to grow its head before the heat of the summer hits. Late-season varieties are started in the middle of the summer with the plan that their heads will mature 1-2 weeks after the first fall frost.

Plant seed 1/4-3/4 inches deep and spaced 12-24 inches apart. The more over crowd cabbages, the smaller the heads will be.  Rows should be 2-3 feet apart. Cabbage plants have shallow roots so treat them carefully. Do not weed aggressively around the stems.

Hot To Irrigate Cabbage

Infrequent and thorough watering is best for the cabbage plant. The soil should be kept at an even moisture level, approximately 1-2 inches per week. Too many fluctuations in the watering, especially after the heads have formed, can lead to the heads splitting in half. Late-season varieties will need extra watering during the hot summer months.

When To Harvest Cabbage

Early harvesting of cabbage can happen as soon as the heads form. The head should be firm and hard and to the expected size per the seed packet.  A heavy rain when the heads are a perfect size can cause them to crack so don’t wait to harvest them. Cabbage heads that have split are still edible, just not pretty. Split heads will need to be consumed relatively soon and are not viable for long-term raw storage.

Heads which are not split can be stored uncut in the refrigerator up to two weeks. They shouldn’t be washed before storing as that will quicken their decline.