cabbage
Updated: June 14, 2021

Growing cabbage facts

  • Hardiness: Hardy (can withstand heavy frosts in spring and fall). Biennial (a plant that requires two growing seasons to complete its life-cycle) but treated as an annual.
  • Planting: Start seeds indoors for early spring transplants. Sow seed in beds or flats for fall transplants. Full sun, requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day.  
  • Days to maturity: 60 - 90 from transplanting.
  • Spacing: 15" - 18" in-row x 30" - 36" between rows.
  • Fertilizer needs: Medium requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting, side-dress three weeks later. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details. 
  • Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): 10 - 18 lbs. per 10 ft. row.

Cabbage problems

Bolting 
Cabbage looper
Clubroot
Edema - small scab-like blisters on leaves
Flea beetles
Harlequin bug
Imported cabbageworm

Growing and care of cabbage

  • Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) can be grown in the garden from March to December. It will withstand temperatures as low as 15° to 20°F.
  • Spring crop: start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks prior to setting out plants in garden (mid-April to early May). Harden off seedlings prior to transplanting. Row covers protect plants and hasten growth.
  • Fall crop: sow seeds about 3 weeks prior to setting out plants in garden (mid-July to early August depending on cultivar and location). Plant seeds outdoors a location with some protection from the sun and keep well watered. If growing transplants indoors, plan on starting seeds 4 to 5 weeks prior to the expected transplant date. Row covers protect plants from insect pests. 
  • Rotate cabbage family crops to different parts of your garden, if possible, to reduce insect pest and disease pressure.
  • Plant spacing affects head size. Close spacing (12 inches apart in the row) produces small heads. Large- headed varieties are spaced wider. Small-headed varieties are fast maturing and can be succession planted throughout the season.
  • Mature heads can be left on the plant in the garden for about 2 weeks in the summer, 3 to 4 weeks in the fall.
  • Watering - Water about every three days until seedlings are established. Plants need ample soil moisture throughout the season. Watering is especially important when starting a fall crop in the summer.
  • Weeding - Cabbage roots are shallow. Slice roots off with a sharp hoe at ground level to avoid injuring cabbage plants.

Harvesting 

  • When heads become firm; size will vary with variety, fertility, and spacing.  If unable to harvest at maturity, bend the stem over to break part of the roots to reduce the incidence of head-splitting.

Storage and preservation 

  • Cabbage to be cooked can be stored in a refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Stored in very cold (32 degrees F), moist (95% RH) conditions, it will keep up to 5 months.