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Cabbage

When to Plant

  • If starting seeds indoors, sow 1/4 inch deep 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Consult our Planting Calendar for suggested dates.

  • For a fall harvest, direct sow seeds outdoors (or plant transplants) in mid- to late summer. If your area is particularly hot and dry, hold off on planting until late summer. Make sure that the young plants don't dry out in the summer sun's heat!

Choosing a Planting Site

  • Cabbage is a heavy feeder; it quickly depletes the soil of required nutrients.

  • Prepare the soil in advance by mixing in aged manure and/or compost.

  • Soil should be well-draining: roots that stand in water cause heads to split or rot.

How to Plant

  • Before planting the seedlings outdoors, harden off the plants over the course of a week.

  • Transplant small plants outdoors on a cloudy afternoon 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.

  • Plant seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart in rows, depending on the size of head desired. The closer you plant, the smaller the cabbage heads.

How to Grow

  • When seedlings reach about 5 inches tall, thin to leave the desired space between them. If you wish, transplant the thinned seedlings elsewhere.

  • Mulch thickly around the area to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

  • Water 2 inches per square foot per week.

  • The optimum soil temperature for growth is 60 to 65° F. Young plants exposed to temperatures below 45°F for a period of time may bolt or form loose heads. Cover plants if cold weather is expected.

  • Fertilize 2 weeks after transplanting with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer.

  • Three weeks later, add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer; cabbage needs nitrogen in the early stages.

  • Practice crop rotation with cabbages to avoid a buildup of soil-borne diseases.

Pests/Diseases

  • Aphids

  • Black Rot

  • Cabbage Loopers

  • Cabbage Root Maggots

  • Cabbageworms

  • Clubroot

  • Cutworms

  • Flea Beetles

  • Downy Mildew

  • Slugs/Snails

  • Stinkbugs

  • Thrips

How to Harvest

  • Harvest when heads reach desired size and are firm. Mature heads left on the stem may split. Days to maturity is around 70 days for most green cabbage varieties and most produce 1- to 3-pound heads.

  • To harvest, cut each cabbage head at its base with a sharp knife. Remove any yellow leaves (retain loose green leaves; they provide protection in storage) and immediately bring the head indoors or place it in shade. Alternatively, pull up the plant (roots and all) and hang it in a moist cellar that reaches near-freezing temperatures.

  • To get two crops, cut the cabbage head out of the plant, leaving the outer leaves and root in the garden. The plant will send up new heads; pinch off those until only four or so smaller heads remain. Harvest when tennis ball-size (perfect for salads!).

  • After harvesting, remove the entire stem and root system from the soil to prevent disease. Only compost healthy plants; destroy any with maggot infestation.