St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner–and there’s no better time to start growing your very own cabbage at home!
While it can sometimes be written off as bland and smelly, cabbage (brassica oleracea) is a versatile and resilient vegetable that’s ready to grow in any home garden. And, with uses ranging from sauerkraut, kimchi, and slaw to hearty soups and delicious stir fry, it’s just as easy to enjoy as is it to grow.
Curious about cultivating cabbage? Here’s everything you need to know about growing, harvesting, and enjoying cabbage in your very own garden.
How long does it take to grow Cabbage?
The grow time of your cabbage will depend on whether your start with cabbage seeds or choose to go with a transplant. Luckily, if you don’t like waiting, both grow relatively quickly once they get into soil.
If you start with seeds, you can expect a full cabbage head in between three to six months. For transplants, you’ll be enjoying your favorite cabbage meals in just between two to four months.
When To Plant Cabbage
Cabbage best grows in cool weather, particularly in the spring. Time your growing season as early as three to four weeks before the last frost date of the spring. If you live in a warmer climate, you can start planting your cabbage in the late summer for a winter or early spring harvest.
How To Grow Cabbage
Cabbage will grow well in a traditional vegetable 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 (yes, this will require a lot of space!). 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
You don’t need a big backyard or a fancy garden set up to grow delicious cabbage. In fact, all you need is a big pot and a sunny spot!
Growing cabbage in containers is easy and space-efficient. It also can be beneficial to the plant–because cabbage needs so much sunshine, it might need to be moved around your outdoor space. This is most easily done in a portable and well-draining container.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to start your cabbage container.
Choose Your Cabbage Variety
There are many different varieties of cabbage, including red cabbage, savoy cabbage, Napa cabbage (celery cabbage), bok choy, and even Brussels sprouts. If you choose to grow in a container, we recommend savoy cabbage, red cabbage, or early jersey wakefield.
Pick A Large Container With Great Drainage
Cabbage plants can grow up to four feet tall (really!), so you’ll need to get a big container to accommodate them. We recommend a five-gallon pot or bag with great drainage to prevent overwatering. Extra points if your container has handles or grips for easy portability, a key factor in ensuring your cabbage gets the six hours of sunlight it needs per day.
Fill Container With Proper Potting Soil
Your potting soil should be a good mix of well-draining soil, organic material, and fertilizer. Make sure that you have enough soil in the container (about 3/4 way full) so that your plant has plenty of room to develop a strong root system.
Plant Your Cabbage Plants In Container or Pot
If you choose to start with a transplant, bury its roots between one to two inches into the soil. If you plant seeds, you’ll want to bury them about a quarter of an inch deep. Because cabbage plants get so big, we don’t recommend growing more than one plant per container.
Choose Companion Plants
Companion plants help your cabbage thrive. Plant them in a nearby container to reap all of their amazing benefits.
Cabbage Growing Stages
Here are the growing stages you can expect on your cabbage growing journey.
The first stage of cabbage happens right after you start seeds or plant your transplant. Seeds will begin to germinate underground, developing roots and beginning to transform into a healthy plant.
The first signs of growth you’ll 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 to form the classic cabbage heads we all know and love.
It’s Time To Harvest
When the head of your cabbage has become hard, it’s ready to harvest. Wait until the head is resistant to pushback with a finger before taking it out of the ground.
I Waited Too Long, Now What?
If you wait too long to harvest, your cabbage will likely split, becoming too tough to eat in some areas. In this case, cut away the whole plant, outer leaves, and all. Cut off the inedible parts of the plant, and enjoy the rest as usual.
Common Cabbage Growing Problems & Issues
Like any vegetable, cabbage is prone to certain diseases that can damage both the outer plant and the root system. You’ll want to keep an eye out for downy mildew, bacillus thuringiensis, and black rot, which can be visible on the leaves of your cabbage plant.
After a heavy rain or overwatering, it’s not uncommon for cabbage heads to split. Not to worry if this happens–just harvest the inner plant immediately and cut off the split part before enjoying. If you leave the outer cabbage leaves, you should be able to grow another head.
Cabbage Plant Care Tips & Cabbage Growing Conditions
Taking care of a whole plant for months can seem daunting. We’re here to tell you that you can do it! From picking the right potting soil and fertilizer to nailing down your watering schedule, cabbage is easy to grow, if you know the formula. Here are a few things you need to know about cabbage that will set you up for a successful harvest.
Ideal Potting Soil For Growing Cabbage
The potting soil you choose is critical to the overall health and wellness of your plant. Cabbage prefers a mix of well-draining soil, organic matter and nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It should have a soil pH on the neutral side, between 6.5 and 6.8 on the pH scale.
If you are confused about what your plant truly needs, take the guesswork out of the equation with a Grow Kit. Our kits come with a well-draining, portable container, a good mix of fertilizer, and the exact soil you need to keep your plants thriving.
Cabbage does best with nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which gives it the nutrients it needs to grow strong. You can start fertilizing as soon as you plant, within the first week for transplants. Try fertilizing again around two weeks later, and continue to do so regularly throughout its growing cycle. About one to two teaspoons of liquid fertilizers are great for cabbage plants.
The Ideal Cabbage Growing Temperature
While cabbage can grow well in warmer summer conditions or even cold weather, its idea growing temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees. That said, it can also flourish in temperatures as cold as 45 degrees and as warm as 80 degrees.
How much Sun Does Cabbage Need To Grow
Cabbage loves sunlight. In fact, most cabbage plants will need around six hours of it per day in order to fully thrive. That’s the benefit of growing cabbage in containers: they can be moved about easily to sunnier areas of the backyard, ensuring they get the sunshine they need.
How much Water does Cabbage Need
Cabbage should be watered regularly to keep soil moist for best results. Unless there is heavy rain, your cabbage plant should get about an inch to an inch and a half of water per week. Good soil will help maintain moisture between waterings. Organic matter and mulch will retain soil moisture longer.
The most common insets to watch for in cabbage are aphids, cabbage looper, cutworms, diamondback moths, caterpillars, slugs, cabbage worms, flea beetles, and root maggots. Be proactive about checking your plant for larvae, looking under the leaves and at the base of the stem each time you water. You should also be sure that your plant is getting plenty of sunlight, which will keep the entire root system dry.
In case of infestation, a mild insecticide should clear up most the common pests. You can also wrap a row cover around young cabbage plants to prevent pests from laying eggs early in the plant’s development.
Ideal Cabbage Companion Plants
Good gardeners use companion plants, other plants around a certain varietal that help that varietal grow its best. Whether you plant them together in the ground of your home garden or just in containers alongside each other, companion plants attract good insects, drive away bad ones, and even can enhance the flavor of other plants. Truly amazing.
With cabbage, good companion plants come from the Brassica family (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, cauliflower). Since they require the same basic needs, growing them will be like hitting two birds with one stone. If you are looking to drive off pests, such as cabbage moths or spider mites, try planting aromatic herbs nearby. We recommend chamomile, sage, mint, dill, oregano, chive, thyme and chervil. These will also attract helpful pollinators to your vegetable garden.
Do not grow near cucumbers.
How To Harvest Cabbage
After between two to six months (depending on if you started with seeds or young plants), your cabbage should be ready to harvest and enjoy.
If you would like for your cabbage to keep growing, don’t harvest the whole head. Instead, take a sharp knife to the inner head, leaving the outer leaves to keep growing. Cut it at the lowest possible point for best results. If you are all done growing, use a sharp knife to prune the entire plant, cabbage head, outer leaves, and all.
When to harvest Cabbage?
You’ll know your cabbage plant is ready to harvest when it is firm and hearty throughout. Use your finger to press in on the head. If there is even a little give, keep it in the ground for a little while longer. Once it’s completely firm and the leaves curled together tightly, it’s ready to enjoy. Harvest during the cooler part of the day, preferably the morning, and don’t leave harvested plants out in the sunlight.
Your plant will typically be ready for harvest between 60 and 90 days after planting.
How to Store Your Cabbage Harvest
Cabbage likes cool, humid environments. The best way to store them is in a root cellar, but since most urban dwellings do not have them, the refrigerator is the next best thing.
Do not wash your cabbage before refrigerating, as it can make the leaves grow soggy and limp. Instead. wrap the head in damp paper towels, zip it in a large plastic bag and store in the crisper area of your fridge.
Because its flavor is on the…stronger side, we recommend enjoying your cabbage fresh as opposed to canning it. That said, there are some excellent ways to preserve cabbage if you choose to do so. Sauerkraut and kimchi are delicious additions to many dishes.
Cabbage Recipes We Love!
From soups to slaw, cabbage is a delicious veggie in a wide variety of nutritious recipes. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Sausage & Cabbage
- Spicy Cabbage Stir Fry
- Lemon Tahini Slaw
- Gingery Cabbage Rolls with Pork & Rice
- Seared Red Cabbage Wedges
- Caramelized Cabbage & Walnut Pasta
- Cabbage & Onion Torta
- Cabbage, Potato & Leek Soup
- Sheet Pan Pierogis with Brussels Sprouts & Kimchi
Grow Pro Cabbage Growing Tips
Looking for ways to hack your cabbage growing experience? Here is our Grow Pro’s best advice.
Grow cabbage in a container. Cabbage takes up a ton of room when growing in the ground. If you are looking for an easier solution, we recommend growing in a five-gallon container with good drainage.
Plant a companion herb garden. Companion plants for cabbage include some delicious and fragrant herbs. Try planting some nearby to attract pollinators and drive off common pests.
Harvest your cabbage in the morning. Cabbage is all about moisture. Harvesting in the cooler morning hours will ensure that your plant is at its moistest. Don’t leave your cabbage head in the sun after harvesting, instead storing it in the refrigerator using the method described above.
Our Grow Pros Most Frequently Asked Questions
We love growing cabbage in containers, which are portable, easy-to-use and perfect for small spaces. If you would like to grow more than one cabbage plant at a time, try a garden or raised bed.
Yes, cabbage is a great plant to grow! It is low maintenance and fairly resilient, making it a great option for less attentive gardeners.
Start with cabbage seeds, you can expect a harvestable cabbage head in around three to six months. With transplants, it can be between two and four.
It depends on the variety. With green cabbage, it takes around 71 days to get a familiar looking cabbage head. It will take a little bit longer with red cabbage, while speedy Napa cabbage can form a head in as few as 57 days.
Cabbage likes full sun, at least six hours of sunlight per day. It also prefers a well-fertilized soil that drains well and is packed with mulch and organic matter.
Pick a soil that is well draining and rich in organic matter. It grows best with a soil pH between 6.5 and 6.8, on the more neutral side of the scale. You can also add some good compost to the soil before planing for extra fertilizer.
Cabbage does well in containers and pots. The ideal container is at least five gallons. You should only plant one head of cabbage per container, as the plants can grow to be up to four feet tall.
Start Growing Your Own Cabbage!
Get your cabbage plant in the ground just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! Check out our Grow Bags, the perfect container for growing cabbage, or pick up a Garden Kit full of companion plants to maximize your harvest.