Growing Cabbage: How To Grow Cabbage In Your Garden

By: Caroline Bloomfield

Easy to grow and hardy, garden-grown cabbage is a nutritiousand rewarding gardening project. Growing cabbage is fairly easy because it’s a robustvegetable that isn’t too fussy. Knowing when to plant cabbage and theconditions it likes best will reward you with an amazing vegetable that isgreat in salads, stir-fry, sauerkraut and countless other recipes.

Cabbage Plant Info

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) growswell in fertile soil and likes sun or partialshade. Available in a variety of green shades, as well as purple or red,the shapes and textures vary widely.

Green cabbage and bokchoy have a somewhat smooth leaf, while savoyand napa cabbage leaves are crinkly. There are many different types, so be sureto choose one that’s suitable for your growing region.

When to Plant Cabbage

The planting season for cabbage is quite long. Early cabbageshould be transplanted as soon as possible so that it can mature beforesummertime heat. If you have been wondering when to plant cabbage plants, youshould know that several varieties are available at different maturity times,so you can have a harvest all summer long.

When planting cabbage, hardened plants can be very tolerantof frosts. Therefore, you can plant these early in the spring with other coolseason vegetables. Late cabbage can be started during mid-summer, but remember theywon’t develop a head until fall.

How to Grow Cabbage

When placing cabbage plants in your garden, be sure to space seedlings 12 to 24 inches (31-60 cm.) apart to give them plenty of room for growing large heads. Early varieties of cabbage can be planted 12 inches (30 cm.) apart and will grow anywhere from 1- to 3-pound heads (454 gr.-1k.). Later varieties can produce heads that can weigh more than 8 pounds (4 k.).

If planting from seed, sow them ¼ to ½ inch deep (6-13 mm.) in soil that has a 6 to 6.8 pH balance. Keep seeds moist, and thin the young seedlings to give them space to grow.

Fertile soil gives cabbage a good start. Adding nitrogen to the soil after the plants are well established will help them mature. Cabbage roots grow at a fairly shallow level, but it’s important to keep the soil moist so your vegetables will be juicy and sweet. Cabbage grows best in regions where the temperature doesn’t get much over 75 degrees F (24 C), making it an ideal fall crop.

Harvesting Cabbage

When your cabbage head has reached the size you like, goahead and cut it at the base. Don’t wait until the cabbagehead splits because a split head will attract disease and pests. After harvestingcabbage, remove the entire plant and its root system from the soil.

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When to Plant Vegetables in Indianapolis, Indiana

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On average, your frost-free growing season starts Apr 27 and ends Oct 7, totalling 163 days. You will find both Spring and Fall planting guides on this page.

Plant onion starts and potatoes around February 27. Sow the seeds of peas (sugar snap and english) at the same time. If the ground is still frozen, then plant these as soon as the ground thaws.

Do you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants? Start these indoors around February 17. Then, around April 23 you should start watching the weather forecast and, as soon as no frost is forecast, go ahead and transplant those into the ground.

Okay, now here are the cold, hard numbers, along with specific plants:

CropSow seeds indoorsTransplant seedlings into the gardenDirect sow seeds
Asparagusn/aMar 13 - Mar 28n/a
Beansn/an/aApr 27 - May 25
Beetsn/an/aMar 2 - Mar 16
BroccoliFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
Brussel SproutsFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
CabbageFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
Cantaloupen/an/aApr 13 - Apr 27
Carrotsn/an/aMar 16 - Apr 13
CauliflowerFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
Chardn/an/aMar 16 - Mar 30
CollardsFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
Cornn/an/aApr 27 - May 11
Cucumbersn/an/aApr 27 - May 11
EggplantsFeb 17 - Mar 2Apr 27 - May 11n/a
Gourds, Squash and Pumpkinsn/an/aApr 27 - May 11
KaleFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
KohlrabiFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
LettuceFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 16 - Apr 13Mar 16 - Apr 13
MustardFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13n/a
Okran/an/aApr 27 - May 11
OnionsFeb 10 - Feb 17Feb 27 - Mar 28n/a
Peas (English)n/an/aFeb 27 - Mar 28
Peas (Southern)n/an/aApr 27 - May 25
Peas (Sugar Snap)n/an/aFeb 27 - Mar 28
PeppersFeb 17 - Mar 2Apr 27 - May 11n/a
Potatoesn/an/aFeb 27 - Mar 28
Radishesn/an/aMar 13 - May 11
SpinachFeb 17 - Mar 2Mar 30 - Apr 13Mar 13 - Apr 13
Sweet Potatoesn/aApr 27 - May 18n/a
TomatoesFeb 17 - Mar 2Apr 27 - May 11n/a
Watermelonn/an/aApr 27 - May 11

Most tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, for example, require around 100 days to harvest, therefore you'd want to transplant those into the ground around June 29. Anyway, it's important to remember that the numbers in this fall planting guide are only a starting point for you! Good luck and good gardening to you.

Fall is the time to plant garlic. Around August 23, take your cloves apart and plant the toes about 3 to 4 inches deep. This may not be accurate! Garlic dates vary wildly around the country. The way to be sure is to use a soil thermometer. When the soil temperature is 60° at a depth of 4 inches, then plant your garlic.

Cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct seeded into your garden around July 29, but because of the heat during that time of year, it's better to start them indoors around June 9 and then transplant them into the garden around July 19. Do the same with lettuce and spinach.

Sow peas directly around July 24.

Okay, now here are the cold, hard numbers, along with specific plants:

Growing cabbage in home gardens

Cabbage is a member of the mustard family and, like most related crops, grows best in cool weather.

The crop has round, flattened or pointed heads made of leaves that wrap around each other tightly. In the center of the head is a short, thick stem or “core.”

Cabbage has many uses in the kitchen. Raw, it brings crunch and zest to salads and slaw. You can braise, stir-fry, stuff, add to soups, mix into the filling for egg rolls, and ferment cabbage to make sauerkraut and kimchi.

In Minnesota, you can plant cabbage in spring for a summer crop, and again in mid-summer for a fall crop.

Soil pH and fertility

Soil testing and fertilizer

  • Have your soil tested.
  • Apply phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) according to soil test recommendations.
    • Many Minnesota soils have adequate amounts of phosphorus.
    • Unless your soil test report specifically recommends additional phosphorus, use a low- or no-phosphorus fertilizer.
  • Grow cabbage in well-drained yet moisture-retentive, fertile soil with a pH of 6 to 7.
  • Improve your soil by adding well-rotted manure or compost in spring or fall. Do not use fresh manure as it may contain harmful bacteria, and may increase weed problems.
  • The plant needs to absorb water and nutrients steadily during its growth.
  • Do not use any fertilizer containing a weed killer ("Weed and Feed"), as it may kill your vegetable plants.
  • When the plants are about 4 inches tall, apply fertilizer alongside the row of plants at a rate of ½ cup of 46-0-0, or 1 cup of 27-3-3, or 3-½ cups 10-3-1 for each 100 feet of row.
    • Spread the fertilizer in a six-inch wide band, and scratch it into the surface of the soil.
    • If you use manure or compost, you may not need additional fertilizer applications, depending on how much organic matter you apply.


Start cabbage indoors if you will plant it in the spring for a summer harvest. Although the seeds will germinate at low soil temperatures, cabbage seedlings are sensitive to frost. If you wait until the weather has settled, and plant the seeds later in spring, the crop will mature during the hottest part of the summer, leading to poor quality.

There is no need to use a heating mat as you might for other seeds. Normal room temperatures between 60°F and 70°F, and bright overhead light, will lead to the best development of the plants. Higher temperatures cause rapid growth, producing tall, weak plants that are difficult to handle without causing damage.

  1. Start seeds indoors in early April, or four to six weeks before transplanting. Leave 24 to 30 inches between hand-cultivated rows, and 18 inches between plants. Per 20 feet of row, you should order one seed packet, or 12 plants.
  2. Plant the seeding at a depth of 1/4 of an inch.
  3. Apply fertilizer to developing seedlings beginning when the first true leaf appears. Use a half-strength starter solution once a week. After two true leaves are present, apply fertilizer twice a week.
  4. When the plants have five true leaves after about three weeks, reduce watering.
  5. Place plants outside where they will receive a couple of hours of sunlight and have wind protection.
  6. Slowly expose them to more sunlight over the next week or two, bringing them indoors if night temperatures drop below 40°F.
  7. Dig small holes with a trowel, or dig a furrow with a shovel.
  8. Place the seedlings 15 to 18 inches apart, and fill the soil around them so that the plant is at the same level it was in its pot.
  9. Water the plants in, or use a transplant starter solution high in phosphorus, and low in nitrogen and potassium.

For a fall crop, plant seed directly in the garden in early July. It is impossible to know just when cold weather will come, but in most of Minnesota, you must harvest cold-tolerant crops like cabbage by late October.

Cabbage takes between 60 and 100 days to mature. A July planting will begin to form a head as summer turns to fall, and be ready to harvest before a hard freeze. Direct seeded cabbages will take up to three weeks longer to reach maturity than transplants, so for much of Minnesota, the first week in July is the right time to plant.

  1. Plant seed shallowly at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and three seeds every 15 to 18 inches.
  2. Keep the soil moist during emergence. Once the plants emerge, thin so that one seedling remains.
  3. You will need to take particular care of the seedlings, as they experience extreme heat, wind, drought, and insects when they are most vulnerable. Water them as needed.
  4. A row cover will protect the plants from wind and insects during the first weeks of growth.

Late and Early Cabbages

Early cabbages are often planted in the spring, but there are also several varieties of late cabbages. Unlike early cabbages, late cabbages must be grown in the middle of summer, and they develop their large, edible heads during the cool weather of autumn.

Many late cabbage species can be transplanted or seeded into the garden, but if possible, put the seed beds or flats in shade to provide them a bit of protection and try to transplant them on a cloudy day to reduce the amount of shock they may experience. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, if an area is particularly warm, it is best to hold off on planting late cabbages until a good deal later in the summer when it has cooled off a bit.

According to Cornell University, late cabbages include the 'January King' variety (Brassica oleracea 'January King'), which bears 4- to 6-pound light-green heads tinged with purple and blue. It can take this variety 100 to 120 days to reach maturity after transplant. Another example is the 'King Slaw' cabbage (Brassica oleracea 'King Slaw'), which matures in around 105 days and is tolerant to cold temperatures. Later varieties often grow larger heads and are regularly used to make sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage dish.


Fact Sheet HLA-6032 “Vegetable Varieties for Oklahoma,” identifies some of the varieties most suitable for growing in Oklahoma.

All the varieties identified or recommended are of the branching type. These are also known as Calabrese varieties of broccoli. Some of the varieties that are recommended for the northern part of the United States are not too well suited for Oklahoma in that they are later maturing. We need to have production as early as possible due to the development of harsh flavor with high air and soil temperatures.

Each of these vegetables is excellent when prepared fresh for the table. Broccoli is more frequently selected for freezing preservation.

These crops may also be grown in the fall garden, but the difficulty here begins with the production of small plants in mid-July. Not only are plants more difficult to grow, but at the time of transplanting into the garden, more care must be given with regards to watering and protection from insects. The season of development and maturity is unusually good in the fall garden since it takes place during the cool nights and bright sunny days of late September and October, continuing on into November and even December, depending upon location in Oklahoma.

Figure 1. Cut the central head at this stage of development, leaving side branches to develop.

Figure 2. Tie cauliflower to protect the developing curd.

How to Grow Cabbage in a Square Foot Garden

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A square-foot garden maximizes a small-space bed so you can grow more plants without the need for a larger garden. Cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.) grows well in a square-foot bed, requiring just a single 12-inch-square space for each plant. You can mix the cabbage in with other cool-weather vegetables in the same site so you aren't stuck with a long row of more cabbage than you need. Cabbage grows best in the cool season when temperatures are between 35 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, although it can survive temperatures as low as 25 F.

Combine equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost and fill the square-foot bed with the mixture. For existing beds that already contain soil, mix in a 2-inch layer of compost and 1 cup of 16-16-8 fertilizer per 25 square feet to rejuvenate the soil for the cabbage. Square-foot vegetable beds rarely require additional fertilizers during the growing season.

Stretch twine across the bed to form a grid with 12-inch openings. Plant one cabbage seedling in each grid opening. Plant the seedlings so they are at the same depth they were at in their seedling pots.

Water the seedlings immediately after planting until the top 6 inches of soil feels moist to help settle the roots. Spread a 2-inch layer of straw mulch over the soil to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Water the bed about once a week thereafter, or when the top 1 inch of soil dries out. Supply about 1 inch of water weekly.

Pull any weeds that grow through the mulch layer immediately so they don't become established. The cabbage will grow large enough to prevent most weed problems as it approaches maturity.

Harvest the cabbage when the heads reach their full mature size and feel firm. Cut the cabbage head from the roots at the soil surface using a sharp knife.

  • Monitor the cabbages for leaf damage that is indicative of pest infestations. Spray aphids, mites and soft-bodied insects with a ready-to-use insecticidal soap at three-day intervals until the pests are gone. Remove cabbage worms by hand and destroy them. They often bury themselves within the cabbage head, which makes it difficult to eradicate them with insecticides. It's easier to search them out and destroy them by hand.

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

Learn more about ornamental cabbage

Ornamental cabbage is special in that many diverse colors are available, such as red, yellow, green, all colors that lack in the usual winter and fall scenery.

Surprising and colorful, it will decorate your pots, flower beds and edges. Bouquets can even be prepared from them, especially from long-stemmed varieties.

You’ll also notice that frost spells will have no impact on your plants: your ornamental cabbage will stay as beautiful as ever when the temperature drops below freezing!

Note: this type of cabbage is perfectly edible, but don’t expect wonders. Taste isn’t what it was bred for. Use them to extend soups or other cabbages.

Watch the video: How to Plant Broccoli and Cabbage. P. Allen Smith Classics

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