Green gardening: growing cabbage

October 9, 2015

Cabbage is a hardy vegetable that grows well almost anywhere. You can choose from a variety and harvest from summer through fall.

Green gardening: growing cabbage

Lots of variety

Here's a breakdown of the different varieties of cabbage. Listed is the name, along with its harvest season and size:


  •  'Dynamo' - Early spring (indoors) 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Early Jersey Wakefield' - Early spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Golden Acre' - Early spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Stonehead' - Summer and Early spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Copenhagen Market' - Summer and Spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Danish Ballhead' - Fall and Late Spring 50 cm/20 in
  • 'Loughton' - Late Spring 50 cm/20 in
  • 'Vantage Point' - Late Spring 50 cm/20 in
  • 'Princeton' - Winter and Spring 50 cm/20 in
  • 'Roulette' - Winter and Spring 50 cm/20 in

Red cabbage:

  • 'Cairo' - Early Spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Super Red 80' - Summer and Early Spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Ruby Perfection' - Summer and Early Spring 35 cm/14 in


  • 'Savoy Express' - Summer and Early Spring 35 cm/14 in
  • 'Savoy Ace' - Fall and Late Spring 50 cm/20 in

Preparing your garden bed

Cabbage matures faster — and will taste better — if it is grown in heavily fertilized soil.

  • Well-rotted manure is the perfect additive because it enriches the soil while improving its texture and its water-holding capacity.
  • If your soil is strongly acid, lime it well ahead of planting time — preferably in the fall before your spring planting. Cabbage grows best where the pH factor is from 6.0 to 7.5.

Sowing cabbage seeds:

  • Early cabbage varieties should be sown indoors, five to eight weeks before the last expected frost.
  • You can also grow cabbage from nursery seedlings. Look for young plants that have short, thick stems — an indication of strong, well-started seedlings.

Planting seedlings

Set out the seedlings two or three weeks before the last expected frost, placing them at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) apart in rows 60 to 90 centimetres (25 to 35 inches) apart.

  • Protect each cabbage against cutworms with a collar made from a paper cup with its bottom removed.
  • Set the collar around the stem, three centimetres (one inch) into the ground.
  • Sow midsummer cabbage directly outdoors at about the time of the last expected frost.
  • Plant three or four seeds together about six millimetres deep.
  • When the seedlings emerge, thin them to the single strongest one in each group.

Caring for cabbage plants

Unless your soil is very rich, fertilize cabbage regularly.

  • Once a month scatter a 15-centimetre-wide (six-inch-wide) band of a nutrient-rich supplement, such as fish meal or alfalfa meal around each plant.
  • Cabbages have shallow roots. For this reason it is advisable to mulch the soil around them to keep the moisture in the upper layers.
  • Mulching also discourages weeds from growing; but if some manage to push through, pull them out by hand.

Harvesting cabbage

It is time to harvest when the cabbage feels solid.

  • The length of time to maturity depends on the variety.
  • The range is about 60 to 110 days from the time young plants are set out in the garden, plus 30 to 50 days for starting seedlings indoors.
  • To harvest cabbage, cut the stalk just beneath the head.

Dealing with pests and diseases

  • While plants are small, they are likely to be attacked by flea beetles. These small black pests, that hop back onto the soil when disturbed, feed on the upper surface of the leaf and leave small pale spots.
  • Cover plants with a floating row cover or spray them with kaolin clay or a garlic repellent spray.
  • Green cabbage worms, the larvae of white butterflies, will eat holes in the leaves of larger plants and can make mature cabbages inedible.
  • Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis at first signs of damage, especially the undersides of the leaves.
  • To avoid soil-borne diseases, choose a place for cabbage where neither it nor any of its Brassica relatives (including broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and kale) were grown the previous year.

There you have it -- an extensive guide to planting and growing your own cabbages. With a little effort, you can grow cabbage for your family all year round!

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