How to Grow Cabbage

Planting Cabbage

Cabbage is a cold weather annual that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s one of the longest lasting, hardiest vegetables in the garden. Start seed indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost or direct sow once danger of hard frost has passed. Preferred soil temperature for germination is 75° F, but they will germinate in soil as cool as 50° F. Allow 5 to 10 days for germination. Recommended pH Range: 6.0 – 6.5 Seed Depth: ½ ” Plant Spacing: 12-24″ Row Spacing: 18-36″ The plant’s flavor can be improved by fertilization as well as a frost. Keep soil moist, but not waterlogged.

Harvesting Cabbage

Heads can be harvested once they are firm to the touch and appear tight and solid. Smaller heads may appear from the remaining leaves and stems. When this vegetable is over mature or over-watered, it will produce split heads. You can still harvest these split heads, but do so quickly as to keep away any possible pests and diseases. Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked. For storage, pick before the top leaves lose their green color. Pull the entire plant up and hang in a moist cellar or cut loose outer leaves and spread one layer on a shelve in a dark, cool room.

Saving Cabbage Seeds

These biennial plants are insect-pollinated and must be isolated from all other members of the Brassica Oleracea family by one mile. These cabbages may be left over the winter to produce seed for the following spring. Immediately harvest seeds once plants have fully matured and dried or else the pods may shatter and spill their seeds in hot, dry weather. Cabbage seed should be viable up to 4 years if properly stored under cool, dry conditions.

Common Problems

  • Cabbage Worms
    This problem can be cured by using row covers early in the growing season. This prevents the moths from laying eggs on the plants and destroys already-visible cabbage worms. Plant geraniums, mint, oregano, thyme, or wormwood nearby as it repels the egglaying cabbage butterflies. There is also a botanical insecticide available called Pyrethrum which helps against the cabbage worm. Spraying with sour milk or buttermilk has proved beneficial. Simply picking off the cabbage worm on the plants can also be very effective, just check your plants daily.


  • Club Root
    This fungus can affect all members of the Brassica Family ( which includes Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Turnip, and Cauliflower). Symptoms include yellow, wilting leaves; stubby, swollen roots; and stunted growth. This can be prevented primarily by mere crop rotation. Lime added to the soil to reduce acidity may also help.


  • Cabbage Rot
    This disease will eventually spread throughout the entire plant, yellowing the leaves and blackening the head. This is caused by heat and humidity and can only be prevented by planting in cool weather.


  • Cabbage Loopers
    Moths are light grayish-brown with a V-shaped spot on their forewing. Light-green caterpillars have a few white or light yellow stripes. These devastating feeders can quickly strip a plant’s foliage and chew holes right through them. You can handpick them off, but naturally this will have to be done frequently. You can draw native predators which attack on Cabbage Loopers by planting such flowers of parsley, dill, fennel, coriander, and alyssum. At the end of your gardening season, just make sure to discard any infested plants or the cocoons will open up next season with a vengeance.

Suggested Companions

  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Celery
  • Hyssop
  • Thyme
  • Wormwood
  • Southernwood (repels White Cabbage Butterfly)
  • Garlic
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Artichoke
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

Poor Companions

  • Pole Beans
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil


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