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How to grow cabbage

Cabbage has pale green leaves which spread out to form a firm edible head. It is highly nutritious and can be grown in the ground, on raised beds and also in containers.  It’s easy to grow if it gets lots of water and sun. 

cabbage Cabbage is a spring and fall vegetable that prefers cool climate at about 600. It thrives well when planted close to peas, onion, potatoes, garlic and herbs like rosemary, mint and thyme. If planted near to tomatoes, pole beans or strawberries, their growth will be stunted. If their growth is stunted they will never recover.


Types of cabbage

Green cabbage is the most common type of cabbage and is available in different hues from almost white to blue-green depending on the variety. Varieties that mature early are juicy and tender but will not store well like later varieties. 

Red cabbage has wide leaves with silver-green edges and purple veins, and the heads have a deep violet-color inside. Red cabbage is commonly used to add color to salads and is used in cooked dishes too.

Savoy cabbage has coarse leaves, and is grown for salads and slaw. The leaves are much thinner and very tender when compared to the other types.

How to plant

  • Start cabbage indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring crop for your area, to meet late spring or summer harvest.
  • Sow seeds directly in the ground during mid-summer for reaping of fall crops.
  • Choose a sunny location that has loose, rich soil and a pH 6.00-6.5. Cabbage can endure limited shade where climates are warmer. Seeds should be planted ¼ to ½ inch deep and 12 to 24 inches apart in rows. Cover the roots. Germination takes place within 5-7 days.
  • Seedlings should be transplanted after they reach 4-5 inches tall.  Apply mulch around the plants to retain moisture and to prevent weed growth.  
  • Seedlings which started indoors need fertilizer while transplanting.
  • Apply liquid fertilizer when cabbage heads start to appear.
  • Cabbage plants started during mid-summer should get lots of water to stand up to the summer sun’s heat.
  • Cover rows early for spring crops so as to prevent cabbage moths from laying eggs on the plants.  Once you notice worms, remove them by hand.


Some common pests which attack cabbage plants are the Imported Cabbage Worm, Cabbage whites, Cabbage Loopers and Cabbage maggots.

  • Cabbage whites are the adult form of the Imported Cabbage Worms. Cabbage whites are white butterflies with one or two black spots or grey tips on their wings.
  • Cabbage Loopers are like inchworms, they double up as the move across a leaf. The adult form is a brown moth that you probably won’t see.
  • Cabbage Maggots are the larvae of white fly measuring about 1/3 inches (1cm) long. They feed on that feed on the stems round the base of the plant.

Applying oil soap spray will effectively control these pests. To make oil soap spray mix 2 tsp. vegetable oil with 1tsp. dish soap. Spray plants with mixture ensuring leaves undersides are covered.

How to harvest

Cabbage should be harvested as soon as the heads are firm to the touch.  Delay in harvesting can lead to split heads caused from too much moisture and will attract pests and diseases. Just cut the head from the stem.

Small sprouts usually appear on stems after the main harvest period. These sprouts can be harvested when they are about 2-4 inches in diameter and firm to the touch.

You can compost the stumps, or cover properly with mulch throughout winter. This allows you to save the seeds they produce come next spring.  



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