How to Grow Cabbage

How to Grow Cabbage



Cabbages are planted in early spring and harvested before the peak heat of summer. Late crop cabbages are planted mid-summer and harvested in the fall. Cabbage plants are grown from seed. If you buy transplants make sure there are no black spots or wilted leaves. Cabbage should not be planted where another member of the mustard family has been growing within the past two years. Cabbages are heavy feeders and appreciate a fertile soil enriched with good compost or a balanced organic fertilizer.

If grown from seed outdoors, sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep and three inches apart. Seeds will germinate in one to two weeks. Warm days and cool nights are ideal for seedling germination and development. When the seedlings emerge, thin them to one-foot centers.

Growing seeds inside the house and then transplanting them outside also works well. Cabbage seeds are typically sown about 6 weeks before the last anticipated frost occurs and transplanted to the garden a few weeks before the last frost is anticipated and about 4 to 6 weeks after germinating. Plant early crop cabbages 12 inches apart and at least 24 inches between the rows.

Cabbage prefers full sun and moist well-drained soil rich in organic matter such as compost or manure. Water transplanted cabbage frequently, but do not let the soil remain saturated. Keep the soil cool using mulch straw. When the head start to form mound the earth up against the stems to help stabilize the plants. The key to growing great cabbages is to provide a rich soil and to irrigate as required to insure that the plants have all the nutrients and moisture needed for rapid and uninterrupted growth.

Cabbage is a cool season crop, and thrives in cooler temperatures. Hot and humid conditions will cause cabbage to rot. Subsequently, it is one of the earliest crops that can be planted in the spring, but not too early. Cabbage plants will survive a hard frost but not a freeze. Several days or nights of colder temperatures will cause cabbage plants to produce an elongated terminal stem, a condition known as bolting that eventually produces a seed head.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvest the heads when they are large, solid and firm to the touch, usually about 2 to 3 months after planting, depending on the variety. Remove loose or yellow leaves from the heads and store under cool conditions–32 degrees Fahrenheit with 100% humidity is ideal. Late crop cabbage can be stored for 5 to 6 months. Early crop cabbages have a shorter storage time, typically only a month.

Heads can be harvested whenever they reach the desired size but will also hold nicely in the garden after the cabbages reach maturity.

Heads left in the garden too long will often begin to split. You can slow maturity and delay splitting by pruning the roots. Simply drive a spade into the soil around the heads to sever the roots of the growing cabbage plants

At planting time, protect transplants with cutworm collars. Use row covers to control cabbageworm. Aphids are a sign of heat or water stress; hose them off with a strong spray of water or spray plants with insecticidal soap. To avoid soil borne diseases, don’t plant cabbage-family plants (Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli) in the same area more than once every three years.

Special Tips: Cut early and mid-season cabbage high on the plant, leaving as many loose lower leaves as possible. As many as six small cabbages will form on the stem and provide a second harvest.



Cabbage worms are the larval form of the Cabbage White butterfly. It is useful to know what both the larva and the butterfly look like, because seeing either near your plants most likely means that you’ll start seeing damage to your brassicas (such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale.)

Cabbage Moth

Adult Cabbage Moth

Cabbage Butterfly/Moth: off-white wings, with one or two grayish-black spots per wing. The wingspan is roughly two inches across.

Cabbage Worms

Cabbage Worms

Larva/Cabbage Worm (which is the form that does the actual damage): velvety green, inchworm-type caterpillar that is roughly one inch long.

Cabbage Moth Eggs

Cabbage Moth Eggs

Eggs: These will be found on the undersides of leaves, and are yellow and oval-shaped.

Signs of Cabbage Worm Infestation:

Because of their voracious appetite, an “infestation” can be as few as two or three worms per plant. Look for holes being chewed from the centers of leaves in kale and cabbage, as well as entry holes chewed to the interior of heads of cabbage. In particular, look on the undersides of leaves, because this is where the cabbage worms usually hang out. They also produce dark green droppings that are fairly noticeable.

Effect on Garden Plants:

A serious infestation can result in the death of the plant, since the more leaves that the cabbage worm manages to eat means that the plant’s ability to photosynthesize is reduced. A minor infestation can make plants look unsightly, but they are still edible. Just wash them carefully and inspect cabbage and broccoli for any cabbage worms that have made their way to the interior of the heads.

Organic Controls for Cabbage Worms:

Check your plants frequently for worms, especially if you have seen the butterflies nearby. Check plants thoroughly, and hand-pick and destroy any worms you find.

To prevent infestation in the first place, protect your plants with floating row covers, especially in spring and early summer, when egg-laying activity is at its highest.

To prevent the worms from burrowing into cabbage heads, insert each head into a nylon stocking, and leave it on until you harvest the head. You can also sprinkle some cayenne pepper down into the head to repel the worms.

Press garlic and save the juice. Dilute it 50/50 with boiling water. Allow it to cool. Mist it on your cole crops to repel cabbage moths and kill cabbage worms. Be sure to mist the underside of the leaves and down into the head. For a heavy duty repellent, add garlic juice, crushed red pepper and allow it to steep in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Cool, strain and bottle. Apply as you would the garlic mist.

Companion planting to repel cabbage worms:

  • Chamomile -plant only a few around cabbage and onions for better flavor.
  • Dill – plant around cabbage and will improve growth and flowers will attract bees.
  • Geranium -Repels cabbage worms and japanese beetles, plant around grapes, roses, corn, and cabbage.
  • Henbit -most insects will stay away from henbit.
  • Hyssop – will deter cabbage moths if planted around cabbage and grapes and may improve growth for these plants.
  • Hyssop – will deter cabbage moths if planted around cabbage and grapes and may improve growth for these plants.
  • Onion -repels cabbage moths, aphids, weevils, carrot flies, moles. Controls rust flies and some nematodes and tomatoes against red spiders. May alter growth of peas and beans. Plant near beets, tomato, lettuce, strawberry, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Pennyroyal -deter ants, aphids, ticks, fleas, and cabbage maggots. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage will benefit from pennyroyal.
  • Rosemary -repels cabbage moths, beetles, mosquitoes, and slugs. Plant near beans, carrots, and cabbage.
  • Sage -repels cabbage moths, carrot flies, and ticks. Carrots will love them.
  • Thyme -repels cabbage worms, flea beetles, and cabbage maggots. Useful near cabbage.
  • Wormwood -will deter black flea beetles, cabbage worm butterflies.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s