In this short video, we show you everything you need to know to grow the perfect cabbage, from sowing to transplanting to harvesting—and everything in between! You can plant in midspring, late spring, or late summer (to harvest the following year).
There are many different cabbage varieties to choose from. Cabbages are grouped according to when they’re harvested; spring, summer, fall or winter. Cabbage heads, or hearts, may be rounded or conical, smooth or crinkled, with leaves colored light or dark green, red or purple.
Grow cabbages in a sunny spot, in rich soil improved with compost or well-rotted manure. They’ll also appreciate an organic general-purpose fertilizer raked into the soil at planting time.
Cabbages can follow on from peas or beans in your crop rotation plan to benefit from the nitrogen left behind when the pea or bean crop is cleared.
Unless you have alkaline soil, add garden lime at planting time.
Sow summer cabbages in mid spring, then fall and winter types later on in spring. Start sowing spring cabbages from the second half of summer to harvest the following year.
Cabbages may be started off in a nursery bed outdoors, or under cover in plug trays or pots for an earlier start to the season.
Prepare seedbeds by treading on the ground in a shuffling motion, then rake to a fine tilth for sowing. Make drills half an inch deep and six inches apart. Sow the seeds thinly along the row, then backfill with soil or cover with compost. Water well, and keep the soil moist. Once they’ve germinated, thin the seedlings to one every two inches.
Under cover, start seeds off in plug trays or pots of all-purpose potting soil. Sow two to three seeds half an inch deep in each cell or pot, then thin to leave one seedling per cell or pot.
Transplant cabbages six weeks after sowing, once they have grown at least three or four adult leaves. Transplant spring cabbages no later than early autumn.
If transplanting from a seedbed, lift the seedlings with as much soil as possible to avoid disturbing the roots.
Plant your seedlings 18in apart, with 18in between rows of spring or summer cabbage, or 24in between fall and winter cabbages. Firm in well, then water generously to settle the soil around the roots.
Protect seedlings against pigeons with wire mesh, and use netting during the summer months to stop butterflies from laying their eggs on the leaves. It’s also worth growing
nasturtiums nearby as a sacrificial crop for cabbageworms, which will be more likely to eat the nasturtiums instead of your cabbages. Mint can be used to help deter flea beetles.
Keep cabbages watered, and weed between plants with a hoe or by hand. During exceptionally cold weather, winter cabbages may need to be protected with row covers or cloches. In very cold regions, growing cabbages in a greenhouse or cold frame will keep them safe.
Use a sharp knife to cut your cabbages once the heads have become firm. Winter cabbages are sweeter after a light frost. Spring cabbages can be harvested young and loose as spring greens, or left to grow on to form a tight head of leaves.
See the free Almanac Cabbage Growing Guide for more advice!
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