For some gardeners, vegetable plot isn’t complete without that ever-dependable staple: cabbage! You can plant in midspring, late spring, or late summer (to harvest the following year). We will show you everything you need to know to grow the perfect cabbage, from sowing to transplanting to harvesting—and everything in between!
Shredded into a slaw, stir-fried, steamed or baked, there’s not much you can’t do with cabbage. And with a little planning it’s even possible to enjoy cabbages year round, by planting a carefully curated succession of varieties suited to each season. So here’s how to do it!
Types of Cabbage
There’s a fantastic range of cabbage varieties to choose from, offering different shapes, colors and textures.
Cabbage heads, or hearts, can be rounded or conical, with leaves that are light green, dark green, red or purple. Red cabbages are popular for braising or pickling.
Some types have a smooth, almost glossy appearance, while others like the Savoy cabbage produce deeply crinkled leaves that are perfect for mopping up sauces or gravy.
Cabbages are grouped according to when they’re harvested. Spring cabbages, which may also be harvested young as ‘spring greens’, are ready from mid to late spring. Summer cabbages crop from summer into early autumn, while fall cabbages and winter varieties cover the remainder of the year.
Savoy cabbages have a long harvest period stretching from autumn all the way through winter to early spring.
Our Garden Planner can show you recommended sowing, transplanting and harvesting times for different types of cabbage in your location.
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.
For more information, see the complete Almanac Cabbage Growing Guide.
Ready to get started?
Our Almanac Garden Planner will automatically calculate your sowing dates, your plant spacing, and more. Plus, you’ll get a free printable calendar with planting and harvesting dates that fit you.
For new gardeners, we are offering a free 7-day trial to encourage all to try drawing out their first garden plot!