Vegetable Overview: Cabbage


Discover how to grow cabbage with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.

Cabbage Stats at a Glance

Soil Conditions: Well-drained

Sun: Full sun/light shade

Soil pH Conditions: 6.0-7.5

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Cabbage from Seed?

To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 70-75°F.  Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature.  Keep the soil moist.  When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a cool, sunny location with a temperature of 60°F.


When to Start Seeds: 5 weeks prior to planting
Time to Germination: 5-10 days
Light/Darkness Requirements: Either
Optimal Temp. for Germination: 70°F


Seeds can also be sown directly into the garden. Will germinate at temperatures as low as 40°F.


When Do I Plant Cabbage?

For cabbage to perform best, it is important to time your planting so that the plant is developed before summer heat hits.

Transplant hardened seedlings or purchased plants in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.  This is generally 2-3 weeks prior to the last frost.  The seedlings should have 4-6 mature leaves and a developed root system prior to transplanting. Cabbage plants can withstand temperatures as low as 15-20°F.

For direct seeding, sow into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.  Cabbage seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 40°F. Plant the seeds ½” deep 3” apart. Thin plants 12-18” apart in rows 2-3 feet apart when they have 3-4 true leaves.

You can also direct seed in the summer for a fall crop.

Soil Temperature: 60-65°F


Where Do I Plant Cabbage?

Cabbage requires well-drained soil.  Incorporating plenty of organic matter can assist with drainage as well as nutrients. Prefers a neutral soil but will tolerate a soil that is slightly alkaline.  Cabbage will perform best in full sun. Light shade may hinder growth, but may also be beneficial in extremely hot weather.

Soil Type: Well-drained

Sun Exposure: Full sun/partial shade

Soil pH: 6.0-7.5


How Far Apart Do I Plant Cabbage?

12-24” depending on the variety. Early varieties produce smaller heads.

Cabbage Plant Care and Maintenance

How Often Should I Water Cabbage?

Cabbage requires a steady supply of water for best performance.  Slow, deep waterings are best.  Adding black plastic or mulch will help to retain soil moisture.

If planting in the summer for fall harvesting, consistent moisture levels are imperative to help the young plants survive the summer heat.


Should I Fertilize Cabbage?

Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained, cabbage generally perform well with a 10-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil prior to planting. Side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer four weeks after planting.  Sprinkle fertilizer at least 6” away from the base of the plant and irrigate it into the soil.

Avoid fertilizing while the head is forming to avoid splitting.


Additional Tips

Keep the cabbage rows weed free as weeds compete for nutrients.  Cabbages have a shallow root system so hand-pick any weeds in close proximity to the plant to avoid damaging the roots.

Cabbage Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include alternaria leaf spot, black leg, black rot, cabbage yellows, clubroot, tipburn.

Cabbage Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include cabbage aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage root maggot, cabbageworms, flea beetles, nematodes, slugs.

Harvesting and Storing Cabbage

When Do I Harvest Cabbage?

Cabbage is ready to be harvested as soon as heads development.  Heads should be firm when squeezed.


How Do I Harvest Cabbage?

Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the stem directly below the head. Leave some leaves intact to protect the head.


How Do I Store Cabbage?

If cabbage is stored in a cool (32°F) humid place, it should last from 4-5 months.

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