From Seed to Slaw: How to Grow Cabbage Like a Pro

Welcome, fellow garden enthusiasts!

Are you ready to dive into the wonderful world of cabbage cultivation?

You’ve come to the right place! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to grow cabbage from seed to harvest, ensuring that you have the crunchiest, most flavorful heads gracing your garden.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a budding green thumb, we’ve got you covered with expert tips and tricks that will transform you into a cabbage-growing superstar.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started on this exciting, leafy adventure!

Choosing the Right Cabbage Variety

Growing cabbage all starts with choosing the right variety for you.

When selecting a cabbage variety for your garden, consider factors such as your region’s climate, the space you have available, and the desired flavor and texture of the cabbage.

There are several varieties of cabbage to choose from, including green, red, and savoy types.

Green cabbage is the most common variety and can be found in both summer and winter options.

For a reliable, heat-tolerant option, try the Charleston Wakefield variety, which has compact, dark green, conical heads that mature in 70 to 80 days.

For a red cabbage variety, select one with vibrant color and a crisp texture, such as ‘Red Acre‘ or ‘Ruby Perfection.’

Both of these varieties have a milder, slightly sweeter taste compared to green cabbage varieties.

Savoy Cabbage

If you’re interested in a more textured cabbage, savoy cabbage varieties offer wrinkly leaves with a tender, mild flavor.

Try ‘Savoy Perfection‘ or ‘Savoy Ace’ for a tasty addition to your garden.

In addition to color and texture, consider companion plants when choosing your cabbage variety.

Some vegetables and herbs, like beans, celery, cucumber, leeks, and potatoes, can help improve your cabbage’s health and growth.

However, keep in mind that planting cabbage near broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, or tomatoes is not recommended because they share similar pests and diseases.

Remember that cabbage grows well in USDA Zones 1-10 and can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F.

When planning your garden, be sure to provide adequate space for each plant, accounting for the mature size of the variety you choose.

By considering these factors, you’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect cabbage variety for your garden, providing you with beautiful and tasty produce for your home cooking.

Preparing the Soil

Before you begin growing cabbage, it’s essential to prepare the soil for optimal growth.

You’ll need well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for your cabbage to thrive. Test your soil’s pH and amend it as necessary to achieve the desired range.

If your soil’s pH is too low (acidic), you can add lime or wood ashes to increase its alkalinity. Conversely, if your soil is too high (alkaline), you can lower its pH by incorporating sulfur, peat moss, or other acidifying amendments.

Start by tilling or spading the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.

This will help improve aeration and allow the roots of your cabbage plants to grow more easily.

Incorporate compost, manure, or other organic matter into the soil as you turn it.

Adding organic matter to your soil will not only improve its fertility but also help maintain optimal moisture levels for your cabbage plants.

Cabbage needs moist soil but doesn’t tolerate waterlogged or overly dry conditions.

Achieving a balance between moisture and drainage is crucial.

To ensure adequate soil drainage, you can build raised beds or add organic materials, such as compost, which will improve soil structure and help retain moisture without causing waterlogging.

Nutrition is also vital for cabbage growth.

Adding compost or well-rotted manure to your soil will provide it with essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Plus, incorporating these organic materials will improve the overall fertility and structure of your soil, ensuring your cabbage plants receive the necessary nourishment for healthy growth.

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Planting Cabbage

Starting Seeds Indoors

To grow cabbage successfully, begin by starting your seeds indoors.

You’ll want to start your seeds about 4-6 weeks before the last frost in spring or 6-8 weeks before the first frost in fall.

Choose a good quality potting soil and fill seed starter cells with it.

Make a ½-inch (1.3-cm) hole in the center of each cell and place a seed in each hole, covering it up with soil afterward .

Keep the soil consistently moist as the seeds germinate and the seedlings grow.

Maintain a consistent temperature for your seeds and seedlings, ensuring they are in a spot where the temperature ranges between 65-75°F (18-24°C).

Additionally, provide ample light for your seedlings, either through a sunny windowsill or a grow light.

Transplanting Seedlings Outdoors

After about 3-4 weeks, your seedlings should be ready for transplanting outdoors.

Before transplanting, make sure the outdoor temperature is suitable for cabbage. Cabbage can tolerate cold and can survive frost and temperatures as low as 20°F (-6°C).

Choose a planting site with well-draining, loamy soil rich in organic matter.

Before planting, amend the soil with compost and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to help encourage leafy growth. The ideal soil pH for cabbage is slightly acidic to neutral.

When transplanting, space the seedlings about 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) apart in rows, depending on the cabbage variety.

Once your seedlings are transplanted, make sure they receive consistent soil moisture to produce good-quality, juicy heads.

An irregular water supply may result in bitter taste and misshapen heads. Additionally, fertilize with compost every 2-4 weeks throughout the growing season.

Now that you have planted your cabbage, it’s crucial to maintain proper care and monitor growth to ensure optimal results. With proper care, you’ll enjoy a successful, bountiful cabbage harvest.

Growing Conditions

To grow healthy cabbage plants, you should focus on providing the right growing conditions, including sunlight, temperature, and water.

Cabbage needs at least 6 hours of sunshine a day.

The more sun your cabbage gets, the larger and faster the heads will grow.

So, make sure to plant your cabbage in an area with plenty of sunlight, avoiding heavy shade areas as this could hinder growth.

Temperature is another critical factor when growing cabbages.

They prefer cool temperatures and grow best at around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re planting in spring, start your cabbage indoors as they can tolerate below-freezing temperatures later in their growth.

For a fall crop, plant seeds directly in the garden in early July.

Keep in mind that cabbage will struggle once temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, so make sure to cover your plants to protect them as needed.

When it comes to water, cabbage plants are heavy feeders and require a steady supply of water and nutrients throughout their growth.

Prepare your soil in advance by mixing in aged manure and/or compost. The soil should also be well-draining, as roots standing in water can cause the cabbage heads to split or rot.

Here are some key points to remember for optimal growing conditions:

  • At least 6 hours of sunlight per day
  • Cool temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Regular watering and a nutrient-rich soil
  • Plant cabbages in well-draining soil to prevent splitting or rotting

By providing the right growing conditions, your cabbage plants will have a higher chance of producing large, tasty heads.

Care and Maintenance

Spacing and Row Formation

When planting cabbage, it’s essential to space your plants adequately.

planting cabbage

As a general rule, set your cabbage plants 12 to 24 inches apart in rows that are about 2 to 3 feet apart.

Proper spacing allows enough room for the cabbage leaves to grow and prevents overcrowding, which can lead to diseases and poor growth.

Fertilizing and Watering

Cabbage is a heavy feeder, requiring a lot of nutrients for optimal growth.

Be sure to incorporate plenty of aged manure or compost into the garden bed prior to planting.

Mix in a few inches of compost or aged manure and water thoroughly before setting out seeds or transplants.

It’s also a good idea to add extra nitrogen-rich amendments, such as cottonseed meal or blood meal, to the soil.

Consistent soil moisture is crucial for cabbage growth, so aim to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Monitor the soil regularly and water as needed to maintain appropriate moisture levels.

Mulching and Weed Management

Adding a layer of mulch around your cabbage plants helps retain soil moisture and suppresses weed growth.

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Use organic mulch materials like straw, grass clippings, or wood chips for this purpose.

Spread a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around each plant, being careful not to touch the cabbage stems, as this can lead to rot.

Regularly check your garden for weeds and remove them promptly.

Weeds competing for nutrients and water can have a detrimental impact on your cabbage growth.

By staying on top of weed management and maintaining proper mulch, you can provide a favorable environment for your cabbages to thrive.

Pest and Disease Management

Common Pests

When growing cabbage, it is essential to be aware of common pests that can affect your plants.

Some of the prevalent cabbage pests include:

  • Cabbage worms: These green caterpillars feed on the leaves and can cause significant damage. Handpick them and place them in a container of soapy water to eliminate them. Alternatively, cover your plants with a row cover until harvest.
  • Cutworms: These pests chew through young cabbage stems, causing plants to topple over. Place a collar around the base of your plants to protect them.
  • Slugs: Slugs love to feed on cabbage leaves. A simple method to control slugs is handpicking them and removing them from the area. You can also use barriers, such as copper tape, to deter them.
  • Aphids: These small insects suck plant sap and can transmit diseases. Use insecticidal soap or biological controls, like ladybugs, to help manage aphids.

Cabbage Diseases

Cabbage is susceptible to a variety of diseases.

Identifying and addressing these problems early can help ensure a healthy harvest.

  1. Clubroot: This soil-borne disease causes swollen roots and wilting plants. To prevent clubroot, use disease-resistant varieties and do not plant cabbage in the same area for at least three years.
  2. Black rot: Caused by a bacterium, this disease leads to yellowing and wilting of leaves. When planting, space your cabbages farther apart to promote airflow and promptly remove any infected plants.
  3. Downy mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, fluffy growth on the undersides of leaves. To prevent downy mildew, eliminate cruciferous weeds and ensure proper spacing between plants. Planting your crop in the spring and harvesting in the summer can also help.

Remember to practice good hygiene in your garden by removing old plants and controlling weeds to minimize the risk of pests and diseases.

By staying vigilant and taking the necessary precautions, you can enjoy a successful cabbage-growing experience.

Harvesting and Storing Cabbage

When to Harvest

It’s crucial to know the right time to harvest your cabbage.

Typically, these plants are harvested in late summer or during the fall season. To determine if your cabbage is ready for harvest, check the head for firmness.

A mature cabbage head should be tight and feel solid when squeezed. Also, pay attention to the color; a healthy cabbage will have a vibrant green or blue hue.

How to Harvest

Once your cabbage is ready for harvest, follow these steps for a successful harvest:

  1. Use a sharp knife to cut the stem close to the base of the head. Make sure to leave some outer leaves attached to protect the head from bruising or insects.
  2. If you’re expecting rain, it’s particularly important to harvest beforehand to prevent water damage to the cabbage head.

Storing Cabbage

After harvesting, it’s time to properly store your cabbage to maintain its freshness:

  • Short-term storage: Store cabbage in a cool, humid place (such as a refrigerator) for up to two weeks.
  • Long-term storage: For a longer shelf life, consider using a root cellar or garden pit. To store in a root cellar, place the heads in rows on shelves with ample space between them or hang them from the ceiling using string. You may also store them on the floor wrapped in several layers of newspaper to shield them from moisture and insects.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully harvest and store your cabbage, eventually using them for various recipes such as raw salads, sauerkraut or cooked dishes.

Companion Planting and Crop Rotation

When growing cabbage, it’s important to consider companion planting and crop rotation.

This method helps in reducing pests and diseases while improving the overall health of your cabbage plants.

One effective companion plant for cabbage is onions.

Planting onions near your cabbage can deter pests like cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and carrot flies, helping to keep your cabbage plants healthy and thriving without the need for chemical pesticides.

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Lettuce is another great companion plant for cabbage.

The two plants grow well together and can share nutrients without competing too much.

Growing lettuce alongside cabbage can help maintain soil balance and proper air circulation, improving overall conditions for both plants.

As a cool-weather crop, it’s essential to plant your cabbages during the appropriate season.

They prefer temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so plant them in early spring or early fall for the best results.

As a biennial plant, cabbage varieties follow a two-year growth cycle, but they are often harvested as annuals in their first year when the heads are mature and fresh.

Cabbage is a hardy plant and can tolerate frost, making it ideal for growing in cooler climates.

To ensure a successful crop rotation, avoid planting cabbage in the same location where you have grown other plants from the Brassica family in the past two years.

Rotate with other types of crops, such as legumes or root vegetables to maintain soil health and prevent diseases that affect cabbage.

Companion planting and crop rotation are essential for growing healthy and bountiful cabbage plants.

Onions and lettuce are effective companions, while maintaining proper crop rotation will help prevent diseases and infestations.

Plant cabbages strategically to take advantage of their hardiness and cool-weather preferences for optimal growth.

How to Grow Cabbage FAQs

Is cabbage easy to grow?

You bet! Cabbage is a pretty low-maintenance veggie, making it a great choice for both beginner and seasoned gardeners. Just provide your cabbage plants with well-draining soil, consistent moisture, and some tender loving care, and you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful harvest of crunchy, leafy goodness.

How many cabbage do you get from a plant?

Each cabbage plant typically produces one main head. However, don’t fret! After you harvest the main head, you might get a bonus in the form of smaller side heads, known as “cabbage sprouts.” Just make sure to leave a few leaves and the growing tip intact when you harvest the main head, and you may see these bonus cabbages popping up.

Does cabbage grow back after you pick it?

While the main head won’t grow back once you’ve picked it, you can look forward to those smaller “cabbage sprouts” that might grow from the remaining stem. Keep an eye on your plant after harvesting the main head, and you may be rewarded with some extra cabbage treats!

How do I know when to harvest cabbage?

Timing is everything, and knowing when to harvest your cabbage is essential for that perfect crunch! A good rule of thumb is to wait until the head feels firm when gently squeezed. Depending on the variety, this can take anywhere from 70 to 100 days after planting. Trust your instincts and be ready to enjoy a delicious, homegrown cabbage feast!

Can you plant cabbage close to tomatoes?

While it’s not a perfect match, you can plant cabbage and tomatoes near each other without any major issues. Just be mindful of their differing needs – tomatoes love the heat and need more space, while cabbage prefers cooler temperatures and can handle closer spacing. Give each plant the care it needs, and you’ll have a diverse, thriving garden in no time.

Can you plant store bought cabbage?

Planting a store bought cabbage isn’t the most reliable way to grow a new plant, as it’s likely been cut from the root system. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to give it a try, you can place the cabbage base in a shallow dish with water, making sure to change the water every few days. If you’re lucky, you might see new roots and leaves sprouting, which can then be transplanted into the soil. But for the best results, it’s recommended to grow cabbage from seeds or seedlings instead.

And there you have it, cabbage aficionados!

With these expert tips and techniques under your belt, you’re now fully equipped to grow the most magnificent cabbages your garden has ever seen.

So, go forth and cultivate your leafy wonders, and revel in the satisfaction of enjoying a homegrown, crunchy delight.

Don’t forget to share your cabbage-growing journey with friends and family, and perhaps even inspire them to join you in this crunchy crusade.

After all, the world could always use more gardeners like you, spreading the love for homegrown goodness.

Together, let’s turn our gardens into glorious cabbage havens – one crunchy, delicious head at a time!

Happy growing!