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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cabbage

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Cabbage is a great vegetable to grow in the home garden. It stores well, tastes delicious, and can be cooked up in many different ways. This blog post will teach you how to plant cabbage seeds, care for them as they grow, harvest your crop when it’s time, and even give some cooking suggestions!

When to Plant and Grow Cabbage

Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable. That means it grows best during the early spring and fall seasons when temperatures are cooler. However, cabbage can be grown in summer as well if you have a shadier area of your garden that doesn’t get too hot and live in milder climates.

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In most areas, cabbage seedlings should be planted after the last frost date for your zone. This can vary depending on your location, but if you live in a cold region, it’s likely the last week of April or early to mid May. For fall plantings, plant in late summer for cooler climates; warmer zones, like mine (8b), can plant once fall begins.

In spring, plant cabbage seeds after all danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures remain consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

To transplant already established cabbage plants, wait until the soil is warmer and night time temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees.

  • Golden Acre Cabbage– This heirloom variety is an early cabbage type that’s slow to bolt.
  • Red Acre Cabbage– This heirloom cabbage has a beautiful red color , and these seeds in particular are non-GMO and organic.
  • Savoy Cabbage– The crinkly leaves of savoy cabbage are tender and sweet. A fun variety to add to your early spring or fall garden!
  • Chinese Cabbage– This variety of Chinese cabbage actually forms a head, as opposed to Pak Choi and other looser leafed varieties. Try this for something new!
Cabbage growing in my Dad’s garden in Florida

How to Care for Cabbage in the Garden

  • Plant cabbage in full sun (unless you’re growing in the middle of summer).
  • Soil should be well drained, nutrient rich and pH between 6 and 7. (Not sure what your soil Ph is? Get a free soil test done at your local cooperative extension office.)
  • Amend soil with compost before planting to be sure the plants have all the nutrients they need to grow. Cabbages are large plants, and big plants have big needs!
  • Space each plant at least 24 inches apart for cabbages that will grow larger than two pounds each. If you prefer smaller heads, they can be grown closer together or planted with other vegetables like lettuce or beans.
  • Fertilize cabbage with a good quality organic plant food about every two weeks and keep the soil moist, but not too wet.
  • Be on the lookout for holes in the leaves of your cabbage plants. This could indicate any number of pests, but the dreaded cabbage worm can devastate a cabbage crop. (See my post on How to prevent cabbage worms.)

Common Cabbage Pests and Diseases

Cabbage is in the brassicas family, which means they are affected by many of the same diseases and pests. Diseases are much easier to prevent than cure so pay close attention when growing cabbage, especially if you have had cabbage diseases in the past.

Common cabbage pests

  • Aphids– suckering pests that can damage plants over the long term
  • Cabbage looper worms– Green worms that will eat holes through the leaves of the cabbage plants.
  • Diamond back moth– Red and yellow moths whose larvae eat cabbage leaves.
  • Root maggots– Cabbage root flies lay their eggs in the soil at the cabbage roots. The larvae will then burrow into the cabbage plant and feed on them, causing serious damage to your cabbage plants. Look for plants that aren’t developing and appear sickly.
  • Harlequin Bug– This variety of yellow and red spotted stink bug enjoys cabbage plants and other cole crops. Be on the lookout for the eggs of the harlequin bug on cabbage plants.

How to Harvest Cabbage

You can harvest cabbage at any time during its growing season, whether after a frost or before one, which is why it’s such an easy vegetable to grow in your garden.

Before harvesting cabbage, you need to be familiar with the variety you have grown. (Always save the tags from plants or the packages from seeds!)

Some smaller varieties will reach maturity more quickly, while others will obviously have a longer growing season, so check your growing information, and keep track of when you planted. (Need a garden planner to help you keep track of important garden info? Check out my Print and Printable Garden Planners in the shop!)

To harvest cabbage, use a sharp paring knife , and cut the cabbage from the stem at the bottom, so as to not damage other cabbage around it.

freshly harvested cabbage on kitchen counter

In late fall, you can leave cabbage in your garden until light frosts arrive. If the outer cabbage leaves seem damaged due to the frost, simply remove these when you harvest the plant.

How to Store Fresh Cabbage Heads

If you’ve harvested cabbage that you aren’t going to use immediately, be sure to store it in the refrigerator. I personally like to keep it in a plastic bag to hold in any moisture. You can leave cabbage in the fridge for up to two weeks.

If the cabbage has been cut, and part of it used, then definitely store in an airtight bag to keep that cut side from being exposed to too much air.

Cabbage Recipes to Try

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