Cabbage…The Unsung Brassica! Unlike its showy sisters Broccoli and Cauliflower, Cabbage doesn’t need an expensive fruiting head to generate epic harvests. Because of this, it’s remarkably easy to sow, grow, and harvest cabbage!
In this article, let’s look at all that’s needed to grow some epic Cabbage this fall (or spring if you’re Down Under) so you too can enjoy the sweet, vivid flavor of this leafy veggie! No-till style planting of course!
As we mentioned cabbage is a member of that age-old family of vegetable crops known as brassicas and it’s grown for a tight whirl of specialized leaves that kind of resemble a flower head. In reality, though cabbage is grown purely for its foliage, making it relatively easier than its flowering cousins like the broccoli and cauliflower, and like we said it’s really easy to grow.
It can be direct sown or planted from well-started seedlings. For cabbage, I always suggest starter plants, both for a head start and ease of growing.
Growing time for cabbage
Before we get into that I wanted to explain the timing of cabbage. Because like we said it can be planted twice a year. Cabbage is a cool-weather crop for the most part where you really want to avoid the heat of summer.
Cabbage starts are available in the spring but often they’re too late to avoid a summer harvest and as for buying plant starts in the fall, well let’s just say that the plant nurseries and home improvement stores have kind of moved on from being gardener focused at that point.
So what we’re left with is starting the seeds ourselves, it’s not at all hard let me show you how.
Starting Cabbage Seeds
For spring planting start your cabbage seeds around 6 weeks before your last spring frost date. The seeds germinate quickly but you want time for the plants to establish themselves.
Use a dedicated seedy mix and four-inch pots for a few plants or professional cell trays for many.
Plant the seeds in the center no more than a half-inch deep in a quality potting mix designed specifically for seeds.
You can plant multiple seeds per cell or pot and then thin them to the strongest one after.
They germinate quickly within about a week at 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but the first leaves to appear are not true leaves at all they’re known as cotyledons or embryonic leaves.
Don’t fertilize it this time, simply cut the temperatures down to 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and give them as much light as possible.
They’re ready for garden planting at six weeks of age or when your last spring frost night has passed.
What temperature does cabbage grow?
Cabbage grows best in a temperature range of 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit so if you can stay within that you’ll be golden.
Best soil to grow cabbage
They do like a fertile soil quite high in nitrogen as we’re growing these guys for the leaves exclusively.
At the time of planting simply augment your soil heavily with compost and if need be supplement with some alfalfa pellets or meal for an added boost and on top of that cabbage is a big plant and it needs a lot of airflows.
Give these guys about a foot and a half of space at least, more for the larger varieties.
Now the easiest way to explain how to plant cabbage is just to show you how I did these guys.
How to plant cabbage
First, let’s prep the bed no-till style before we get to the planting. Initially I simply clear the bed of all weeds cutting them down right at the root color. This way I can avoid disturbing the soil completely.
Next, I lay down a weed barrier composed of recycled brown craft paper. A skim coat of a killer potting mix goes on next, made perfectly level with my trusty hard rake. Now we’re ready for planting.
With 95 of the work already done all we have to do is place the well-started plugs right on top of that prep bed. Space them out as we said and then start filling in and around them with more of that same potting mix. Easy stuff!
Next up I’m going to mulch with some grass clippings and yard trimmings for an added nitrogen boost and then finally we top it off with a good soaking to consolidate the planting.
Now cabbage is roughly a three-month crop from this stage so you can see why timing is so important.
Planted too late in the season for spring and we’re harvesting right in the heat of summer and too late for fall and the plants may freeze before any head production so strive to get that timing right it’s the key to cabbage.
Watering Guide for cabbage plant
Cabbages can send out pretty extensive root systems so to encourage this, water your cabbage plant deep thoroughly less often, rather than shallow ones frequently. By doing this and your cabbage plants will be stronger and more resilient as a result.
Location for growing cabbage
For the location, cabbage is going to tolerate a small amount of shade but really full sun is best. Wind and exposure however are no problem with these guys so you don’t have to give them the best spots in your garden. Because they’re not really one of those picky plants.
Now cabbage is ready for harvest when the heads are swollen and firm to the touch.
Harvesting and storing Cabbage
You want the interior of the head to be a mass of densely packed leaves but if you wait too long the heads can actually split and they won’t store very well.
To collect the cabbage head simply cut the plant stem near the soil and peel back the top exterior leaves revealing that perfect head inside. Cabbage stores the longest uncut, unwashed in the crisper of your refrigerator. Stored like this your cabbage should last up to two months.
Beyond that you’re gonna have to look at freezing and or fermentation.
Also a quick note on pests and diseases.
Pest and diseases protection while you grow cabbage
Cabbages are tough tough plants but they’re not invincible. Poorly drained soil can lead to clubroot and inadequate air circulation can cause mildew, blotch, or blight.
Water the roots, not the foliage, space your plants adequately apart, and don’t over-fertilize. Pests can also attack your cabbage such as cabbage butterflies, flea beetles, cutworms, and aphids.
Manual removal works best and is the safest. But your best bet with these guys is to not grow them out of season. Aphids and other pests are always attracted to stressed-out plants and these guys are always stressed out when they’re not grown at the right time.
Cabbages really are a wonder crop and without that expensive fruiting head it’s pretty straightforward to grow. Provided you get the timing right cabbage will always reward you with a delicious nutritious cool-season harvest that’s worth the wait.
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