Cabbage is a must-grow in your vegetable garden. If you’re sick of the same standard cabbage you can buy at the grocery store, select from one of the hundreds of different cabbage varieties you can grow—your homegrown heads will be way sweeter and tastier.

With the right soil prep and just a little bit of attention, you can have a bountiful supply of the most delicious, crunchiest cabbage leaves to toss in your salads and stir fries or use as wraps.

Learn how to plant, fertilize, and harvest your own cabbage from start to finish.

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SELECTING THE RIGHT VARIETY OF CABBAGE

Before you start planting, it’s important to select the right variety of cabbage for your climate. Here in Central Texas, we have a shorter cool season than our northern friends, and it is best to choose cabbages that have fewer days to harvest (55-85 days) for best success. If you live in a cooler climate, you might have better success with cabbage varieties with longer days to harvest (85-100 days).

Best Cabbage Varieties for Early Spring

  • Pointed Sweetheart Cabbage – Conehead-style cabbage that is mild and sweet. Great for salads, slaws, or light sauté.
  • Pixie Baby Cabbage – Perfect for growing in containers or saving space in raised beds thanks to small heads. Crispy green heads with great flavor.
  • Little Jade Baby Napa Cabbage – Quick-growing, small Chinese Cabbage (AKA Napa cabbage) that is great in salads or sautéd.
  • Purple Express Napa Cabbage –  Beautiful purple-red Napa cabbage that will look stunning in your garden. Grows quickly and is great for salads, slaws, or even homemade Kimchi.

Best Cabbage Varieties for Fall

All of the above can be planted in the fall, along with the varieties listed here.

  • Integro Red Cabbage – Beautiful full-size red cabbage that produces a 3-4 lb head.
  • Capture Green Cabbage – Full-size green cabbage with great wrapper leaves. Produces a 4-6 lb head.
  • Savoy Cabbage – Wrapped on the outside with well-savoyed, beautiful blue-green leaves. These 6-8 lb heads are white inside. Good heat tolerance and makes especially beautiful heads in the fall.
  • Red Acre Cabbage – Round reddish-purple heads that weigh about 3 lbs. This cabbage adds a festive color to salads and coleslaw. A great storage variety.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING — WHEN TO PLANT CABBAGE

Cabbage is a cool-season crop that thrives when temps are in the 40s, 50, and 60s.

I typically start cabbage by seed indoors so that I can maximize the time cabbage plants have in cool weather. To get a head start on your cabbage growing season, start cabbage plants indoors about 6-8 weeks before your final frost date in spring or 4-8 weeks before the average first frost in the fall. Here in Central Texas, we typically start seeds for cabbage plants in January and February for a spring harvest, and then late September and October for a late fall harvest.

You can also directly sow seeds in the garden 4-6 weeks before your last frost in the spring. Soil should be workable and above 45°F. In the fall, wait until your temps start dropping. If you’re ready to plant your fall crop and it’s still above 85°F, either plant cabbage in a spot with partial shade from a taller plant or use a shade cloth

For those of you who live somewhere with mild winters, you can grow cabbage all winter long. Most cabbage varieties are frost-tolerant, and some are downright frost hardy.

If you’re a little late planting cabbage, you can always grab some well-grown seedlings or cabbage starts from your local nursery.

growing cabbage

WHERE TO GROW CABBAGE PLANTS

When deciding where to plant your cabbage, make sure you choose an area with 6-8 hrs of sunlight, preferably with afternoon shade if possible.

If you live in an area with clay-heavy soil, grow cabbage in a raised bed or container for best results. I love to grow cabbage in my raised beds alongside other cool-season plants like Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, and spinach. Raised beds provide good drainage so that your cabbage plants aren’t sitting in water for too long.

If you don’t have raised beds, you can grow cabbage in a large pot or container at least 12 inches deep. I recommend sticking with dwarf cabbage varieties (like Pixie Baby) if you opt for a container.

Your container should have at least one good drainage hole
to allow excess water to leave (cover this hole with burlap or a piece of mesh to prevent soil from draining out).

Terracotta pots are a great option to help regulate soil moisture. Make sure to check on the soil frequently since containers dry out quicker than raised beds and in-ground gardens.

The Best Soil for Cabbage

Cabbage loves well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. Sandy loam soil in a raised bed is ideal. If you’re growing cabbage in a container, fill your container with equal parts compost and organic potting soil (like the Ocean Forest potting soil from FoxFarm).

HOW TO PLANT CABBAGE SEEDS IN 3 EASY STEPS

Brassica plants like cabbage are easy to grow from seed. (Check out our indoor seed starting guide if you’re new to starting seeds indoors.)

Follow these three steps to sow cabbage seeds.

Step 1

Prepare your growing medium for planting. If you’re direct sowing seeds, add a 2- to 3-inch layer of fresh compost to the top of the planting area. If you’re starting cabbage seeds indoors, fill your seed trays to the top with pre-moistened seed starting mix.

Step 2

Use a dibber or a chopstick to make shallow holes in the soil or in the center of each seed starting cell. Cabbage seeds only need to be planted ¼” deep, which is not very deep at all. Do your best to place only one seed in each planting hole. If you’re direct sowing, space your seeds about 12 inches apart so they’ll have plenty of room to grow to their full potential.

Step 3

Water the planting area gently and keep seeds moist until they germinate (which usually takes 7 to 12 days). If you’re starting seeds indoors, use a water bottle to gently spray water on the soil surface and water your seed tray from the bottom to avoid displacing seeds. Turn your grow lights on as soon as you see signs of sprouting if you’re growing indoors.

Pro tip:

Having good airflow around your cabbage plants helps to prevent pests and disease. If your cabbage seedlings pop up a little too close together, thin them. The best way to thin cabbage is to pick a weaker-looking seedling that’s growing too close to another and snip it just above the soil surface. Bring thinned plants inside and toss them on your next salad.

HOW TO PLANT CABBAGE SEEDLINGS

Before planting cabbage seedlings, do a little soil prep to ensure your brassicas have all the nutrients they’ll need. Add a 2″ to 3″ layer of compost. (You can find good-quality compost from your local nurseries. Try to stay away from big box stores.) I also recommend adding some organic all purpose fertilizer.

Plant your seedlings 18” apart in rows at least 12” apart. Be sure to keep soil moist as your new plants are getting established.

garden soil

HOW TO CARE FOR GROWING CABBAGE PLANTS

Your main tending tasks will be watering regularly, weeding, protecting your plants from pests and extreme temps, and fertilizing.

Watering Cabbage

To ensure your plants grow well and produce nice heads, it’s important to water them regularly. Keep the soil moist through slow and deep watering. I like to use drip irrigation or ollas to help get water to my plants at the root zone. Avoid watering the leaves to prevent disease.

Weeding Around Cabbage

Tend your cabbage plants by frequently weeding around them to prevent competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Be sure to remove any weeds that sprout nearby your seedlings as soon as you can. Weeds usually aren’t much of an issue if you’re growing in raised beds or containers.

Checking for Pests

Young plants need a little more care than established plants. I recommend covering newly planted cabbage with garden mesh cloth to prevent pests from attacking the tender leaves while they’re most tempting.

Protecting Cabbage from Extreme Weather

When you’re expecting a moderate or hard freeze, cover your cabbage plants with some frost cloth or old sheets. You’ll also want to keep cabbage seedlings under shade cloth or place them in a shadier spot to protect them on days when the temps are above 85°F. 

Fertilizing Cabbage

Once your cabbage plants are established, apply liquid Super Seaweed or Ocean Harvest every few weeks to encourage lots of healthy growth.

HOW TO HANDLE PESTS ON CABBAGE LEAVES

Cabbage and its cousins in the brassica family are, unfortunately, very attractive to pests like cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and cabbage moth caterpillars. Like I said, you can prevent pest issues in the first place by covering your garden with garden mesh the day you plant cabbage. 

Any caterpillar issues can be handled with organic measures like Bt spray (bacillus thuringiensis). For aphids, try insecticidal soap or bio insecticide. (Learn more about dealing with aphids and cabbage worms.)

More info on pest control here: Learn 10 ways to prevent cabbage moth damage.

cabbage worm on broccoli leaves

HOW TO HARVEST AND STORE YOUR CABBAGE

Your cabbage will be ready to harvest anywhere from 60 to 180 days after planting, depending on the variety you’re growing. When you’re nearing the time to harvest on the seed package, check the cabbage head by gently squeezing it to see if it’s firm throughout. If the cabbage head feels loose, then give it a bit more time to mature.

You can also harvest those outer cabbage leaves anytime you need a few; you do not have to wait for the full head to form to start enjoying your cabbage!

Use a sharp knife or garden scissors to remove the head from the stem when it’s time to harvest the entire head.

Plan to use or store your cabbage within a few days of harvesting. To store cabbage long-term, wrap each head in plastic and place in the refrigerator. You can store unwashed heads this way for up to a month.

red cabbage ready to harvest

Lettuce Help You Grow

That’s pretty much all there is to growing some amazing cabbages. 

Which cabbage variety are you most excited to grow this year? Let us know in the comments!

If you still need a space to grow your cabbages or your favorite veggies, click here to grow with us.

How to Grow Cabbage