How To Plant Cabbage [ Full Guide ]

Cabbage, a member of the Brassicaceae family, is a popular cool-season vegetable grown for its densely packed leaves. It is known for its versatility in cooking and its high nutritional value. Cabbage is an excellent addition to any home garden due to its relative ease of cultivation. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the step-by-step process of planting cabbage, including selecting the right variety, preparing the garden, and essential planting considerations.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Cabbage

  1. Choose the right variety – Select a cabbage variety that suits your climate and space, such as green, red, or Savoy cabbage.
  2. Prepare the garden – Ensure the soil is well-drained, fertile, and receives ample sunlight. Test the soil pH and amend if necessary.
  3. Start seeds indoors (optional) – Begin seeds indoors several weeks before the last frost date in your area.
  4. Direct seeding or transplanting – Plant seeds or transplants in well-prepared soil, ensuring proper spacing.
  5. Care and maintenance – Water consistently, provide adequate nutrients, and protect from common pests and diseases.
  6. Harvesting – Harvest cabbage when heads feel firm and solid when gently squeezed.

The Benefits Of Planting Cabbage

Cabbage is not only a flavorful addition to various dishes but also a highly nutritious vegetable. It’s packed with vitamins, particularly vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as dietary fiber. Additionally, cabbage contains a variety of antioxidants and has been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved digestion and potential cancer prevention.

From a gardening perspective, cabbage is a relatively low-maintenance crop that can thrive in cooler temperatures, making it an excellent choice for early spring or late fall planting. The plant’s compact nature also makes it suitable for smaller garden spaces or container gardening.

Choosing The Right Variety Of Cabbage

Before diving into the planting process, it’s important to consider the different varieties of cabbage available. Each variety has its own unique characteristics, such as flavor, texture, and size. Here are some common cabbage types to consider:

  1. Green cabbage: This is the most widely grown and popular cabbage variety. It has a round, dense head with smooth, green leaves.
  2. Red cabbage: Characterized by its vibrant purple-red color, red cabbage offers a slightly peppery flavor and adds a pop of color to dishes.
  3. Savoy cabbage: With crinkled and ruffled leaves, Savoy cabbage has a more delicate texture and slightly milder flavor compared to green cabbage.
  4. Napa cabbage: Also known as Chinese cabbage, Napa cabbage features an oblong shape and is commonly used in Asian cuisine.

When selecting a cabbage variety, consider your local climate and the space available in your garden. Some cabbage types are better suited for specific growing conditions, so choose a variety that aligns with your gardening goals.

Preparing Your Garden For Planting

Successful cabbage cultivation begins with preparing the garden soil to provide the best growing environment for the plants. Here’s how to prepare your garden for planting cabbage:

Soil Preparation

  1. Choose a Sunny Location: Select a planting site that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Cabbage thrives in full sun, which is crucial for its growth and head development.

  2. Test and Amend the Soil: Test the soil pH using a soil testing kit, available at many garden centers. Cabbage prefers a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If the pH is too high, amend the soil with elemental sulfur, and if it’s too low, add agricultural lime to adjust the pH levels.

  3. Improve Soil Structure: Work the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and fertility. Cabbage thrives in well-drained soil with good moisture retention.

Spacing And Row Arrangement

  1. Determine Spacing: Depending on the variety, cabbage plants generally require 12-24 inches of space between each plant. Consider the mature size of the cabbage heads when determining spacing to allow adequate room for growth.

  2. Row Arrangement: Plan the layout of your cabbage rows, ensuring that there is enough space between rows for ease of access and maintenance. Allow at least 24-36 inches between rows to facilitate proper airflow and access for watering and weeding.

Pre-Planting Considerations

Starting Seeds Indoors (Optional)

If you live in a region with a shorter growing season, starting cabbage seeds indoors can give your plants a head start. Here’s how to start cabbage seeds indoors:

  1. Timing: Start cabbage seeds indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. This allows the seedlings to reach a suitable size for transplanting into the garden.

  2. Seed Trays or Pots: Plant cabbage seeds in seed trays or small pots filled with seed starting mix, ensuring adequate drainage.

  3. Watering and Temperature: Keep the soil consistently moist and maintain a temperature of around 70°F (21°C) for optimal germination. Consider using a heating mat to provide gentle bottom heat, which can improve germination rates.

  4. Light and Air Circulation: Place the seed trays in a location that receives ample sunlight or use grow lights to ensure the seedlings receive adequate light. Additionally, provide good air circulation to prevent damping-off disease.

Direct Seeding Or Transplanting

Once the soil has been prepared and the threat of frost has passed, it’s time to plant cabbage seeds or transplants directly into the garden. Here’s a step-by-step guide for each method:

Direct Seeding

  1. Timing: Plant cabbage seeds directly in the garden approximately 2-4 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. This allows the seeds to germinate in cool soil conditions.

  2. Planting Depth: Sow the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in well-prepared soil, spacing them 12-24 inches apart in rows.

  3. Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the germination phase. Consider using a fine mist setting on a watering can or a gentle spray from a hose to avoid displacing the seeds.

  4. Thinning: Once the seedlings have established and developed a few sets of true leaves, thin them to the appropriate spacing, leaving the healthiest seedlings to mature.

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Transplanting Seedlings

  1. Hardening Off: If you started cabbage seeds indoors, it’s essential to harden off the seedlings before transplanting them into the garden. Gradually expose the seedlings to outdoor conditions over the course of 7-10 days, starting with a few hours of outdoor exposure and increasing the time each day.

  2. Planting Depth: Dig individual holes in the garden soil, slightly deeper than the seedling’s root ball, and space them according to the recommended spacing for the variety. Gently place the seedlings in the holes and backfill with soil, ensuring the plants are at the same depth as they were in the containers.

  3. Watering: After transplanting, water the seedlings thoroughly to help them settle into their new environment and to reduce transplant shock. Provide consistent moisture as the transplants establish themselves in the garden.

Care And Maintenance

Successful cabbage cultivation requires careful attention to watering, fertilizing, and pest management. Here are important care and maintenance practices to ensure the health and productivity of your cabbage plants:


  1. Consistent Moisture: Maintain consistent soil moisture, ensuring that the plants receive around 1-1.5 inches of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental irrigation.

  2. Avoid Water Stress: Cabbage plants are sensitive to water stress, which can lead to stunted growth and reduced head formation. Mulching around the plants can help retain soil moisture and regulate temperatures.


  1. Soil Testing: Periodically test the soil to monitor nutrient levels and pH, making adjustments as needed to provide an optimal growing environment for the cabbage plants.

  2. Fertilizer Application: Consider applying a balanced, slow-release fertilizer according to the recommendations on the product label. A fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or similar can provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

Pest And Disease Management

  1. Monitoring: Regularly inspect the cabbage plants for signs of pest infestations or disease. Common pests that affect cabbage include cabbage worms, aphids, and flea beetles.

  2. Cultural Controls: Implement cultural controls such as crop rotation, intercropping with companion plants like aromatic herbs, and using floating row covers to protect the plants from pests.

  3. Organic Controls: If necessary, consider using organic insecticidal soaps or neem oil sprays to manage pest populations. For diseases, proper spacing, good air circulation, and preventive treatments with organic fungicides can help maintain plant health.

Weeding And Mulching

  1. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the base of the cabbage plants to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature.

  2. Weeding: Regularly remove weeds from the vicinity of the cabbage plants to reduce competition for nutrients and minimize the risk of pest and disease harborage.


Cabbage typically matures within 70-120 days, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Here’s how to determine when it’s time to harvest your cabbage:

  1. Head Firmness: Check the firmness of the cabbage heads by gently squeezing them. Mature heads should feel firm and solid, indicating readiness for harvest.

  2. Head Size: Evaluate the size of the cabbage heads based on the variety you planted. Some varieties are known for producing large heads, while others are more compact.

  3. Harvesting Technique: Use a sharp knife to cut the cabbage head from the stem at the base of the plant. Leave a few outer leaves attached to the head to prolong its storage life.

  4. Storage: Store harvested cabbage heads in a cool, moist environment, such as a root cellar or refrigerator, to preserve their quality and freshness.

Planting cabbage can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for gardeners of all skill levels. By selecting the right variety, preparing the garden soil, and providing adequate care and maintenance, you can cultivate healthy and bountiful cabbage plants in your home garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning your gardening journey, growing cabbage offers a wealth of culinary and nutritional benefits while adding beauty and productivity to your garden space. With the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can embark on a successful cabbage-growing adventure and enjoy the flavorful rewards of your efforts.

Planting Cabbage Seeds

Cabbage is a popular and nutritious vegetable that is easy to grow in your own garden. It is a cool-season crop that thrives in spring and fall temperatures, making it a great option for gardeners in many regions.

  1. Selecting Seeds: When choosing cabbage seeds, look for varieties that are suitable for your climate and gardening preferences. There are several different types of cabbage, including green cabbage, red cabbage, and savoy cabbage. Consider factors such as maturity date, head size, and disease resistance when selecting seeds.

  2. Starting Seeds Indoors: Cabbage seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Fill seed trays or small pots with a seed starting mix and plant the seeds about ¼ inch deep. Moisten the soil and cover the tray with a plastic dome or wrap to create a greenhouse effect. Place the tray in a warm location that receives indirect sunlight.

  3. Germination and Care: Cabbage seeds typically germinate within 7-10 days. Once the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic covering and place the tray under a grow light or in a sunny window. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. As the seedlings grow, make sure to provide adequate air circulation by removing the plastic dome or loosening the plastic wrap.

  4. Harden Seedlings: Before transplanting your cabbage seedlings outdoors, they need to be hardened off. Harden the seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over a period of 7-10 days. Start by placing them outside for a few hours a day in a sheltered area, gradually increasing the time and exposure to sunlight.

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Transplanting Cabbage Seedlings

  1. Timing: Cabbage seedlings can be transplanted outdoors when they are about 4-6 weeks old and have developed a few true leaves. Choose a cool and cloudy day or transplant in the evening to minimize stress on the seedlings.

  2. Soil Preparation: Prepare your garden bed by loosening the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches and removing any weeds or debris. Cabbage prefers fertile and well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8. If your soil is heavy or poorly draining, consider adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture.

  3. Spacing: Cabbage plants need room to grow and should be spaced adequately to ensure proper airflow and light penetration. Leave 18-24 inches of space between plants in rows that are 24-36 inches apart. If you are planting multiple rows, leave at least 36 inches between the rows to allow for easy access to the plants.

  4. Planting: Dig a small hole for each seedling, making sure it is deep enough to accommodate the root ball. Gently remove the seedling from its container or tray, being careful not to disturb the roots. Place the seedling in the hole and backfill with soil, firming it gently around the plant. Water the seedlings immediately after transplanting to settle the soil and reduce transplant shock.

Proper Spacing And Planting Depth

  1. Spacing: Proper spacing is crucial for the healthy growth of cabbage plants. Overcrowding can lead to poor air circulation and increased risk of diseases. As mentioned earlier, leave 18-24 inches of space between individual plants and 36 inches between rows. This spacing ensures that each plant has enough room to grow and allows for ease of maintenance and harvest.

  2. Planting Depth: When transplanting cabbage seedlings, be mindful of the planting depth. The seedlings should be placed at the same depth as they were growing in their containers. Planting too shallow or too deep can impede root development and affect overall plant health. It is important to maintain the correct planting depth to promote healthy growth and productivity.

Watering And Fertilizing Your Cabbage Plants

  1. Watering: Cabbage plants require consistent moisture to grow and develop properly. Water deeply and regularly, aiming for about 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Avoid overhead watering, as it can increase the risk of diseases. Instead, water at the base of the plants to keep the foliage dry and minimize the chance of fungal infections. Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

  2. Fertilizing: Cabbage is a heavy feeder and benefits from regular fertilization. Before planting, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to provide a nutrient-rich foundation. Once the plants are established, side dress with a balanced fertilizer every 3-4 weeks. You can also use a water-soluble fertilizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates. Avoid overfertilizing, as it can lead to leggy growth and reduced head formation.

Pest Management For Cabbage

  1. Pest Identification: Cabbage is susceptible to a variety of pests, including cabbage worms, aphids, and cabbage loopers. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pest infestation, such as chewed leaves, sticky residue, or small green worms. Early detection allows for timely intervention and minimizes damage to your cabbage crop.

  2. Organic Pest Control: To control pests organically, you can try various methods. Handpicking and squishing pests, such as cabbage worms and loopers, can be effective for small infestations. Introducing beneficial insects, like ladybugs or lacewings, can also help control aphids. Insecticidal soap or neem oil sprays can be used to treat severe infestations, following the product instructions carefully.

  3. Disease Prevention: Cabbage is also susceptible to diseases, such as clubroot and black rot. To prevent these diseases, practice crop rotation, avoiding planting cabbage in the same spot for at least three years. Keep the plants well-spaced for good air circulation and remove any diseased leaves or plants promptly. Fungicides labeled for use on cabbage can be applied preventatively, following the instructions provided.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully plant and grow cabbage in your garden. From starting seeds indoors to transplanting seedlings and caring for them as they mature, each step plays a crucial role in achieving healthy and abundant cabbage plants. Remember to provide the necessary water, nutrients, and protection from pests to ensure a successful harvest. With proper care and attention, you will soon be enjoying fresh and delicious cabbage from your very own garden.

Harvesting Cabbage

Cabbage is a nutritious and versatile vegetable that can be grown in your own backyard. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, planting cabbage is a rewarding and relatively easy process.

Before we dive into the planting process, it’s important to understand when and how to harvest cabbage. Cabbage is typically ready to harvest 70 to 100 days after planting, depending on the variety. Look for firm heads that have reached their maximum size according to the variety you planted.

You can determine if the cabbage is ready for harvest by gently squeezing the head. If it feels solid and does not give under pressure, it is likely ready. Additionally, the outer leaves of the head should have a vibrant color. When harvesting cabbage, use a sharp knife or gardening shears and cut the head at the base, leaving a few inches of the stem intact.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Planting Cabbage

To ensure a successful cabbage harvest, avoid these common mistakes when planting:

  1. Planting at the wrong time: Cabbage is a cool-season crop and should be planted in early spring or fall. Avoid planting in the heat of summer, as cabbage prefers cooler temperatures for optimal growth.

  2. Overcrowding: Cabbage plants need adequate space to grow and develop. Planting them too closely together can result in stunted growth and reduce air circulation, increasing the risk of disease. Follow the recommended spacing guidelines for the variety you are planting.

  3. Neglecting soil preparation: Cabbage thrives in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter such as compost or aged manure to improve fertility and drainage. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level. Cabbage prefers a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. If the pH is outside this range, adjust it accordingly.

  4. Not providing adequate water: Cabbage plants require consistent moisture for proper growth. Water deeply and evenly, ensuring that the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Use a drip irrigation system or water at the base of the plant to prevent wetting the foliage, which can lead to disease.

  5. Skipping mulching: Mulching helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the cabbage plants, leaving a few inches of space around the stem to prevent rotting.

  6. Forgetting about pests and diseases: Cabbage is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, including cabbage worms, aphids, and clubroot. Implement pest control measures such as using floating row covers or organic insecticides. Monitor your plants regularly for signs of disease and promptly address any issues that arise.

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Cabbage Companion Plants For Improved Growth

Companion planting is a gardening technique where certain plants are grown together to benefit each other. When it comes to cabbage, there are several companion plants that can help improve growth and deter pests. Consider planting the following alongside your cabbage:

  1. Celery: Celery can repel pests such as aphids and cabbage worms while providing shade for cabbage plants.

  2. Onions: Onions help deter cabbage moths, which are a common pest for cabbage. Planting onions near your cabbage can reduce the risk of infestation.

  3. Marigolds: Marigolds have natural insect-repelling properties and can help deter pests that commonly affect cabbage, such as aphids and nematodes.

  4. Dill: Dill attracts beneficial insects such as wasps and ladybugs, which prey on cabbage pests. Planting dill near your cabbage can help control pest populations naturally.

  5. Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums attract aphids away from cabbage, acting as a sacrificial plant. Additionally, their vibrant flowers add beauty to the garden.

When implementing companion planting, be mindful of the spacing requirements of each plant and ensure they are compatible in terms of sunlight and watering needs.

Troubleshooting Common Cabbage Planting Issues

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter some common cabbage planting issues. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you overcome them:

  1. Cabbage worms: If you notice small green worms feeding on your cabbage plants, they are likely cabbage worms. Handpicking them off the leaves is an effective control method. Alternatively, you can apply organic pesticides that specifically target cabbage worms.

  2. Aphids: Aphids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that can quickly infest cabbage plants. You can control aphids by spraying a solution of water and dish soap onto the affected plants. Additionally, beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings prey on aphids and can help control infestations.

  3. Clubroot: Clubroot is a soil-borne disease that causes the roots of cabbage plants to become swollen and stunted. To prevent clubroot, ensure your soil is well-drained and avoid overwatering. Rotate cabbage crops every few years to reduce the risk of disease buildup in the soil.

  4. Yellowing leaves: If the lower leaves of your cabbage plants turn yellow, it may be a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions to replenish the nutrient levels in the soil.

  5. Cabbage splitting: Cabbage heads may split or burst if they receive inconsistent watering or experience sudden fluctuations in temperature. To avoid splitting, provide consistent moisture throughout the growing season and shield the plants from extreme temperature changes.


Planting cabbage can be a rewarding experience that allows you to grow your own nutritious and delicious vegetables. By following the steps outlined in this article, avoiding common mistakes, and implementing companion planting techniques, you can ensure a successful cabbage harvest. Remember to regularly monitor your plants for pests and diseases, and promptly address any issues that arise. With proper care and attention, you’ll soon be enjoying a bounty of fresh, homegrown cabbage.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Cabbage?

Cabbage should be planted in early spring, after the last frost has passed. However, it can also be planted in mid to late summer for a fall harvest.

How Do I Prepare The Soil For Planting Cabbage?

Cabbage thrives in rich, well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.5-6.8. Before planting, amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure to provide essential nutrients for the plants.

How Far Apart Should I Space My Cabbage Plants?

Cabbage plants should be spaced 12-24 inches apart, depending on the size of the variety. This will allow enough room for the heads to fully develop.

Do I Need To Fertilize My Cabbage Plants?

Yes, cabbage plants benefit from regular fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, once a month to keep the plants healthy and promote growth.

How Often Should I Water My Cabbage Plants?

Cabbage plants require consistent moisture but should not be over-watered. Water deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry weather. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this can lead to disease.