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Cabbage - Brassica oleracea



Zones 3 and warmer. A cool-weather crop, use soil-cooling mulch in hotter climates

Grow as a winter vegetable in mild-winter areas

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Full sun, can tolerate some partial shade

Rich, well-drained, sandy loam; pH 6.0 to 6.8

Need steady, even moisture

Set plants 15 to 25 inches (38 to 63 cm) apart; 2 to 3 feet (.61 to 1 m) between rows

If sowing seed, thin seedlings to same spacing


Harvest cabbage when the head is full and firm, cut the stalk at the base of the head with a sharp knife

Comments: There are four basic types of heading cabbage: smooth-leaved green, smooth-leaved red, crinkled-leaved green, and crinkle-leaved red (also known as savoys). Out of these, you can choose early cultivars for a late-spring crop, or mid-season and storage cultivars for late-summer to fall harvesting.

Planting Site: Cabbage does best in full sun, but being a cool-weather crop, it can tolerate some shade during the day. It will grow in any well-drained moderately fertile soil, but for best production, it needs soil that is rich and fertile, with plenty of compost worked in. Avoid planting in areas where cabbage or other cabbage-family plants (Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli) have grown in the previous three years.

Planting & Growing Guidelines: Brassicas thrive in cool weather, so grow as an early spring or fall crop in most areas, or as a winter crop where temperatures rarely fall below freezing. Avoid plantings that will mature in hot, dry weather. For early cultivars, start plants indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. Set out transplants into the garden about four weeks before the last expected frost so they'll mature before the hot weather arrives. Or direct sow around the time of the last expected frost. For mid-season and storage cultivars, you can sow directly in the garden about two weeks before the last expected frost until two to three weeks after.

Most gardeners prefer to use transplants to get a jump on the season, so look for sturdy, compact plants that show no signs of disease or insects like flea beetle or cabbageworms. The leaves should not be yellow or brown, and the stems should be firm and unscarred. When setting out transplants do so about four weeks before the last expected frost and when soil temperatures are 40° F (4.4 C) or higher. Row covers can help protect plants from cold temperatures.

Cabbages need a steady supply of moisture. To help keep the soil moist and cool, apply mulch 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) deep around the plants. For fall crops, start plants or direct sow seed from mid-May (in cooler areas) to mid-June (in warmer areas). In the very warm climates, start cabbages in October for a late-winter or early-spring crop.

  • Helpful Articles: Use Soil Temperature For Remarkable Vegetable Planting Results

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    Fertilizer: Lightly broadcast some 10-10-10 over the area, till in, and then plant transplants or sow seeds. When the plants start to head, side-dress with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) per plant of 5-10-10, or one large handful of good compost which generally equals the same. Sprinkle around the base of the plant, but not up against the stem, and water in.

    Pest and Disease Prevention: If your cabbages have had problems in the past, look for disease-resistant cultivars. At planting time, protect transplants with cutworm collars. Use row covers to control cabbageworm. Aphids are a sign of heat or water stress; hose them off with a strong spray of water or spray plants with insecticidal soap. To avoid soilborne diseases, don't plant cabbage-family plants (Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli) in the same area more than once every three years.

  • Helpful Articles: Cutworm

                                Imported Cabbageworm

                                Proper Use Of Insecticidal Soap

                                Heavyweight Row Covers

    Common Problems: To avoid head splitting, use a shovel to sever roots on one side of the plant when the head is fully formed. This will slow maturity and help the cabbage "hold" without splitting.

    Days to Maturity: 60 to 120 days. Young cabbage plants will withstand light frost, and mature ones, moderately severe frost.

    Harvest and Storage: Cabbage is ready to harvest when the head is full and firm. Cut the stalk at the base of the head with a sharp knife. It's best to harvest them in the morning when the heads are cool. Early cabbages don't store well, so harvest them as needed for fresh eating. Storage-type cabbages will keep for two to three months in a cool, humid, root cellar with temperatures just above 32° F (0° C) and 90 percent humidity. Cut off all rotted or damaged outer leaves and space heads so that their leaves don't touch each other.

    Special Tips: Cut early and mid-season cabbage high on the plant, leaving as many loose lower leaves as possible. As many as six small cabbages will form on the stem and provide a second harvest.

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