Growing Cabbage:
How to Grow Cabbage Organically

Growing cabbage is an easy plant for beginners that belongs in all vegetable gardens. It also stores better than most veggies, ensuring that it’ll be there for you well into the winter.

Cabbage plants need plenty of sun and a rich, moist soil that drains well in order to reach their peak of goodness.

Growing Cabbage: Plant Snapshot (Brassica oleracea)

Growing Cabbage
  • Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual - Ready to harvest 60 to 70 days after planting
  • Recommended varieties: Gonzales, Super Red 80, Blue Lagoon F1, Cheers
  • Cold tolerance: Hardy - Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Brassica: cauliflower, turnip
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Basil, Bush Beans, Beets, Carrot, Celery, Chamomile, Chard, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Hyssop, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion family, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Thyme, Tomato, Wormwood
    • Avoid: Bush and Pole Beans, Grapes, Rue, Strawberry
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Growing Cabbage: Planting the Seed

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Cabbage seeds should be started indoors in a seed flat about eight weeks before you want to plant them in your garden. Plant the seeds about one quarter inch deep in rich, well drained soil. Firm the soil and place the seeds on top, then thinly cover with more soil. Cabbage seeds that are planted too deeply will not grow.

Keep the temperature of the soil at 72 degrees minimum (22.2 C) for four to five days until seedlings peek out, and then drop the soil temperature back down to 55-60 F (12.8-16 C) to keep the seedlings from becoming thin and leggy.

Cabbage may also be purchased as young plants from nursery and garden centers. These should be planted about 12 inches apart in rows spaced anywhere from 24 to 36 inches apart. Spacing depends on the type of cabbage planted, as some need more room than others.

Snapshot: Planting Cabbage

  • Planting depth: about ¼ to ½ inches (0.635 to 1.27 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 24 to 36 inches (60.96 to 91.44 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 72 to 79 degrees F (22.2 to 26.1 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 7 to 12 days
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Growing Cabbage: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Wait to transplant the plant at least until the point that it has three or four leaves. Once your cabbage plants have gone into the ground, use an organic garden fertilizer for vegetables.

Add an organic nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are about half grown.

Young cabbage plants need ample water, especially when growing in warm weather, and they do best with at least 6 hours of full sun.

Snapshot: Growing Cabbage

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 45 to 95 degrees F (7.2 to 35 degrees C)
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Growing Cabbage: Harvesting Time

You can harvest your cabbage at any time after the heads of the plant have formed, although many claim that smaller softball-sized heads are tastier. Cut the heads from the plants when they are firm, but before they have become so solid and large that they have started to crack or split.

Harvest any split or cracked heads as soon as possible before they become unusable. The stump of plant left in the ground will produce a second crop of smaller but leafy heads.

Snapshot: Harvesting Cabbage

  • Time to harvest: About 32-40 weeks
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Storing Cabbage and Freezing Cabbage

To store cabbage heads after they are harvested, first remove the loose outer leaves until you are left with a smooth ball. Cabbage may be stored for up to two months in the refrigerator, a cold cellar, or even in an outdoor pit for up to two months. Place heads of cabbage in plastic bags.

Frozen cabbage is suitable only as a cooked vegetable. You may cut the cabbage into shreds or wedges, or simply separate the leaves from the head to freeze whole. Water blanch cabbage for one to two minutes, depending on the size of the head, then cool, package and freeze.

Leftover cabbage seeds will last up to four years.

Snapshot: Storing Cabbage & Freezing Cabbage

  • Storage temperature: 32 degrees F (0 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 90 to 92% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 2 months
  • Storage life (frozen): 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 4 years
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Growing Cabbage: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Cabbage. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Beet armyworm
  • Cabbage aphid
  • Cabbage maggot
  • Crickets
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Diamondback moth
  • Earwigs
  • Flea Beetles
  • Garden symphylans
  • Harlequin bug
  • Imported cabbageworm
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Snails/Slugs
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bacterial leafspot
  • Bacterial soft rot
  • Clubroot
  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Fusarium yellows
  • Phytophtora root rot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Ringspot (Black blight)
  • Verticillium wilt
  • White mold
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