Is cabbage your favorite vegetable? If it isn’t, it might soon be. This garden giant is vibrant-colored, nutrient-rich, tasty, and easy to grow. This hardy vegetable can grow even in the winter too. That’s more than enough to love this vegetable. Want to know more? We will tell you many things about it, including, of course, how to grow cabbage.
What Is Cabbage?
Brassica oleracea var. capitata, better known as cabbage, is a leafy, nutrient-rich vegetable. It is a cool-weather crop and can be grown during spring and fall. This hardy plant likes sun and grows best in fertile soil. As a garden vegetable, cabbage is surely rewarding as it is easy to grow and can be a great addition to various dishes.
Before we get to how to grow cabbage, you should know that there are many varieties of cabbage. Indeed, cabbage comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The varieties also affect the harvest time and taste. Many cabbage varieties are grown as food but there are some that grown for looks only. Here are some cabbage varieties to grow.
Savoy cabbages are those that have crinkled leaves. Because of this unique feature, cabbages of this variety are more pliable. Savoy cabbages are mild-flavored and sweet, and easy to separate. This variety includes Alcosa and January King.
Smooth-leafed cabbages, compared to savoy ones, are more compact. As such, they are perfect for dishes like sauerkraut and cole-slaw. Gonzales, Early Jersey Wakefield, and Red Express are among the best options for this variety.
Do you like stir-fries or salads? If you do, consider growing Chinese or napa cabbage. This variety of cabbage is long, light-colored, has a mild flavor and is very tender. Try Little Jade or Wong Bok if you want this variety.
Although cabbage is, in general, a hardy plant, it is vulnerable to certain diseases. That being said, some cabbage varieties are more resistant to disease than others. If you are looking for a variety that is more disease-resistant, try Cheers or Blue Vantage.
What You Need to Know about Planting Cabbage
When it comes to planting cabbage, there are various ways to do it. You can plant it from seed, buy ready-to-plant transplants, and even plant it from scraps. We will not cover all three. Here we will only tell you how to grow cabbage from seed and transplants. Let’s get to the guide now, starting with the preparation.
Cabbage quickly depletes the soil of nutrients. Since it is a heavy feeder, you need to prepare the soil in advance. Mix in aged compost or organic planting mix with the soil. Be sure that the soil is well-drained. If it isn’t well-drained, it might result in roots standing in water, which in turn result in split or rotten heads.
Here’s what you need to do to prepare the soil
- Cover the planting beds with 2 or 3 inches of aged compost. Alternatively, you can use a commercial planting mix. Turn the mix under to about 12 inches deep
- Check the soil pH. Increase or decrease the soil pH as needed. The ideal pH for cabbage is between 6.5 and 6.8. If there is clubroot disease due to the soil before, increase the pH to 7.0 or higher
- If you want your cabbage crop to be leafy, add cottonseed or blood meal with nitrogen content before planting. You might get lucky and get cabbages with huge leaves.
After the soil is ready, it is time to plant your crop. You can start either from seed or transplant. If you start from seed, plant the seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring. Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep in the soil. Once the seedlings have grown, you can move them outdoors.
Before moving the seedlings outdoors, you need to do two things. The first thing to do is to ensure that the soil is workable. Although cabbages can withstand cold, they need soil that can be worked to grow. The second is to harden them off. The hardening process should take about a week to complete.
The best time to transplant the young plants outdoors is 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost in spring. Plant them in rows, 12 to 24 inches apart from each other. The farther the plants from each other, the bigger the heads will be. You will get the biggest heads if you plant them far from each other.
What if you want a fall harvest? In that case, you can either direct seeding outdoors or plant cabbage transplants in mid- to late summer. If you live in a dry and hot region, wait until late summer. Water your cabbages regularly and evenly. Don’t let them dry out from the summer’s heat.
(Note: You can grow your cabbage in a pot. Just be sure that there is enough room for each of them to grow)
After you plant the cabbages, now let’s move on to how to grow cabbage. Once the young plants have grown around 5 inches tall, you can thin them out so there is enough space between them. Alternatively, you can transplant the thinned plants elsewhere. Remember, the more room in between each plant, the larger the heads will be.
The ideal soil temperature for cabbage is between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to a temperature below 45 degrees Fahrenheit may result in loose heads or bolt. You want to avoid that. You can use thick mulching to help regulate the soil temperature. Thick mulching will also help to retain moisture as well.
This how to grow cabbage guide is incomplete without watering. These garden giants require not just regular but also even watering. If you water them unevenly, their growth might be stunted or form cracked heads. Give your cabbages 1 to ½ inches of water each week. As they reach maturity, reduce the amount of water used to prevent splitting heads.
Next, fertilizing. As cabbage requires lots of nutrients, fertilizing is very important. To ensure the cabbages grow optimally, add a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) two weeks after transplanting. Three weeks after that, add another fertilizer. This time, use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer as the plant requires nitrogen, especially during its early stages.
Knowing how to grow cabbage is important but knowing how to harvest it is also important. The question is, how long for the cabbages to harvest? That depends on the variety. Some cabbage varieties are ready to harvest as early as 50 days. Some other varieties can take over 100 days.
You can know if your cabbages are ready to harvest once the heads are firm and reach the desired size. To harvest, prepare a sharp knife. Use the knife to cut the base of the cabbage head. Retain the loose green leaves, remove any yellow ones. Place them in shade or bring indoors immediately.
Want more heads to harvest? Simply cut the cabbage head and leave the outer leaves and root intact. The plant will then produce new heads. Pinch these heads off. Let 4 or so remain. Unlike the first head, which can grow to 1 to 3 lbs, the next heads can only grow as big as a tennis ball.
After you are done harvesting your crop, remove the stem and root system from the soil entirely. Leftover parts might result in disease. So, you must do the removal thoroughly to prevent disease. You want to compost only healthy plants. Also, destroy any plants that have maggot infestation in them.
If you want your cabbages to last, you need to store them properly. First, dry the cabbages. After they dry, wrap each of them tightly in plastic. Then, store in a refrigerator. This should keep the cabbages fresh for up to two weeks. You can also preserve cabbages by drying, freezing, and curing them in brine as sauerkraut.
Getting the Most Out of the Crop
Now that you know how to grow cabbage, you can start growing your own at home. Below are some of the tips that will help you to get the most out of your crop.
- If you are fall harvesting, be sure to remove the entire plant. Yes, from stem, head to roots. Store the roots through the winter and enjoy the heads.
- Once the soil can be worked again in spring, you can plant the roots right away outdoors.
- Fresh sprouts should form soon after the planting. Use them as you will, be it as a dish or added to salads, soups or any dish you want to.
- Keep in mind that these replanted cabbages will not grow full heads. However, they can still go to seed, which should happen around the end of summer. In other words, you will have cabbage seeds for next year.
There is no reason not to love this wonderful vegetable. Are you ready to plant your own cabbages at home? Our how to grow cabbage above should help you grow some for yourself. Take care of cabbages properly and you will be rewarded with great yields. Good luck and happy gardening!