How To Grow Cabbage And Start Your Vegetable Garden

Cabbage is easy to grow, full of nutrition and can be harvested during the year. There are several different types of cabbage in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes. Whether raw in coleslaw or cooked in a stir-fry, cabbage is a delicious option that belongs to the brassica family of plants like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, radish and kale

Cabbages in basket

Cabbage, scientifically known as Brassica oleracea, is an excellent source of nutrition as it is packed with vitamins K, C, B6 and the nutrient potassium. But, did you know one cup (90 grams) of uncooked cabbage contains half the amount of vitamin C you are recommended to consume every day? Cool, right? Let’s see how you can grow your own!

How to plant cabbage

To plant your vegetable, you can either use kitchen scraps from the cabbage head or cabbage seeds. The only requirements for growing cabbage after transplanting are sufficient sunlight, rich soil and water. 

To grow cabbage plants from kitchen scraps:

Begin by selecting several heads with the stem still intact at the bottom. This is the part of the vegetable used to grow roots and propagate a new plant. When planting them in soil, it is recommended to grow several at the same time for tender leaves.

  1. Cut the outer leaves of your cabbage, removing any dead or wilted leaves. 
  2. Next, remove the stem and a little bit of the vegetable from the head using a knife. Leaving “flesh” on the stem helps accelerate regrowth.
  3. Find a container that can keep the head suspended at its rim, with only the stem submerged in water.
  4. Fill the container with enough water to reach the base of the stem. Submerge the stem of your plant in this. 

Leave the container sit in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. Change the water every alternate day, and within a few days, new roots will begin to sprout from the stem. Keep replacing the water until the roots start to group further; otherwise, the shoot could rot.

Your cabbage is now ready to be planted in soil to grow and harvest fresh cabbage. 

How to start cabbage seeds?

Cabbage seedlings are available at most garden centres. However, it is easy to start them from seeds yourself. Read the seed packet before beginning for information about the maturity date.

Sow your seeds at any time of the year, depending on what type they are. However, during colder months, start your spring seeds indoors at least two months before the last frost.

If it is mid to late summer, your summer seeds can be started outdoors for fall harvest. Younger plants are prone to drying during summer, so ensure there is cool weather when planting. First, prepare your planting soil by adding compost, plant food or organic matter like manure to make it rich.

Seeding cabbage

If you are starting indoors, sow seeds in small pots. Plant up to four seeds per pot, and using a sharp knife, thin the outer leaves as they grow till you are left with the strongest plant. When each plant has at least six true leaves, you can transplant them to your garden bed. 

To begin germination in a seed bed outdoors, sow seeds 13mm apart and deep in full sun. The seeds germinate within seven to ten days and require twenty additional days to reach maturity. Approximately six weeks after being sowed, your seedlings can be transplanted to their permanent growth spot.

When planting outdoors directly or moving one there, be careful to set enough spacing between each plant, at least 45cm apart with each row 60cm apart

Transplanting your cabbage

Cabbage seedlings are delicate, and if you started them indoors, they need to be climatised gradually. Set your seed trays outdoors for a few hours at a time, slowly increasing the duration each day to begin the hardening off process.

Next, choose a spot where there is a lot of sun, with no harsh sunlight or strong winds to transplant to. Prepare the area by digging up a hole in the soil large enough to fit the plant roots, with ample space around it. 

Gently place your plant roots in the hole, leaving the leaves and stem exposed. Next, cover them with soil to hold the plant upright. After finishing the relocattion, apply a layer of mulch to retain moisture and protect the plant from pulling weeds. 

The best time to transplant outdoors is before the threat of the last frost as cabbage thrives in the cool season. 

Cabbage care

To ensure your plant keeps growing and remains healthy, you have to take care of it. Once planted, cabbage needs full sun for at least six hours a day

Only water your plant when the soil begins to feel dry and only around the base. If you overwater your plant, it can result in a rotting root, especially in raised beds and containers. 

All plants require fertilisers to replace the nutrients in the soil used to grow. Organic matter targeted for vegetable growth helps maintain the quality of your soil. Remove any weeds growing around the cabbage plant regularly, as this further depletes water and soil minerals.

Cabbage plant watering

Even though cabbages thrive in cold weather, freezing temperatures can be harmful. Cover your cabbage with a bucket or frost-resistant cloth during this period. Remove the covering when it is daytime and temperatures rise. 

Cabbage leaves attract insects like cabbage worms and white butterflies. These bugs eat through the leaves of the plant. Using a protective net or gentle insecticide specially made for cabbage infestations can prevent damage. 

Cabbage varieties to choose from

Cabbage comes in several variations, each a different colour and shape. Furthermore, each plant comes with its maturation rate and growing season

Smooth-leafed cabbage-like Earliana cabbage takes only two months to harvest. However, they are compact and only weigh around 2lbs each, making them ideal for salads, sauerkraut and coleslaw. They also come in a bright-red cabbage variety. 

The January-King cabbage is another coloured variety with purple and cool turquoise stains across its leaves. 

Savoy cabbage has unique, crinkled leaves and is sweeter in taste. They can withstand frost and even snow. On the other hand, Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is mildly flavoured with longer leaves. It is used to make kimchi. 

Bok Choy is also a type of cabbage. However, the leaves are more tender and darker in colour in comparison to their counterparts. 

You can grow almost all varieties, depending on your location. In addition, you can also store the vegetable after harvesting in a refrigerator for a few more weeks to prolong its life.

Harvesting cabbage

When your plant has matured, it’s time to harvest your vegetable. Maturation is reached when the head of your cabbage is solid all the way through, even when squeezed. The size of your vegetable does not matter. 

If your cabbage head feels flimsy, let it mature further before harvesting. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the lowest point of your cabbage stalk, leaving a small part of it and the outer parts intact. These leaves grow into new young plant sprouts when the cabbage is removed.

On the other hand, you can remove the plant down to its roots altogether to harvest it. However, this will prevent new harvests from growing on their own. 

Suppose you are expecting rainfall, harvest cabbage before to prevent splitting. This is a common occurrence when plants are overwatered and make the vegetable inedible. 

Woman harvesting cabbage

Common pests and diseases

Cole crops, including cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, are prone to disease and pests, primarily when grown in an area unsuitable for their growth. 

Clubroot is a common occurrence in the brassica family. It appears as yellowing and sudden wilting on the roots, along with stunting at times. Contamination through insects, animals, and water causes clubroot. Maintaining a soil pH at neutral (7.0) or more (alkaline) reduces the risk of infestation.

However, clubroot is a severe issue as spores can contaminate soil for up to 20 years after harvesting. Crop rotation and removing weeds regularly reduce the number of spores left behind in the ground after each harvest season. 

Black rot and grey spots on cabbage leaves require immediate attention. Remove infected plants entirely as the seed would also be infected. 

Cabbage maggots, cutworms and flea beetles are attracted to organic fertilising matter like manure. Therefore, avoid using animal manure during warmer months. Also, if you use row covers, do not plant similar vegetables from this family two years in a row in the same area. 

Cabbage loopers lay eggs and larvae on the underside of lower leaves, infesting cabbage rapidly. Handpick the insects and drop them into soapy water to kill them. 

Row covers and regular use of pesticides can prevent cabbage pests and disease infestations. Fit your cover over the plants to keep unwanted bugs away. 


If you are a beginner in gardening, cabbage can be a challenging start point. However, if you set the right conditions required for your cabbage plant to grow and look after it, you can rest assured that you’ll have brilliant results.

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