As a cool-season vegetable, cabbage is best grown in Spring and Fall. This year, however, Fall has lingered right into Spring, and we’ve found people planting cabbage late in both the North and the South. Wherever you are, though, this cold crop will thrive on rich soil, plenty of even watering, and good fertilizer. If a long harvest is what you are looking for, plant two or three varieties of cabbage with different maturity rates and you will harvest it for several weeks.
Most nurseries and local gardening centers have cabbage seedlings ready for transplant, but it is just as easy to grow this plant from seed. If you live in the South, sow seeds indoors in mid-January to February. In the North, plan to plant your seeds indoors in March. Find a sunny spot or place planted seeds under lights in temperatures between 60º and 70º. When seedlings have three leaves, you can plant them outdoors.
Place seedlings in the ground slightly deeper than they were in their containers. This gives them a good sturdy base to grow. Space plants 6 to 12 inches apart and rows 1 to 2 feet apart. Allowing enough room for growth will produce the largest head of cabbage possible.
A late crop can be planted in mid-summer by sowing seeds directly in the garden. Because this plant prefers cooler temperatures, plant seeds in a spot that receives lots of morning and early afternoon sun but is partially shaded in the late afternoon when the sun is hottest. Planting next to a tall crop like corn or pole beans can provide just the right amount of shade in the afternoon.
Keep your growing cabbage plants evenly moist. A good layer of mulch can help keep plants moist and free of weeds. Avoid wetting the foliage when watering during cool spring months or high humidity weather. Constantly wet leaves can lead to disease.
Harvesting cabbage heads
When heads are firm, use a sharp knife to remove them from the stalk. Leave the stalks and roots to produce small heads that can be eaten like Brussels sprouts later on. If left to grow, you will have a second crop of smaller heads. Cabbage has many uses in cooking. Try this recipe for Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Raisins from SeriousEats.com for a delicious savory-sweet way to prepare your fresh cabbage.
- 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 medium head purple cabbage, chopped, about 12 cups
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1 gala apple, cut into matchsticks
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add cabbage, raisins, caraway seeds, and apple cider and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When reduced, add apples and cook, covered, until cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally for three minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This recipe yields 8 servings.
More planting tips in this video.