Cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables grown in the back yard. When mature it can take up a fair amount of space sometimes growing as wide as 3 feet and as tall as 15 inches. What many gardeners don't realize is that the roots of cabbage can grow as deep as 18 to 36 inches but the majority of the roots will be confined to the upper 12 inches; still a significant tiller of the soil.


Cabbage is one of the vegetables that can handle part shade needing only five hours of sun a day to be happy. Cabbage is also quite hardy and can withstand temperatures below freezing for limited periods of time.



Cabbage can be started with seeds indoors up to eight weeks before the last expected frost. Cabbage seedlings can be planted from four weeks before the last expected frost to 2 to 3 weeks after that last frost.

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The preferred soil temperature for planting cabbage seedlings is at least 50°. Fall cabbage can be started with seed in late June or early July and can be harvested through the first frost. Cabbages should be planted no closer to each other than 12 inches.


Care of cabbage


Month of March – If you want to use seeds instead of seedlings from the garden center, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. 


Month of April - Seedlings should be at least four weeks old and have two to four leaves and a stem half as thick as a pencil.  Plant them about two to three weeks before the expected last frost date for your area.  Mix slow-acting granular fertilizer into the soil when you prepare the planting area. Dig holes in the planting bed about 12 inches apart--further if you want the largest possible Cabbage heads.


While they can handle cool weather, it is best to protect them from a surprise late frost.  Be prepared to cover the tender plants temporarily with white polyspun garden fleece, newspaper cloches, or a cold frame.


Month of May - Cabbage likes to have 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to help keep moisture in the soil.

Optional - consider feeding the plants with liquid fertilizer about three weeks after planting.


Month of June – Cabbage will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Optional - If temperatures reach the 80’s before you harvest all your Cabbage, spread shade cloth over the Cabbage plants to keep them a bit cooler and encourage more growth.


Optional Fall Crop - Plan to start harvesting at least a month before killing frost in your area, so start new seedlings in June or early July.  Using shade cloth over the seedlings in the first 6 to 8 weeks helps produce stronger plants in the fall.  See using shade cloth.


Harvest and storage

Harvest white cabbage when the heads are hard, compact, heavy for their size, and greenish white in color. Harvest red cabbage when the heads are hard, compact, and reddish purple in colo. The harvest for cabbage can last from 4 to 6 weeks depending on the variety.


 Best fresh storage -- refrigerate cabbage heads in plastic bags; they will keep for one to two weeks. Green bags?


Possible Cabbage Problems


Seedlings cut off at base - Cutworm


Little tiny holes in leaves - Flea Beetles


Leaves turn yellow and are cupped downward – Aphids


Small holes in leaves, on edge and in leaf – Caterpillars


Gray patches on lower leaves spread upward - Downy Mildew, A Fungal Disease


Leaves coated with white powder - Powdery Mildew, A Fungal Disease


Reddish tissue on stalks and leaves; yellowing of foliage - Fusarium Wilt, A Fungal Disease


Brown spots, gray centers on leaves and lower stems; stems blacken - Black Leg


Water-soaked area on stem near soil; extends upward;  - Watery Soft Rot


Leaves mottled yellow and green, raised dark areas; plant stunted - Mosaic Virus


Leaves, stems and buds eaten - Armyworms


Holes in leaves - Cabbage Loopers


White butterflies; ragged holes in leaves, bit of green excrement on leaves - Imported Cabbage Worm


Tip of leaves brown, internal larvae trails visible.  - Leaf Miners


Plants stunted, yellow - Nematodes


Young plant wilts, turn yellow die; maggots feeding on roots - Cabbage Maggots


Leaves notched; roots chewed - Root Weevils


Ragged holes in leaves, often in middle - Slugs


Plants disappear all or in part - Deer


Plants disappear all or in part - Rabbits


Plants disappear all or in part - Woodchuck



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