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HOW TO GROW
CABBAGE


My grandmother cooked marvelous Sunday lunches for our family but to be honest, as a young boy, I found that the cabbage she cooked tasted awful. It put me off cabbages for life!

That's why this article was only written in 2020, I have eventually overcome my fear of over-cooked cabbage. Coleslaw of course requires no cooking so I should really have started growing them many years ago.

Summer, winter and spring cabbage are all treated in a very similar manner, with the sowing and harvest times being the main differences.

Temperature is a factor in growing cabbage and to accurately give you seed sowing and planting out times we suggest you use our date-adjustment feature which can be found here. It asks you to select your home town and based on that it adjusts all the dates (sowing, planting, care, harvest etc) in this site to be as accurate as possible for your area of the UK.

TYPES OF CABBAGE


There are a a huge number of cabbage varieties. This article covers two types - summer and spring cabbage. These two types are named after their expected harvest dates.

In addition, there are the traditional white cabbages and red cabbages, both are grown in exactly the same manner.

CULTIVATION TIMES FOR CABBAGE


Cabbage are hardy and versatile plants as far as cultivation dates are concerned. The dates given below for sowing seed and planting out are recommendations only. A few weeks either side is not crucial, the plants will easily catch up if sown later and will also withstand cold very well if sown earlier.

CALENDAR FOR GROWING CABBAGE AVERAGE UK AREA

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Not only will the calendar below be correct for your area but all dates in this site will also be adjusted. Your setting will last for six months or more and still be set when you revisit this site. If you prefer not to adjust the dates they will be the average for the UK.

SUMMER CABBAGE
Sow seeds indoors / under cover - April week 1

Sow seed outdoors - April week 3

Harden off indoor sown - April week 4

Plant outside - May week 1

Begin to harvest - September week 1

SPRING CABBAGE

Sow seed in pots / temporary beds - July week 4

Plant in final position - September week 2

Begin to harvest - May week 3

WHERE TO GROW CABBAGE


Both summer and spring cabbage grow best in the following conditions:
  • Do not grow them in soil which has grown cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach or other members of the brassica family of vegetable in the past two years. See our page on crop rotation for full details.
     
  • The soil needs to be firm not loose.
     
  • The soil acidity / alkalinity needs to be correct for cabbage. It needs to be neutral (a ph level of 6.5 to 7) for best results - read here for more detailed information on testing your soil and correcting it if necessary.

Cabbages need a nutrient rich soil, more so than almost all other vegetables. Ideal additions to the soil a week or two before planting outside include well-rotted organic matter or blood, fish and bone. Don't bother adding nitrogen rich fertilisers before planting, their effect is short-lasting and they are best added later on.

All cabbages are best suited to a full sun position.


WHEN AND HOW TO SOW CABBAGE SEED


You can sow all cabbages outside in their final position. Many gardeners however, sow them in pots / modules under cover and then transplant them to their final position when they are large enough. Sowing in pots allows you to protect the seedlings from birds, slugs,snails and other pests

Most packets of cabbage seeds contain far too many seeds for the average gardener. The excess seeds will keep for four or five years if stored in cool, dark and dry conditions.

SOWING CABBAGE SEED IN POTS


Fill your pots or seed modules with compost and make two 1.5cm deep holes in each pot / module compartment. Don't firm down the compost.

Place one seed in each hole and cover with compost. Water them well but don't drown them. The pots / modules can be placed in an unheated greenhouse or indoors in a cool room.

The seeds do not need light to germinate but as soon as the seedlings appear (within a week or so) they should be open to light. The original compost will provide sufficient nutrients until the cabbages are planted out. Keep the compost slightly moist but not waterlogged.

SUMMER CABBAGE
Around April week 4 when the seedlings are about 7cm high harden them off outdoors in a protected position for a week or so until they are about 10cm high. At this point they will be ready for transplanting to their final position.

SPRING CABBAGE
Plant spring cabbages in their final position around September week 2 when the seedlings are about 10cm high as described in the section below.

PLANTING OUT CABBAGES


Before you plant out any cabbages make sure the soil is firm, cabbages do not like to be planted in loose soil. To firm the soil walk over the surface several times to compact it.

The next key point to note when planting cabbages is that you want to prevent, as far as possible, cabbage root flies from getting at the roots. If they do get to the roots, they will damage them and the plants will die.

Make a hole in the soil slightly deeper than the plant rootball and place the plant in it. Firm down the soil around the rootball, slightly firmer than you might normally do. This is to ensure that there are no gaps at the base of the stem for the cabbage root flies to enter the soil. Aim to have the soil at the same level as the first set of leaves.

A very good second precaution against cabbage root flies is to place a cabbage collar around the base of the plant on the soil surface.

You can buy cabbage collars online or from almost all garden centre. An alternative is to make your own as shown in the link here.

Cabbage collar
Cabbage collar

Plant the seedlings about 45cm (18in) apart and if planting more than one row, the rows should also be 45cm (18in) apart.

SOWING CABBAGE SEEDS OUTSIDE


All cabbages can be sown outside where you want them to grow permanently. Sow summer cabbage seeds outside in April week 3. Sow spring cabbage seeds outside in July week 4. Follow the instructions in the previous section concerning firming the soil and using cabbage collars.



FEEDING AND WATERING CABBAGES


Being leafy vegetables cabbages need more nitrogen compared to many other crops. For summer cabbages feed with Growmore (or similar nitrogen feed) at the rate of a handful per square metre every four weeks. Also add a handful of fish, blood and bone per square metre every eight weeks. Spring cabbages are fed in the same manner but will not reuire feeding during the colder time of January and February.

Keep all cabbages well watered, but not water logged, during dry periods. Keep the beds weeded to stop weeds taking up nutrients and water.

CABBAGE PESTS AND DISEASES


CABBAGE WHITE BUTTERFLY


SYMPTOMS: Holes in leaves, generally poor plant health, the presence of caterpillars similar to those shown below or pale green coloured. The caterpillars will be most commonly seen in May and then June to August.

Catterpillars on cauliflowers

TREATMENT: For complete details on how to treat the Cabbage White Butterfly click here.


CLUB ROOT


SYMPTOMS: The first signs you will have are plants that look wilted in warm weather, the leaves may have a bluish tinge to them. Typical of this disease is that the plant recover over night and may look OK in the morning only to wilt later on. The roots will be enlarged and distorted.

TREATMENT: For complete details on how to treat Club Root click here.

CABBAGE WHITEFLY


SYMPTOMS: The defining symptom of Cabbage Whitefly is the white cloud that arises when the leaves are disturbed. If you look at the underside of the leaves closely small white larvae will be present.

The larvae also exude a sticky substance which attracts infections turning it to a sooty black coating. This stage is serious because it will weaken the plant significantly and attract other diseases.

TREATMENT: Natural sprays containing Pyrethrum cab be effective but several applications will be necessary. For more severe case something like Bayer Provado Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer can be used but follow the instructions carefully.

As for non-chemical treatments, none have been proven to work. One I have heard of which will clearly work is to purchase a hand held car vacuum. Use the vacuum over the plant, paying special attention to the undersides. This definitely sucks up many of these pests but is not a total solution.

Garlic spray is one suggested solution as is attracting the natural enemy of whitefly, ladybirds and lacewings. Picking off or squashing individual whitefly is a pointless task, there are just so many surfaces for the bugs to hide in.

HARVESTING CABBAGES


Summer cabbages should be ready for harvest beginning from September week 1. Spring cabbages should be ready for harvest beginning from May week 3.

To harvest cabbage simply cut the stalk with a knife - you may need a knife with a serrated edge to do this easily. With spring cabbages, many gardeners cut the stalks so that a few leaf pairs remain. Cut a 1cm cross in the top of the remaining stalk. In all likelihood four or so mini cabbages will very quickly sprout.

With both spring and summer cabbages, when all harvest has finished, dig up the roots and place on the compost heap.


 

END OF ARTICLE