WHEN TO PLANT

  • Start growing cabbage seeds indoors 4 weeks before last frost
  • For a continual harvest, plant cabbage in your garden every two weeks after the last frost date, planting the last crop in July for storage in the fall
  • Due to the cold Pacific Ocean moderating the warmer temperatures, growing cabbages year around in California is done quite successfully

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WHERE TO PLANT

  • When growing cabbages, you should plant them in full sun and very fertile, well-drained soil

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PREPARING THE SOIL

  • All members of the brassica family (such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, and Brussels sprouts, to name a few) consume large quantities of soil nutrients
  • Add plenty of well-rotted manure and compost to the soil before planting
  • Cabbage plants prefer a liberal, balanced amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus
  • Many problems with cabbage are avoided when the pH level is right around 7.2
  • If your soil pH is low, adding lime will bring it up

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SEEDS AND GERMINATION

  • Cabbage seeds germinate in soil temperatures as low as 50°F, and take approx. 2 weeks to germinate
  • The ideal temperature for germination is 80-85°F; at this temperature cabbage seeds take only 3-4 days to sprout
  • Your cabbage seeds should last up to 5 years after your initial purchase if you store them in a cool, dry location

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GETTING STARTED INDOORS (and transplanting)

  • Cabbage is very susceptible to transplant shock but with care, cabbage seeds can be started indoors for faster germination
  • Start cabbage seeds indoors in flats ¼ “ deep and 2” apart
  • Set flats in a sunny location or under grow lights with a temperature of 65-75°F (some varieties can germinate in lower temperatures)
  • Once the seedlings have emerged, keep the air temperature between 60-65°F
  • Seedlings can be transplanted once the outside temperatures reach a steady 50°F and the seedlings have developed three true leaves
  • Harden off seedlings (set out during the day and bring in at night) for a minimum of one week before planting outside
  • Plants should be watered well when transplanting
  • When transplanting, be careful not to disturb the root ball. Plant a little deeper than the previous indoor depth
  • Choose a day to transplant that is cool and overcast. This will help prevent transplant root shock which can be caused by a changes in temperature and light, or not enough water

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SOWING AND GROWING (Planting seeds directly into the garden)

  • Space cabbages 12 to 18 inches apart; rows should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart to allow for spreading roots
  • Wider spacing provides space for larger heads to develop but young, smaller headed cabbages are more tender and flavorful
  • Space cabbages 12 inches apart and harvest every other one when about the size of a softball for fresh eating, leaving the rest to fully mature for storage
  • Jenny’s Tip: This year we discovered a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer called Organic Garden Miracle™. We sprayed it bi-weekly on our garden plants and were able to taste the sweet results this produced in our plants. OGM naturally stimulates the creation of plant sugar in your plants; plant sugar is what makes your plant robust, bear flowers and fruit, and flavors your fruits and vegetables. Really good warranty too!
  • WEEDING
  • Weeds significantly slow the growth of young cabbage
  • Once the heads begin to form, hand weeding is recommended. Applying a layer of mulch will help keep the weeds under control and help maintain even moisture levels
  • Be extremely cautious of cabbage’s shallow, dense root system which can be easily damaged by using garden tools
  • If a weed is growing too close to the root system, clip it at ground level
  • SPLITTING
  • Cabbage heads are prone to splitting. The reason is fluctuation in soil moisture and overgrown heads
  • To prevent splitting, keep soil moisture levels even and harvest earlier
  • Once a head is formed, plunging the blade of a spade or shovel into the soil on one side of the plant will cut some of the roots, slowing the bolting process (going to seed)

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WATERING

  • Waterlogged soil will decrease the quality of cabbage
  • Keep moisture levels even and soil well-drained throughout the growing season
  • Organic matter is necessary due to its ability to hold or drain excess moisture

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COMPANION PLANTING / ROTATION

  • Cabbage grows well with most aromatic herbs, especially chamomile
  • Clover planted in spaces between cabbage has been effective as a living mulch, preventing pests from accessing bare ground on which to hatch their eggs
  • Celery as been observed to strengthen and promote the growth of cabbage
  • Bad companions: Tomatoes, dill, pole beans, and strawberries
  • Avoid following other cabbage family plants (also known as “brassica” family)

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WHEN TO HARVEST

  • Cabbage heads can be harvested when the head becomes firm
  • For the most tender, flavorful heads, harvest when the size of a softball; what they are lacking in size these small heads will make up in flavor. When harvested at this size, the plant will often produce a second head
  • Allow heads to mature for the highest yields. (See “Spacing” for harvesting tips)
  • Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast. It it rains, it may cause fully-ripened cabbage heads to split. If this happens, you have a limited time to harvest them or they will begin to rot
  • At harvest time, cut as close to the head as possible; this will allow for more small heads to grow. These can grow 2 or more inches and are quite tasty

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STORAGE

  • Bruised heads will have a shortened storage life
  • Sauerkraut is a popular way to preserve cabbage
  • For late varieties, pull whole plant, roots intact, rather than cutting. Remove outer and damaged leaves
  • Place on shelves or in a cellar wrapped in newspaper
  • Red cabbage stores better than green. Early varieties do not store well

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COMMON PESTS AND PROBLEMS

  • There are a few things you can do to keep your cabbage from being attacked by pests:
      1. Overhead watering will help detach insects from the plant
      2. Controlling nitrogen levels keep the aphid numbers down; high levels of nitrogen has been shown to increase aphid population
      3. Using compost or straw mulches will significantly reduce the amount of fly larvae hatched directly into the soil. It also serves as a habitat for ground and rove beetles, predators of the cabbage maggot
      4. Floating row covers used during the critical period after the plant emerges or right after transplanting will prevent larvae hatchings
      5.Clubroot (a fungus that attacks the roots) can be controlled by keeping soil pH at 7.2; if pH levels drop below appropriate levels liming is recommended

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2 Responses to “How To Grow Organic Cabbage”

  1. Kris Says:

    I am in the SW. I have red cabbage (in pots) growing beautifully, but tho the center looks like it’s forming a head, it’s leaves just grow bigger and out into a continuous “flower.” Is that caused by it being too hot to grow now? Will cabbage naturally “hold” a tight head in cool weather?

  2. Jenny Says:

    Unless I am understanding you wrong, what you are seeing is the normal growth of cabbage. Larger leaves grow around the outside and a head forms in the center.

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