How to grow cabbage
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that performs best in the spring or fall, when temperatures and moisture are even.
The key to growing cabbage, like all cruciferous vegetables, is to provide conditions for steady, continuous growth.
A rich organic soil and regular, steady water encourage the uninterrupted growth that makes fall vegetables thrive.
Garden Preparation for Growing Cabbage
Cabbage grows best in soil with a lot of organic matter, so mix in a 2-3” (5-8cm) layer of good garden compost or composted manure when you prepare the bed.
Growing cabbage pulls a lot of nitrogen from the soil, so build organic fertilizers into the soil when you plant.
– If you’re growing cabbage in the cooler months of spring or fall, choose composted manure oranimal-based soil amendments.
– If you’re growing cabbage in the warmer months of the summer, you can useplant-based organic soil amendments, like alfalfa meal or soy meal.
– If you’re growing cabbage in a deep-dug or raised garden bed (soil prepared to a depth of 20-24”–50-60cm), plant early-season and mini cabbages on 14” (35cm) centers, mid-season varieties on 16” (40cm) centers, and late-season varieties on 20” (50cm) centers.
Cabbage plant care
Moderation is the key to growing cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. The gardener’s job is to even out extremes.
When it gets hot, you can’t do much about ambient temperature, but you can water, and you can add a thick layer of mulch to keep the root zone cool, and hold moisture in the soil.
Like fall vegetables in general and cruciferous vegetables in particular, cabbage needs regular water—1-1 ½” (2-4cm) per week—to sustain the steady growth that cool-season vegetables need.
Cabbage is a heavy feeder, and even if you build organic fertilizers into the soil when you plant, a shot of fish emulsion, compost extract, or compost tea as the leaves are sizing up can increase yields.
If you’re growing cabbage organically, at some point you’ll see 1” (2.5cm) white butterflies fluttering around your cabbage plants. They’ll have a black spot or two on their wings, and some have grey tips.
If you see a lot of them, be prepared to see holes in your cabbage leaves, lots of fuzzy green worms, and little piles of green poop.
Cabbage companion plants
Alliums (onion family plants), Umbellifers (carrots, dill, fennel), and herbs (cilantro, oregano, hyssop) are all good companion plants when growing cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. Alliums and herbs release aromatic compounds that mask the scent of cabbages, making it harder for pests to find them.
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