How to Grow Cabbage

how to grow cabbage

Cabbage has long since lost its old fashioned image and today is recognised as a healthy, versatile and delicious must have in the Kitchen Garden. There are many varieties to choose from - crisp summer types, crinkly textured Savoys, Red Cabbage and some outstanding heritage types which, when well grown and imaginatively cooked, really elevate the humble cottage garden standby into a league of its own.

When To Sow

Sow Summer and Autumn hearting cabbage (including red cabbage) in March or April and winter hearting cabbages from mid April to late May.

Sow Spring Cabbage from mid July to early August.

Earliest varieties should be started undercover and the rest in an outdoor seedbed - thin out seedlings to transplant later.

When To Plant 

Summer and Autumn cabbages (including Red Cabbage) should be planted out in May and June  while Winter Cabbages and Savoys can wait till July.

Spring Cabbages should be planted out in late September and early October to grow on over Winter.

Compact varieties should be spaced 30cm apart in each direction and for larger growing kinds you should allow a 45cm gap.

Care Tips

Plant in firm ground and water in well - keep watered in dry spells so that plants can grow continuously without stress and apply a general purpose or high nitrogen feed during the summer to top up nutrients and encourage leafy growth.

Keep well on top of weeding but take care if using a hoe as cabbages are shallow rooted - A Speedhoe Precision will give you great accuracy and make the job easier.

Compact cabbage varieties have been developed to allow you to produce baby veg or grow in close spacings in small intensive or raised beds you can find compact Red Cabbages and Savoys as well as conventional cabbages suitable for these uses - keep an eye on the seed catalogues to see what's newly available.

Cabbage Harvest

It's easy to see when cabbages are ready for picking as the centre tightens up and forms a solid heart which may be rounded or conical, depending on the variety. Use a strong knife or secateurs to cut through the stem just below the heart and remove damaged outer leaves - leave the rest on during storing to protect the more delicate interior.

As a rough guide expect your crop will be ready as follows:

  • Spring Cabbages - April/May  
  • Summer varieties - August/September
  • Autumn varieties - September/ October
  • Red cabbage - August/ October
  • Savoys and Winter Cabbage – November/February

Possible Problems

Brasssica & Their Caterpillars

Cabbage Whites (large white and small white butterflies) can't resist any kind of brassica and their caterpillars eat the leaves and deposit excrement in the cabbage hearts making them unfit to eat.

Brassicas will really benefit from being grown in a Crop or Fruit Cage to make them easy to care for and protect. Cover growing crops securely with fine insect proof mesh throughout the growing season (not fleece which overheats in the summer) and remove caterpillars regularly by hand or using organic pesticide.

Small Slugs

Small slugs can work their way into the heart of developing cabbages and perforate them - use organic slug remedies before planting to reduce the population in your veg patch and take regular precautions during the growing season to help prevent this damage.

Use bird netting over the plants to deter pigeons in the winter or leave insect mesh in place all year round - if you don't have space for a cage then netting placed over Elegance Hooped Cloche is an extremely flexible solution.

Cabbage Root Fly

Cabbage Root Fly lays its eggs at the base of the stem and the lavae eat the roots causing the plant to wilt and eventually die - small collars are available which can be slotted around the base of each cabbage stem to prevent egg laying and crop protection mesh held over the plants on a crop cage also helps.