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Grow Your Own: Cabbage

This care guide is for anyone who wants to grow their own cabbage at home. Cabbages are members of the brassica family and are a robust and delicious crop with a wide range of uses. There are different varieties of cabbages, which are categorised by their harvesting season, and planting small batches of each type allows for year-round harvests. As with most brassicas, cabbages are susceptible to pests and diseases, and to prevent this, it’s crucial to cover them with netting or fleece and grow them in a different spot each year. This guide includes tips on choosing the right cabbage variety, preparing the ground, and sowing cabbage seeds indoors and outdoors. With these care tips, you’ll soon be enjoying fresh, home-grown cabbage!

Getting Started

Cabbages, members of the brassica family, are a robust and delicious crop with a wide range of uses. They can be grown indoors or outdoors, and typically require four to six months to mature.

Different varieties of cabbages are generally categorised by their harvesting season, with some overlap. Planting small batches of each type allows for year-round harvests. While all types are grown in the same way, they require different sowing and harvesting times.

Spring cabbages form small, dense, pointed heads and can be sown in late summer for overwintering. They can be harvested as loose spring greens when young, or left to mature and form heads from mid-spring to mid-summer.

Summer cabbages come in various shapes and sizes and can be sown from late winter to mid-spring, with harvest in mid-to-late summer. They are bred to withstand the summer heat.

Autumn cabbages often form large heads and require wider spacing. They can be sown in mid-spring and harvested before winter. Some varieties can be stored for use in winter.

Winter cabbages are valuable for fresh harvests when other crops are scarce. They usually form large heads and need plenty of space. They can be sown in late spring and include crinkly Savoy types, smooth drumheads, and attractive red-tinged or purple varieties. Once mature, they can stand in good condition for months until needed or stored in a cool, frost-free place.

As with most brassicas, cabbages are susceptible to pests and diseases. To prevent caterpillars and pigeons from damaging the crop, it’s crucial to cover them with netting or fleece. Additionally, it’s recommended to grow them in a different spot each year to reduce the buildup of problems.

Cabbage harvesting schedule
Cabbage harvesting schedule

Choosing your cabbage

When growing your own cabbage, you have a wide range of options to choose from. There are many different varieties available, each with unique features and flavours, and each one is ready to harvest at different times of the year. Cabbage can come in a range of shapes and sizes, from pointed to rounded, with loose or tight heads, and in various shades of green, blue, purple, and red.

For those with limited space, there are compact varieties available that are perfect for small plots or small households. Winter varieties, on the other hand, tend to be larger and more robust. If you have had issues with clubroot or mildew in the past, it is wise to choose disease-resistant varieties.

To ensure a successful cabbage crop, it is essential to choose the right varieties for your needs. Look for varieties with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which indicates that they have performed well in RHS trials and are a good choice for home gardeners.

Preparing the ground

For successful cabbage growth, it is important to choose a sunny location with firm and fertile soil that drains well. Avoid planting cabbage in the same spot where brassicas or cabbage were grown in the previous two years.

To prepare your growing site, add two buckets of garden compost per square metre from the previous autumn and let it settle over the winter. If your soil is very acidic, apply lime to discourage clubroot disease and raise the pH above 6.

Before planting, remove any weeds and ensure the soil is compact by shuffling across the surface on your heels. Finally, level the soil with a rake, creating a fine, crumbly texture suitable for sowing or planting.

Sowing Cabbage

Growing your own cabbage is a rewarding experience and can be achieved with ease. Cabbages can be grown from seed either indoors or outdoors, and they thrive best when planted in the ground. However, if you lack garden space, they can also be grown in large, deep containers.

Traditionally, cabbages are sown in a separate ‘seedbed’ and then transplanted to their final growing site. This is because they have a slow growth rate and require ample space, which can take up a lot of room during the prime growing season. Alternatively, you can sow the seeds directly into the final growing site and transplant some of the seedlings to new rows later to provide adequate spacing.

It’s crucial to avoid sowing too many seeds at once, which can lead to overcrowding and stunted growth. Instead, sow small batches of seeds throughout spring and summer to spread out your harvests and avoid having an excess of cabbage all at once.

Sowing indoors

To successfully grow your own cabbage, you have the option of sowing cabbage seeds in a greenhouse or on a bright windowsill during the spring and summer months. The appropriate timing will depend on the specific variety, so make sure to check the seed packet instructions. Starting your cabbage indoors can offer advantages such as getting a head start, protecting the seedlings from slugs and snails, and mitigating the impact of clubroot, a fungal disease that may be present in your soil.

When sowing your cabbage seeds, it is recommended to plant them 2cm deep in modular trays. This will reduce root disturbance when you later transplant them outside. Typically, cabbage seeds will take a couple of weeks to germinate. After approximately five weeks, it’s time to move the young cabbage plants outdoors.

Sowing outdoors

To ensure a successful cabbage harvest, timing is crucial. The best time to sow cabbage seeds outdoors depends on the type of cabbage you wish to grow. For summer cabbages, sow seeds from late February to early May, but be sure to protect early sowings with cloches or fleece. For autumn and winter cabbages, sow seeds in April or May, and for spring cabbages, sow seeds in July or August.

Once you have prepared the ground as directed, create a 2cm deep drill and sprinkle the seeds thinly along it. To protect the seedlings from slugs and snails, cover them with insect-proof mesh or fleece. Thin out the seedlings if necessary, leaving a space of 10cm between each one to ensure they have ample room to grow.

If space is limited during the prime spring sowing season, consider using modular trays to sow cabbage seeds outdoors. This will allow you to transplant the seedlings into the ground later, ensuring that you can still reap a bountiful harvest.

Transplanting cabbage

To grow your own cabbage, you can start by raising young cabbages in a seedbed from seeds indoors or purchasing them as plug plants. When they reach about 15cm tall or have five or six true leaves, it’s time to move them to their final growing site. If grown indoors, the plants should be hardened off before transplanting.

Before moving the plants, ensure that you water them well the day before. Also, prepare the growing site as detailed in the section on Preparing the Ground and firm the soil well. Carefully lift the young plants without disturbing their roots and plant them more deeply in their new hole, with their lowest leaves at the surface. Firm them in well and give plenty of water several times before adding soil.

Continue watering the young plants regularly, not letting the soil dry out until they are growing strongly. Protect them from slugs and snails and place a felt cabbage collar around the base of the stem to deter cabbage root flies.

When it comes to spacing, compact varieties of cabbages should be planted about 30cm apart, while larger varieties may need up to 45cm. For spring cabbages, plant them 10cm apart initially and thin them out in late February/March to 30cm, using the thinnings as spring greens.

While cabbages thrive best in the ground, you can also plant them in large, deep containers filled with multi-purpose compost. Choose compact varieties and plant them similarly to planting in the ground, with up to three plants in a 50cm pot. However, growing bags are not suitable for growing cabbages.

Cabbage plant care

Growing your own cabbage is a rewarding experience, and it’s relatively easy to maintain with some basic care. To prevent pests from damaging your crop, it’s essential to cover your cabbages with fine-mesh netting. Make sure to keep the soil consistently moist and fertilise your plants regularly to promote healthy growth. It’s also important to remove any discoloured or withered outer leaves as they can attract pests and diseases. With these simple steps, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh, delicious cabbage.


To ensure the successful growth of your cabbage, it is important to water your seedlings and young plants regularly, making sure that the soil is always moist and never allowed to dry out. As your plants become more established and start growing strongly, you can reduce the frequency of watering and give them a thorough soak every 10 days during dry spells.

When your cabbage heads begin to form, it’s crucial to water them generously. This will help to increase their size and ensure a bountiful harvest. Keep a close eye on the moisture level of the soil and adjust your watering schedule accordingly to meet the needs of your growing plants.


To assist in moisture retention and weed control, it is recommended to apply a generous layer of mulch around cabbage plants. Opt for well-rotted manure or garden compost as they are effective choices.


To ensure robust leafy growth, it is recommended to provide your cabbages with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser after they have been transplanted to their permanent growing position, but prior to the formation of their hearts. For spring cabbages, it is advisable to apply a nitrogen-rich feed in the early stages of spring, as this will stimulate hearting and enhance growth.


To ensure that your cabbage seedlings and young plants thrive, it’s essential to keep them weed-free. Regularly hoeing the soil around them will help prevent weeds from competing for vital resources such as light, water, and nutrients. By doing so, you can give your cabbage the best chance to grow into healthy, robust plants.

Protecting cabbage

To ensure a successful cabbage harvest, it’s important to protect your plants from potential pests and other threats. One of the most common culprits is slugs and snails, which can quickly munch through your crop. To prevent this, consider covering your cabbage plants with insect-proof mesh or fleece. You can support this covering with a structure made of bamboo canes to keep pigeons and cabbage caterpillars away as well.

Another threat to your cabbage plants is the cabbage root fly, which can lay its eggs at the base of your plants and cause significant damage. To deter these pests, you can place felt cabbage collars around the base of the stems. Not only do these collars help prevent cabbage root fly infestations. But they also have the added benefit of suppressing weed growth. In some cases, the collars may also deter slugs and snails. By taking these protective measures, you can enjoy a healthy and bountiful cabbage harvest.

Harvesting cabbage

Growing your own cabbage is a great way to have a fresh supply of this versatile vegetable all year round. Depending on the variety, cabbage can take anywhere from four to six months to reach maturity. You can sow spring, summer, autumn and winter varieties to ensure a continuous harvest.

Harvest your cabbage once it has formed a firm head that is the size you desire. To allow the remaining cabbages to grow larger, it is recommended to initially harvest every other cabbage along the row. Mature cabbages can be left standing for a few weeks, but make sure to check them regularly as they will eventually deteriorate. Winter cabbages can stand for long periods of time in good condition.

To harvest, use a sharp knife to cut through the stem just above ground level. For spring and summer cabbages, scoring a 1cm deep cross in the stump can result in the production of a second, smaller cabbage. Once the crop is finished, dig out the stumps to prevent the spread of brassica diseases.

For best results, it is recommended to eat cabbage fresh. However, you can store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week. Some winter varieties can be stored for several months in a cool, dry and frost-free place.

Problems when growing cabbage

It’s important to take care of your plants to ensure a successful harvest. Although cabbages are generally robust, they can be affected by various pests and diseases. To keep these issues at bay, you can take the following precautions:

  • Shield your plants from cabbage white butterflies and pigeons by covering them with insect-proof mesh or fleece.
  • Prevent cabbage root flies by placing brassica collars around the base of stems.
  • Ensure that you grow cabbages in fresh ground each year. Crop rotation can be a helpful technique to achieve this.
  • Protect your cabbage plants from slugs, snails, and whitefly.
  • Be aware of the soil-borne fungal disease called clubroot, which can affect cabbages. Adding lime to your soil can reduce the chances of infection. As can growing your plants in pots until their roots are well-developed.

By following these guidelines, you can grow healthy and tasty cabbage in your own garden.


In conclusion, growing cabbage at home can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. With the right preparation, choosing the right varieties, and providing adequate care, you can enjoy a healthy harvest of delicious, nutritious, and versatile cabbages. Remember to choose a sunny location with fertile, well-draining soil, and sow small batches of seeds throughout the growing season to avoid overcrowding. Covering the crop with netting or fleece can also help protect against pests and diseases.

Updated on April 20, 2023

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