How to Grow and Harvest Cabbage
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How to Grow and Harvest Cabbage

With the many varieties available cabbage is a must for the winter garden.  This easy guide shows how to grow and harvest cabbage in your home garden.  It can then be turned into coleslaw, kimchi, Sauerkraut or use the leaves as a wrapping to encase your favourite fillings then steam.

Cabbage Varieties

It is a good idea to have a few different varieties to choose from to give your family variety in their meals.  The following are the three most common varieties:

Green and Savoy cabbage is the most common variety.  It is used for coleslaw, sauerkraut, boiling and steaming.

Red cabbage is pleasing to the eye and makes a colourful coleslaw.  It contains 30% more antioxidants than green cabbage.

Red cabbages are higher in antioxidants.
Red cabbages are higher in antioxidants.

Wombok, Nappa or Chinese cabbage is slightly sweeter than other varieties and is used in stir-fry’s, salads or steamed.

When to Grow Cabbage

It depends on your climate.  Cabbage can be grown during the summer in cooler climates whereas it should be grown during the winter in warmer temperate regions.  Cabbages don’t like hot weather.

Can You Grow Cabbage from Seed?

Yes, it is best to germinate seeds in seed raising mix in punnets.  Sow to a depth of ¼ inch (5mm) then thin out to an inch apart.  Place in a warm area of your house in direct sunlight. 
Plant out to final position when they have at least four leaves.  Place the punnet outside for a few days before planting to acclimatise the plants and reduce shock.

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Planting Out Cabbages

Tools and Materials Needed

Shovel (Paid link)

Compost or Aged Manure

Cabbage Seedlings

Lime (Optional)


First choose a position that receives at least half a day of sunlight.  Cabbages will need to be spaced 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75cm) apart.

Dig in compost or aged manure to a depth of approximately 10 inches (25cm) then add half a handful of lime to each hole if your soils are acidic.  Mix in well.

Plant out each seedling up to the first leaf then water in well.  Mulch with pea straw, sugar cane or bamboo.  Keep moist for the first two weeks to help the seedlings settle in.

Caring for Cabbage Plants

Apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks for the best results.  Make sure the plant receives regular watering especially in dry conditions.

Keep an eye on pests such as white butterflies and aphids.  Aphids can be a problem if you are growing during the summer when they are active.

Companion planting is a great way of deterring these pests.  Try placing a pot of scented geraniums nearby to deter white butterflies or plant nasturtiums around the cabbages to attract the aphids away from the cabbages to their flowers.

If you find aphids are still attacking your cabbage try this natural aphid spray using stinging nettles.

Harvesting Cabbages

Harvesting cabbages by cutting below the head.

Harvesting is usually 11 to 15 weeks from sowing the cabbage seed.  Squeeze the head and if it feels firm then it is ready to harvest.  The head may be any size depending on the variety and the growing conditions.

Use a large sharp knife to slice across the base of the cabbage underneath the head.  Break off any leaves not curled around the head.  These leaves can be used to as a wrapper for encasing meat or other vegetable ingredients then steamed.


Any part of the plant not being used for cooking can be put in the compost.  Thick base stems may need to be cut into smaller pieces to aid decomposition.

This top rated gardening knife from Amazon comes with a sharpening stone and is a great gift idea for a keen gardener. (Paid link)

To Print or Save this guide on how to grow and harvest cabbage, click the button below for the PDF version.

Looking to add more vegetables to your winter garden? Try this guide to growing Kale, Peas, Silverbeet, Carrots or Garlic. If you love gardening you might also be interested in this Homesteading guide.

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