Cabbage is an annual that likes full sun in well drained fertile soil. It matures in 90-95 days. Plant cabbage seeds directly in the garden 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep. The seeds should germinate in 4-7 days in 70 degree temperatures. Thin to 15-18 inches apart in rows 32-36 inches apart when the seedlings are about 2 inches tall.
Seeds may be started indoor 4-6 weeks before the last frost date and transplanted to the garden. Be sure to condition the seedlings by putting them outdoors for 2-3 hours a day for 3-4 days before transplanting. Keep them out of the sun for the first 2 days, then allow a short period of sun the last 2 days.
Cabbage should be planted in the outdoor garden in direct sun although it will tolerate partial shade.
Watering And Fertilizing
Cabbage is a heavy feeder so fertilize about every 2-3 weeks with a general purpose fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Keep the soil moist be not soggy.
The biggest pest problem with cabbage is the cabbage worm. You can manually pick them off the leaves but this generally does not prevent notable damage from the worms. The cabbage worm comes from Butterfly's which tend to lay their eggs in the cabbage leaves. While the eggs do not damage the plant they develop into cabbage worms. The best prevention is to use row covers immediately after planting the seeds. Most garden shops sell a cloth mesh that may be used to cover cabbage preventing flying insects from access to the cabbage. Be aware, however, that this mesh can be harmful to birds and other wild life so use care (they do not see the mesh and get tangled up in it). For this reason we prefer the solid cloth (not mesh) row covers, also available at garden shops.
You can also sprinkle FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth on the leaves (see below).
Snails and slugs can be a problem but generally the cabbage can survive their damage. We recommend using FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to eliminate snails and slugs. Be sure to use FOOD GRADE which is available at most Health Food, Natural Food stores and online. You can buy Diatomaceous Earth at garden shops and big box stores (Walmart) but all we have found there WAS NOT FOOD GRADE. Do not use.
FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth is completely harmless to people and animals...you can even eat it if you want (don't know why you would). It kills snails and slugs by dehydration...not poison. If the package does not say food grade do not use it (or any other poisonous products) in a vegetable garden.
You have probably seen snail bait in stores that is labeled "Safe For Pets and Children". It is the author's opinion that these baits are NOT safe. How do you think thay kill snails? Because they are poisonous. If you want more detail read our article HOW TO REDUCE SLUG DAMAGE. On that page scroll toward the bottom of the page for the section "Snail Bait".
It's your decision to use snail bait or not but, personally I would not put any poisonous material near vegetables which I intend to eat.
Harvest the cabbage when the heads are large and firm. Do not allow to get over mature or the heads may split.