Why Grow Cabbage?

The cabbage is probably one of the most commonly eaten vegetables worldwide, there are a huge range of varieties used in many very different ways. These include the usual steaming or boiling, and also, bubble and squeak, braised, coleslaw, stuffed leaves, pickled red cabbage and sliced in salads.

In this country we tend to divide them into categories according to their time of maturity; spring, early summer, summer, autumn and winter. The colour can vary from creamy green through to dark green and red.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Brassica oleracea capitata group.
Sowing Time : Spring:
Sow – July to August
Transplant – September to October
Summer / Autumn & Red
Sow – February to April
Transplant – May to June
Winter & Savoy
Sow – April to May
Transplant – July
Harvest Time : Spring:
March to May
Summer / Autumn & Red:
July to November
Winter & Savoy:
October to March
Hardiness : Hardy
Position : Full to partial Sun and sheltered from strong winds.
Soil Type : Firm, fertile and rich in organic matter.
Average Plant Height : 30cm / 12in
Spacing : Seedlings:
2cm (1in) thinned to 7cm (3in) between plants | 15cm (6in) between rows.
15-30cm between plants | 30cm (12in) between rows.
Summer / Autumn & Red:
30-45cm (12-18in) between plants | 45cm (18in) between rows.
Winter & Savoy:
60cm between plants and rows
Spread : 40 to 60cm / 16 to 24in
Soil and Preparation

Cabbages occupy the ground for several months so it is important to give them a good start with soil that has good organic matter, is moisture retentive, has high nitrogen levels and is sheltered from strong winds. In the rotation plan, cabbages should follow legumes, as these will have left nitrogen in the soil via their root nodules. So when the peas and beans have finished, their bed is ideal for winter cabbages to be planted out; providing fresh home-grown cabbages when fresh vegetables are in short supply. As with all brassicas, they like their roots to be in firm ground.

Seeds and Sowing

Cabbages need to be started off in a seed bed or in plugs or trays, which, although more labour intensive, will offer more protection to the young seedlings until they are grown enough to withstand the attacks from many pests etc. The seedlings should be transplanted to their final position when they have 5 or 6 true leaves. Seeds should be sown 1-2cm / 1/2 – 1in deep into your seed bed during March and April, space them 7cm / 3in apart, leaving 15cm / 6in between rows.

Water your seedlings and the row they will be moved to the day before you transplant them. Lift the seedlings from the seed bed carefully, retaining as much soil around their roots as possible. Using a dibber, make holes in their permanent bed (see quick facts above for spacings). The seedlings should be planted with the lowest leaves just above the soil, to fill the holes use your dibber, inserting it into the bed about 5cm / 2in from the hole and then push it towards the seedling, then fill the dibber hole with loose soil.

Caring for your Crop

It is important that the young seedlings have sufficient moisture as they establish themselves. Birds can also be a problem for young plants, bird netting is an effective solution if they do become a pest. The use of cabbage collars will help protect against cabbage root fly.

Keep your cabbages watered during dry spells and apply a liquid feed when their heads begin to swell.

Earth up around the stems of spring cabbages in the autumn to give them more support. If over winter any plants become loosened by wind or frost then firm down the soil around the stems.


Most of the time cabbages are used fresh and harvested as required, to harvest your cabbages, cut the stem close to ground level using a sharp knife.


Cabbages will keep for about a week wrapped in cling film and stored in the fridge.

Red and winter white cabbages can be stored for longer periods. Harvest them in November for over winter storage. Remove their outer leaves, cut off the stem and roots then place in a box lined with straw. Store the box in a cool dry place and they should keep until March.