Planting Guide and Seed Saving Notes for Cabbage

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

Cabbage could be a vegetable ambassador to the UN since it has a found a home in so many of the world's great culinary traditions. Think of fermentation alone – the sauerkraut of Germany, kimchee of Korea, or curdito alongside the pupusas of El Salvador. And what about the slaws of American picnics and stuffed cabbages of Eastern Europe or the spicy soups of China? While there are too many recipes to name, the simplest might be a light sauté with butter and salt to bring out the mellow sweetness of the vegetable. To store this hardy plant for the winter they can be pulled and placed roots down into a trench or hole, lined with mulch and then covered with more mulch and soil.

Nutrients: dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium, folate, beta-carotene and flavonoids. 

How to grow Cabbage from seed

Bed Preparation

Cabbage is a moderately frost tolerant biennial that prefers full sun, although it will tolerate light shade. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Do not plant cabbage in same area year after year to avoid soil-borne diseases.


Cabbage seed can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost in spring or in mid-late summer for a fall crop. Sow seeds ¼-1/2" deep and 4-6” apart. Seeds will sprout in 5-17 days. Thin seedlings so that mature plants are 18-24" apart. Transplant seedlings outdoors when plants have 3-4 true leaves. Seeds can also be direct seeded outdoors when temperatures are 45-80˚ F.

Cabbage is a heavy feeder that will benefit from a mid-season nitrogen application. Provide consistent soil moisture during development, but cut back on watering a few weeks before harvest.


Harvest cabbage when heads are firm. Depending on the variety, harvest will be around 70 days after planting. Use a sharp knife to remove heads. Leave plant in place for a potential second harvest of smaller heads.Thoroughly dry cabbage heads before storing. Cabbage will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator and up to three months in a root cellar.

How to save Cabbage Seeds

Avoid cross-pollination keep your cabbage plants intended for seed at least a ½ mile from all other Brassica oleracea that may be flowering at the same time. Mulch to help plants overwinter, or in colder zones, dig up the plants, roots and all, and keep them indoors in a cool, humid spot for replanting in spring. Encourage the flower stalks to bold by slashing an X in the top of each cabbage head. Flowers are perfect and most can't be hand-pollinated as the stigma becomes receptive before the flower opens, and pollen is shed hours after the flower opens. Collect seeds when the seed pods turn brown.