Growing Cabbage: A Guideline

When you grow your cabbage successfully, you’re guaranteed bumper harvests. What’s more is the fact that you can plant cabbages throughout the year. All you need is enough land to rotate your crops as well as disease and pest control and you can enjoy non-stop harvests.

Types of cabbage

There are several varieties of cabbage varieties available varying in size and taste. The larger varieties take a little longer to mature while the smaller varieties usually mature faster. The most common in Zambia is the green cabbage, followed by red cabbage. Not so common are savoy types(curly cabbage) which are tolerant to cold conditions and have deep-wrinkled dark green-leaves.

Below are some common cabbages planted according to the time they take to mature:

Golden Acer (green cabbage) matures in 65 days and Red Express matures in 63 days. These are called early cabbages. Baby cabbages takes approximately 71 days to grow and are called mid season cabbages. Red cabbage which looks like the Red Acer takes 75 days to mature ad is one of the last season types

If you choose to grow different types, you can have cabbage growing all year round. However, you should NOT grow cabbage in the same place two years in a row because it uses too many nutrients from the soil in a single growing season. You have to practice crop rotation.

How to plant your cabbage

Cabbages grow best well drained, fertile soils that are high in organic matter. The soil PH should be between 6.0-7.5 but they can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Because cabbages are heavy feeders, you have to ensure there’s consistently lots of moisture.

When planting cabbage seedlings, plant them deep. This will help to keep their roots anchored because cabbage heads are heavy.  Be sure to space the holes 18 inches apart. If you are planting multiple rows of cabbage, space the rows 2 feet apart.

Prepare your soil for seedlings by digging it over with a garden fork, then rake it to make a fine seed bed. Your cabbages will need a firm soil base to keep their roots anchored because cabbage heads are heavy. You can plant in rows or staggered. All you have to do is ensure your spacing of 30-45 cm wide and 40-45 cm between rows. Remember to follow the hardening off process of moving your seedlings outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and/or cold.

Caring for your cabbages

Cabbages are thirsty plants. However,  they don’t do well if they sit in soggy soil for too long. They need about 2.5 cm of rain per week for best results. If there’s no rain, give your cabbages one good, deep soak per week. It’s better to water like this than several shallow soaks, as cabbage roots run deep. Furthermore, avoid watering the tops of the plants as this can encourage pests and diseases. Water your field the day before transplanting your seedlings and keep them well watered until established.

Fertilize your plants when growing especially just before transplanting. 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertilizer works best. Once the seedlings are about 16 cm, fertilize them again with a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer. When the heads start to form, add a second dose of water-soluble fertilizer. This will give the cabbages the energy they need to produce large, nicely formed heads. For a detailed fertilizer application program, go here.

Mulch, mulch and mulch… And remember to also weed as the need arises.

Pests and diseases

You can control cabbage moth caterpillars and butterflies with organic insecticides. Black leg fungus can cause the stem of the cabbage to turn black at the level of the soil. Use an organic fungicide and remove the adjacent soil away. If this doesn’t work, you may have to remove the crops. Black leg fungus can stay in the soil for several years, so avoid planting cabbages or cauliflowers in the affected area for atleast two seasons. For more information on cabbage diseases, click here

Harvesting your cabbage

Harvest your cabbages when the heads are not too big and firm to hand pressure (eight to 10 weeks for small varieties). You harvest them by cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife. You need to cut it before it cracks or splits when, heads mature.

Also, it’s important to note that sudden heavy rains can cause cabbage heads to crack or split wide open. If you see heavy rains, harvest.

57 thoughts on “Growing Cabbage: A Guideline

  1. Hello.i would like more information on when to apply fertilizers or when to spray and the types of chemicals for a particular pest that can attack the cabbage.

    When to plant?

    1. Hi Beauty,

      Below is information on applying fertilizer to cabbages:

      1. You have to enrich your soil prior before planting by adding nutrients. Shovel 5-10 cm of rich compost into the soil. Scatter pellets from a general purpose fertilizer (composition ratings of 10-10-10 or 16-16-8) over the plot. Use 4 to 6 cups of fertilizer for every 10 square meters of land.

      2. Turn the top 15 to 20 cm of soil over, so as to thoroughly mix the added fertilizer and compost. Use a shovel to break up the soil, and either a shovel or a garden fork to turn it over. Plant your cabbage.

      3. Monitor your cabbage field to determine when to add more fertilizer. Usually the time comes about eight weeks after planting, or roughly four weeks after thinning the field of unwanted cabbage sprouts, but also confirm the timing with a visual inspection. Most or all of your cabbage plants should be at least 12 cm tall before you fertilize them again.

      4. Add a nitrogen-heavy, liquid fertilizer (such as 21-0-0) once you determine the plants are ready. Put about 1/2 cup of the fertilizer into the mix for every meter of cabbage row in your field. Spray the field along the outer sides of the cabbage rows, about 12 cm from the plants.

      5. Add a second and final batch of fertilizer to the field once a noticeable head forms on the cabbage plants, following the same procedure outlined in the previous step. Do not add more fertilizer after this point, as it encourages loose and/or split heads of cabbage.

      With regards to panting time. Look at the table below:
      Cabbage schedule

      1. Am just getting into this c
        Cabbage business and in four days my cabbage will be a month old. I have put and cow compost. Was told after two weeks I put another. I bought urea today don’t know if it’s best to add it. Or weather i should go get can.

        Marshal Tembo
        WhatsApp: +260966789118

  2. Have identified land land which to grow cabbages. Need all necessary information for successfully cabbage growing.

  3. Have identified land land which to grow cabbages. Need all necessary information for successfully cabbage growing.

  4. How many litres of petrol ⛽ are required to use in irrigating 5000 heads of cabbage using a petrol powered water engine.

  5. I have learnt a lot,am currently doing my preparations am about to transplant my cabbage from the nursery in to the main bed.

  6. I don’t think the information is useful enough. I would have expected to read on the spacing, how many grames of basal fert at planting , houw much water just after transplanting, when to apply top dressing fert and when to start spaying for what pest or disease

    1. As a rule of thumb for most vegetable crops, 10 to 15 mm per week for the first third to half of the growing season, and about 25 mm per week thereafter, would be the requirements when the weather is cooler. Corresponding figures during the hot season would be 20 to 25 mm and 40 to 50 mm, respectively. Plant condition, e.g. drooping or wilting leaves, may indicate that earlier or greater water applications are needed. The water should be applied no quicker than it can penetrate the particular soil.

      In order to reduce wasteful over-watering and leaching of nutrients, the soil should not be wet any deeper than the roots penetrate. For heading crops, such cabbage, the most critical period for water is at heading stage. An adequate supply of water is essential for root crops once the roots start enlarging. The suitability and the quality of water available for irrigation should be tested.

  7. Thanks for the information, it’s invaluable and rejuvenating in a word. In reference to the” Planting Time Table” above,what is ‘XX’ stand for in relation to the single ‘X’ in the box sections??

  8. My cabbage is two weeks old and some plants are looking stunted and purple in color, I applied D compound two days after transplanting, what could be the problem?

  9. Thanks BT I sprayed mine with phosphate BT instead it started drying by bringing yellowish colour , wat could be the problem???

    1. Hi Mwansa, Crops have their own sets of likes and dislikes.Starting seeds indoors gives your crops more time to mature. This is critical if you’re working with slow growing plants such as pumpkins, peppers, melons, leeks, cabbage and tomatoes which all need more time to mature. You can plant directly, but if you do, you should also be ready for possible negative results.

    2. Thanks for the information, but are these only varieties of open pollinated cabbages and it could have been best if you had to indicate when you can plant the months

  10. the program that is put their is not a complete people lets try to put the real program for the country to benefit not only self development lets all look at the future as well .what I mean if we produce good cabbage we can export them at international level were by we make more progress


  12. Hey am so amazed and happy with this explaination but again, I planted without manure on about 90 cabbage plants and the rest am about to plant should I put manure under the plant or it will burn the crop.


  13. Hi, I am new to the cabbage growing business. I found one of my plants dried. It has been eaten at the stem just above the ground. What can I use please

  14. I have noticed two of my cabbages have leaves turn purple bluish, not knowing what could be the reason. I have given it fertilisers

  15. Am just starting my own cabbage production and after harvesting I replace with onion.Thank you for the article .please if there are people interested in sharing ideas on farming let’s create a groups or jx WhatsApp me on +260763930925 HAPPY FARMING…NORRIS MUSELA Solwezi

  16. I have never done any serious farming apart from peasant maize farming. My latest resolution is to start planting cabbage on a serious note. The piece of land I have is about the size of a football pitch and next to it there is a borehole. I however plan to plant cabbage in the entire space starting this December 2021. I’m seriously bent on this and in terms of timing in regard to when to plant I have no room to defer. I will do everything possible to start the planting next month and I’m very ready to fail though failure is none of the things I intend to experience. I will need a lot of help from all of you in all possible ways. I’m completely blank about cabbage farming. I however have chosen to plant it and I know sooner or later I will master the art. I’m planning to start with 10 000 heads, that’s my target. Please, whoever has any form of advice for me, share it. I thank you beforehand.

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