Cabbage is a classic vegetable that has been a staple in Western diets for hundreds of years. Not only is it nutrient- and antioxidant-rich, but it also offers an attractive rosette of foliage that looks as good as it tastes. It comes in a surprising array of colors and textures. There are early, midseason, and late varieties; round, conical, or flat-head types; selections that have smooth leaves or savoyed (crinkled) foliage; and colors ranging from yellow-green to blue-green, deep green, or purplish red. Each has a distinct flavor, with the red types being among the sweetest.
There are a multitude of ways to feast on cabbage. For best flavor, use homegrown cabbage when it’s fresh. (When it's young and tender, it has a milder flavor.) Add shredded cabbage to mixed salads or in classic or innovative coleslaws. Try stuffing large cabbage leaves, pickling cabbage, or turning it into sauerkraut.
Garden Plans For Cabbage
Cabbage Planting Partners
Whether you grow cabbage to harvest or just to admire, it deserves a place in every edible garden. The attractive foliage looks great by itself, in groups, or mixed with finer-leaf plants such as carrots or sweet corn. Enjoy cabbage plants in clusters, along walkways, or in the middle or back of the border. For extra appeal and a visual surprise, mix green- and purple-leaf varieties together.
If you don't have space in the ground, you can still grow cabbage in a container garden. Because cabbage is a cool-season crop, it does well planted with edible flowers such as pansy, viola, and calendula.
How to Grow Cabbage
Like most of its relatives (kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi), cabbage is a cool-season crop that thrives when temperatures stay between 30°F and 75°F. If you grow it from seed, start the seeds indoors about six weeks before your last expected spring frost date. Or plant seeds directly in the garden about a month before your last frost.
Cabbage grows best in a spot with afternoon or all-day sun and moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. If your soil has a high clay content or a lot of sand, amend it liberally with compost, peat moss, or coir when you plant to help cabbage look good and produce the best crop.
Spreading a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch around each cabbage plant will help keep the soil cool longer into summer, allow the soil to stay moist longer, and cut down on the amount of weeds—all factors your cabbage patch will appreciate.
If you see little white butterflies hovering around your cabbage plants, you may want to protect your crop with floating row covers, an insecticide such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), or an insecticidal soap. Cabbage butterflies lay eggs that hatch into small green caterpillars that eat unsightly holes in cabbage leaves.