Cabbage Growing Best Practices

February 17th is National Cabbage Day! While we are not planting cabbage today in zone 4, it’s a good time to plan your cabbage patch.  If you’re new to growing Brassica crops, cabbage is a great place to start as it is less prone to bolting than other Brassica crops like Broccoli.  There are a few different types of cabbage–all are delicious but some are better for certainpost-harvest uses than others.  Consider what you’d like your end product to be and choose a variety that corresponds to those wants.  Or, plant several types and try many different end uses!


Green Cabbage

Green cabbage can be an ‘early’ type or a ‘late’ type of cabbage.  

  • Early cabbage will mature 50-70 days after transplanting and should be planted out 4 weeks before your last frost (May 1st in Belgrade, MT).  Early cabbage makes excellent coleslaw for your Fourth of July BBQ.


  • Late cabbage takes 90-120 days to develop and should be planted out 2 weeks before the last frost date (May 14th in Belgrade, MT).  Late maturing varieties are also great for coleslaw but are even better for making sauerkraut.  Many late varieties of green cabbage have excellent storage qualities as well.  This means that you can harvest them in August/September and store them for several months before eating them.


Purple Cabbage

  • Also known as Red Cabbage, these varieties take approximately 60-100 days to mature.  They should be planted out 2 weeks before the last frost date (May 14th in Belgrade, MT).  Purple cabbage adds great color to coleslaw.  It is also commonly sliced very thin and pickled.  Certain varieties have great storage qualities as well.


Chinese Cabbage

  • Also known as Napa Cabbage, these varieties are commonly used in Asian cuisine.  Chinese cabbage encompasses Napa Cabbage, Bok Choy and Pak Choy.  These are great in stir fries, kimchi or even cooked on their own in a sesame and soy sauce mixture.   Chinese cabbage are best grown for a fall harvest.  Direct seed around July 14.  If temperatures dip below 50 degrees F in the early spring, Chinese cabbage will bolt–which is not desirable.  If you delay planting until June, these plants will be trying to mature in the heat of the summer, which will also cause bolting.  


Cabbage Growing 101 – Zone 4 (Belgrade, MT)

Start your green and purple cabbage seeds indoors in early March.  See our Seed Starting Guide here.

      • Alternatively, purchase transplants from a greenhouse!!  There is no shame in purchasing started plants.
      • Transplant your early cabbage varieties outdoors 4 weeks before your average last frost date.  This is around May 1st in Belgrade, MT.
      • Plant your late maturing cabbage varieties 2 weeks before your average last frost (May 14th in Belgrade, MT)
    • Note: Although cabbage and other Brassica crops are cold hardy, do not be tempted to plant them out too early.  Too hard of a frost may cause stunted and delayed growth for the duration of the plant’s life.  If the temperatures are going to dip below freezing, be sure to cover your new transplants with a frost cloth for the night.  


Plant your Cabbage in a location that receives  6-8 hours of sun per day.


    • Fertilize your cabbage patch!! Cabbage plants are heavy feeders and require nutrient rich soil.  My favorite fertilizer for all Brassicas crops is Down to Earth Bio-Fish.
    • Note: If it’s possible, have your soil tested and only replenish the nutrients that are deficient.  Want a soil test but don’t know how to interpret the test? Send us an email!  Green Thumb Garden Supply will interpret your soil test for you and provide custom fertilizer recommendations for a small fee.


Water regularly.  Cabbage plants are not drought tolerant and require a steady soil moisture content.

    • Note: Mulching with an herbicide & weed free straw may help retain moisture in the heat of the summer.  


Watch out for the Cabbage Worms.  Cabbage worms are green caterpillars that chew holes in your cabbage plant leaves.  If left untreated, they can decimate a whole crop in a matter of days. 

    • Cabbage worms are easily controlled by an organic insecticide called B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis).  Spray this product on your cabbage plants every 7-14 days.  Alternatively, use a fine bug netting to cover the plants.


Harvest and enjoy!

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