This article may contain affiliate links. We get paid a small commission from your purchases. More Affiliate Policy
Cabbage is a cool-season crop grown in spring or fall when temperatures are cooler. Growth timing includes avoiding temperature extremes.
For a summer harvest, cabbage seeds should be started indoors about five to six weeks before the last spring frost and transplanted only when the last frost date has passed. Cabbage grows best at temperatures between 45° and 75°F (7° to 24°C).
Table of Contents
- Understanding Cabbage Growing Seasons
- Determining Your Region’s Planting Dates
- Starting Cabbage Seeds Indoors
- Direct Sowing Cabbage Seeds Outdoors
- Extending the Cabbage Growing Season
- FAQs on Best Time to Plant Cabbage for a Bountiful Harvest
Cabbage needs full sun, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, and consistent moisture to produce crisp and juicy heads.
The best time to plant cabbage depends on several factors, such as the variety, the climate, and the desired harvest time. Some varieties of cabbage mature faster than others, so choosing one that suits your growing season is vital.
Cabbage can tolerate light frost and brief cold spells but will bolt if exposed to high temperatures above 80°F (26°C) or prolonged cold below 45°F (7°C).
Early cabbages should be planted to fit in between the two heat extremities; early crops to miss the last frost but still avoid the summer heat; and the reverse for the fall crops.
Understanding Cabbage Growing Seasons
Depending on the cabbage variety planted, growing seasons can be between fifty and a hundred days. There are three main cabbage-growing seasons: early, mid, and late.
Early cabbage is planted in spring for a summer harvest. It has a short maturation period of about 50 to 60 days.
Midseason cabbage is also planted in spring but harvested later in summer or early fall. It has a more extended maturation period of about 70 to 80 days.
Late cabbage is planted in mid-summer for a fall or winter harvest, and it has the most prolonged maturation period of about 90 to 100 days. Late cabbage varieties are usually more cold-hardy and can be stored for extended periods.
Cabbage is a cool-season crop that requires 70 to 120 days to reach harvest. It grows best in temperatures between 25ºF and 80ºF (9º-27ºC) but is frost-hardy to temperatures as low as 20ºF.
Cabbage likes cool temperatures as low as 26 degrees, depending on the variety. It does best in cool fall weather and is disappointing in a summer garden.
A light frost improves the sweetness of cabbages. Cabbage planted in early spring will be ready for harvest in early summer.
In cool regions, cabbage planted in mid-spring will be ready for harvest from mid-summer onwards. Cabbage planted in mid to late summer will be ready for harvest in autumn or winter.
Spring and Fall Planting
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that can be grown in spring and fall. However, each season has its benefits and challenges for cabbage growers. In this section, we will briefly discuss some of them.
Cabbage Spring Planting
Spring planting allows for an early summer harvest of fresh and crunchy cabbages. However, spring-planted cabbages may face problems such as bolting (premature flowering) due to exposure to warm temperatures.
Warm temperatures also increase pest and disease risk vectors such as cabbage worms, aphids, black rot, and clubroot diseases.
To avoid these issues, it is recommended to start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost, plant transplants in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter, and rotate crops every four years.
Row covers, and other deterrents will also help manage pest risks. Always water cabbages close to the roots to avoid wet foliage that facilitates pathogens spreading.
Cabbage Fall Planting
Fall planting allows for a late autumn or winter harvest of sweet and tender cabbages. Fall-planted cabbages may have fewer pest and disease problems than spring-planted ones as they grow during cooler and drier weather.
However, fall-planted cabbages may face challenges such as drought stress during hot summer days, frost damage during cold winter nights, and reduced head size due to shorter days.
To overcome these difficulties, it is advised to sow seeds directly in the garden in early July, mulch thickly around the plants to conserve moisture, protect roots from freezing, and choose varieties suitable for fall growing.
Determining Your Region’s Planting Dates
One of the most critical factors for successful gardening is knowing when to plant your crops according to your region’s climate and weather patterns.
Planting dates are based on the average date of the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall, which vary depending on your location and elevation. To determine your region’s planting dates, consult a local extension service, a gardening book or website, or a seed catalog that provides a map or a chart of recommended planting times for different crops and varieties.
You can also use online tools like the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find your zone and customize your planting calendar. Following these guidelines, you can ensure your plants have enough time to grow and mature before exposure to extreme temperatures or pests.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Check out this link for the full image: https://pdi.scinet.usda.gov/phzm/vm/All_states_fullzones_title_legend_logos_300dpi.jpg.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Plant Hardiness webpage lets you find and download State, regional, and national Plant Hardiness Zone Maps. Scroll down to find the map you are interested in, or begin by clicking on the location in the map to access maps for that State.
The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the industry standard for determining which plants will most likely survive in a region. The map is separated into 10-degree F zones based on the average annual minimum winter temperature.
The map is now available as an interactive GIS-based map (above), which requires a broadband Internet connection and static images for people with slower Internet connections. Users can also use a ZIP code to obtain the hardiness zone for that location.
State, regional, and national map versions can be downloaded and printed in several sizes and resolution formats.
Ideal Planting Times for Each Zone
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 2
For a spring crop, direct sow cabbage seeds 2-3 weeks after the last expected frost, usually around mid-May in zone 2. For a fall crop, plant cabbage seeds about 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost, usually around mid-September in zone 2.
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 4
For a summer harvest, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date, usually around June 1. Transplant seedlings outdoors two to three weeks before the last frost date, when they are about five inches tall.
For a fall harvest, sow seeds directly in the garden or transplant seedlings in mid-to-late summer, ensuring they get enough water and nutrients.
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 6
Cabbage is a cool-season crop that can be grown in hardiness zone 6, which has a medium-length growing season. The ideal time to plant cabbage in this zone depends on the local weather and frost dates.
Generally, cabbage seeds can be started indoors around April and transplanted outside after the last frost, usually around May 1. Cabbage plants can also be direct sown outdoors in late summer or early fall for a winter harvest, as long as they are protected from freezing temperatures.
The first frost date in Zone 6 is typically around November 1, so cabbage plants should be harvested before then or covered with burlap or mulch to extend their season.
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 8
The ideal time to plant cabbage depends on the local weather and the last frost date. In general, cabbage seeds should be sown indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date, around April 1, for zone 8. The seedlings should be hardened off and transplanted outdoors when there hasn’t been a frost for two weeks.
Cabbage seeds can be sown outdoors or transplanted in mid-to-late summer for a fall harvest, avoiding extreme heat or drought.
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 10
For USDA Hardiness Zone 10, which has a long growing window and mild winters, cabbage can be planted outdoors from September to February for a fall or winter harvest.
Cabbage seeds can be sown directly when the soil is workable or started indoors six to eight weeks before planting. Cabbage needs full sun, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, and consistent moisture to produce crisp and juicy heads.
Growing Cabbages in USDA Zone 12
According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, zone 12 is one of the warmest zones in North America, with minimum average temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F or +10°C to +15.6°C.
This means many tropical and subtropical plants can grow well in this zone if protected from frost and excessive heat. Some plants that grow well in Zone 12 are hibiscus, bougainvillea, banana, mango, papaya, ginger, orchid, bromeliad, and palm.
First and last frost dates are essential for gardeners who want to plan their planting and harvesting seasons. A frost date is the average date of the last light freeze in spring or the first light freeze in fall.
Frost occurs when air temperatures reach 32°F (0°C) but can also happen when temperatures are slightly above freezing.
Frost dates vary by location and are based on historical climate data but are not exact or guaranteed. Weather, topography, and microclimates can also influence the occurrence of frost in your area.
Therefore, it is wise to regularly check your local weather forecast and be prepared to cover or move your plants if needed.
Frost dates affect cabbage planting in two ways: they determine when to start seeds indoors or outdoors and influence the harvested heads’ flavor and quality.
Cabbage is a cool-season crop that can tolerate light frosts but not freezing temperatures. Accordingly, cabbage seedlings should be planted four weeks before the last spring frost for a summer harvest or 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost for a fall harvest.
However, some gardeners prefer to plant cabbage in the fall, as exposure to frost can make the heads sweeter and more tender. Cabbage grows best at temperatures between 45° and 75°F (7°-24°C), so it is essential to choose a variety that matches your climate and planting season.
Starting Cabbage Seeds Indoors
Cabbage seeds are best started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in autumn, depending on the variety and desired harvest time.
Timing Indoor Seed Starting
The best time to start cabbage seeds indoors depends on your region and when you want to harvest. Generally, it would be best to sow seeds indoors 6 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring for a summer crop or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in fall for a winter crop. However, some warm regions can grow two cabbage crops each year by starting seeds indoors from March to early April for a spring crop.
Transplanting Seedlings Outdoors
Cabbage seedlings are ready to be transplanted when they have four true leaves and are about four inches tall. This usually happens around four to six weeks after germination.
The best time to transplant them is two to three weeks before the last frost in spring or 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost in fall. Cabbage plants need full sun and moist soil enriched with compost.
Before transplanting, harden off the seedlings by exposing them gradually to outdoor conditions for a few days. Dig holes slightly deeper than the seed trays and space them 12-24 inches apart.
Gently remove the seedlings from the trays and plant them in the holes. Cover the soil with mulch to retain moisture and fertilize it three weeks after transplanting.
Direct Sowing Cabbage Seeds Outdoors
Direct sowing cabbage seeds outdoors is a method of growing cabbage that does not require transplanting seedlings from indoors. It can be done for both spring and fall crops, depending on the climate and the variety of cabbage.
Outdoor Sowing Dates
Cabbage is a cool-season crop that can be grown from seeds sown directly in the garden or planted indoors and later. The best time to sow cabbage seeds depends on the climate and the desired harvest season.
Cabbage seeds can generally be sown two weeks before the last frost date for a spring or early summer harvest or 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost date for a fall or winter harvest.
Cabbage seeds should be planted about half an inch (10 mm) deep in well-drained soil enriched with compost. Cabbage plants need full sun and regular watering to thrive.
Tips for Successful Outdoor Sowing
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that can be grown in spring or fall. To improve germination and growth in outdoor-sown cabbage, follow these steps:
- Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil enriched with compost or aged manure.
- Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the desired head size.
- Water the seeds well and keep the soil moist until they germinate, which may take 7 to 15 days.
- Thin the seedlings to leave one plant every 12 to 24 inches when they are about 5 inches tall. You can transplant the thinned seedlings elsewhere if you wish.
- Mulch around the plants with straw or organic matter to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
- Fertilize with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer two weeks after transplanting or thinning and again when the heads start forming.
- Water regularly, especially during dry spells, to prevent splitting or rotting of the heads. Aim for about 2 inches of water per square foot per week.
- If cold weather is expected, protect the plants with row covers or cloches from frost.
You can enjoy a bountiful harvest of crisp and nutritious cabbages following these techniques!
Extending the Cabbage Growing Season
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that can be grown in spring or fall. Gardeners can use season extenders such as plant timing and temperature regulators.
Another way to extend the cabbage growing season is to interplant cabbage with taller or bigger-leafed crops that can provide shade and reduce heat stress for the cabbage plants. Cabbage can also produce smaller secondary heads after the main head is harvested, prolonging the harvest period.
To enjoy fresh cabbage throughout the season, you can stagger the planting dates of different varieties. Start by sowing seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date for spring crops or 12 to 14 weeks before the first frost date for fall crops.
Transplant the seedlings outdoors when they are 4 to 6 weeks old, spacing them 12 to 24 inches apart.
Choose varieties that mature at different times, such as early (60 days), mimidseason70 to 80 days), and late (90 to 100 days). Harvest the heads when they are firm and full-sized, cutting them at the base of the stem. You can also leave some outer leaves on the plant and wait for smaller secondary heads to form.
Using Cold Frames and Row Covers
To extend the growing season of cabbage and protect it from frost, gardeners can use various methods such as row covers, cold frames, low tunnels, or cloches.
These methods create a microclimate around the plants that keeps them warmer and prevents frost injury. They also protect the plants from pests and physical damage.
Depending on the type and thickness of the material used, these methods can provide different degrees of frost protection and insulation. Gardeners should also keep the soil moist and mulch with straw or other organic matter to help retain heat and moisture in the soil.
FAQs on Best Time to Plant Cabbage for a Bountiful Harvest
Wherever you are, the critical point to successfully growing cabbages is optimizing the plant’s time in cooler weather. For spring crops, this means starting indoors early and only transplanting after the risk of frost has passed.
For fall crops, timing is vital to gain as many cool days as possible without exposing the mature cabbage to frigid temperatures.
With the above information, you, too, can grow a fabulous, healthy, and nutritious cabbage crop.
If you found our gardening article informative and enjoyable, why not sign up for our blog updates? Our blog covers various gardening topics, including vegetable and ornamental gardening, lawn care, and indoor plants.
By subscribing, you’ll receive regular updates with our gardening experts’ latest tips, tricks, and advice. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, our blog is a valuable resource that can help you take your gardening skills to the next level. Join our community today and start receiving our informative and engaging content straight to your inbox. Just complete the form below.