Growing Cabbage in Containers and Planting Tips


Cabbages are very nutritious and have a lot of dishes that we can make from them. They can be stir-fried, baked, grilled, blanch to become wrappers, salads, pickled, can be eaten raw.

Moreover, they can be easy to grow. You don’t need large grounds and plots or raised beds to grow them. In fact, they can be easily grown in containers. You will surely enjoy seeing them growing, too.

Have you selected what cabbage you’d like to grow? You can start propagating either from seeds or seedlings. 

cabbage in container

Make sure that the type of cabbages you’ll grow is just right with the current season and climate in your area. When buying a packet of seeds, there are instructions written on it.

If you prefer to start growing cabbages from seedlings, there is also instructions attached on them or talk to the seller. Check the nurseries in your area or online.

 If you live in a frost-free area, the seedlings can be planted anytime when the temperature is in the range of 50-85 F (10-30 C). When they start to mature, the ideal temperature is around 60-70 F (15-20 C). This ensures the best flavor and growth!

For warmer areas, that fall under USDA zones 9-11, you can sow seeds in the fall and continue to sow them by the end of winter. For cooler zones, it’s better to start sowing seeds from early spring to summer. You will go to have a bountiful harvest in summer or fall!

Tools to Use for Growing Cabbage

You will need a few tools to grow the cabbages from seed until you transfer them to containers. Here are what you need:

Propagating Trays – you can get them from here. Or use something from your kitchens like egg trays, disposable containers, trays, milk cartons, or even eggshells.

Seed Starting Mix – It doesn’t necessarily have soil in it. Usually, a homemade seed starting mix contains peat moss, or coco peat, and perlite or vermiculite. Some of the characteristics of a good mix are:

  • Weight is lighter than potting mix.
  • Composed of finer particles, to make it easy for the roots to grow and spread.
  • No fertilizer.

Potting soil or Garden Soil – When the seeds germinated, the seedlings can be transferred into a container with good medium where they can grow and receive nutrients until harvest time. They can easily be bought in your nearest gardening supplies store or online or you can make your DIY Garden Soil. This is a lot better because, you know what’s in it and they are fresh.

Containers – They can be pots, buckets, basins, large bowls, or old recyclable containers you have at home. A single cabbage can grow nicely in a 10-12 inches wide and deep container with adequate drainage. Planting more than one cabbage in that size will result to smaller heads. Use wider containers if you prefer to grow more cabbages in one pot. Make sure that any re-used containers or pots should be cleaned and disinfected before using again for another plant.

Hand Trowel – An essential gardening tool for transplanting and potting plants.

Watering can – I prefer using medium-sized watering can for the seedlings to easily control the water. A spray bottle is good for misting seeds for germination. One time my old spray bottle broke (won’t spray) I used a plastic water bottle, poke a few small holes in the cap, and used it for the seeds. 

cabbage seeds

If you are going to start germinating from seeds:

Sow seeds indoors and according to instructions on when you can start. Usually, it’s 6-4 weeks before the last frost in spring or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in Autumn for a fall or winter crop.

Another option is to place the tray at a location where it gets 2-3 hours of daily sun. The required temperature for germination is 68-77°F (20-25°C). It will take 5-15 days.

  • Fill your preferred seedling tray with seed starting mix and spray to moisten
  • Sow seeds ¼  to ½ inch (6-8mm) deep. Seeds can be sown individually (a tray with division or small DIY nursery pots) or sprinkle over the seed starting mix. Cover the seeds with mix lightly. 
  • Keep the mix moist but not wet. Put a cover over them like a dome or place them inside a plastic bag with small holes to create a greenhouse effect. 
  • Seeds should germinate in 5 to 8 days at an optimal temperature of 68-77°F (25°C) or thereabouts.
  • When the seedlings are about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) tall with 2 to 4 leaves, they can be transplanted into containers filled with garden soil mix. Note that the daytime temperature reached 50°F (10°C). Finish by patting the soil firmly by hand.
  • Next, follow the instructions on growing cabbage from seedlings.
Cabbage seedlings

If you are going to start growing cabbage from seedlings:

  • Fill the pots or containers with garden soil mix. 
  • Make about a 2-inch hole in the middle of the container, then carefully plant the seedling. Tap the surrounding soil.
  • Maintain the moisture of the soil by watering at regular intervals.
  • Protect the seedlings from the cold for 2 to 3 weeks after planting by covering them with a cloche, create a tent or make/buy cold frame.
  • Provide the seedlings with 4-6 hours of sunlight. Although they can tolerate shade, they will slow down the growth.
  • Cabbage is a heavy feeder. Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength or with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. 
  • When certain cabbage has maggots infestation, destroy them and do not anymore fertilize or compost..
  • Generally, it takes 60 to 105 days for cabbage heads to reach maturity. This might change depending on the variety you are growing.
harvesting cabbage

Harvesting the Cabbages

Harvesting the cabbage depends on the variety planted and when the heads mature.

The right time for cabbage harvesting will depend on the variety of cabbage planted and when the heads mature.

Mature heads that are ready to pick need not be of a certain size to pick cabbage. The cabbage is ready for harvest when heads are firm all the way through when squeezed.

The size to pick cabbage varies depending on the variety and the weather conditions the cabbage grew in, thus head may be large or small when they are ready.

Most green cabbage varieties mature in around 70 days and usually produce 1 to 3-pound heads. 

To harvest

Cut the cabbage head at its base with a sharp knife. Then remove any yellow leaves (retain loose green leaves; they provide protection in storage). Immediately bring the head indoors or place it in shade. The plant can also be pull up (roots and all) and hang it in a moist cellar that reaches near-freezing temperatures.

After harvesting, remove the entire stem and roots from the soil to prevent disease.

Alternatively, after cutting of the cabbage head (at the lowest point possible), leave the loose outer leaves attached to the stalk. This will allow cabbage harvest of sprouts that will grow on the stem.

Harvest cabbage before rainfall to avoid damaged heads. If they are not to be harvest yet, bring them in where they will not get too wet by rain, or lay covers or create tents over them. Overwatering may split the heads and become inedible.

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