Cabbage is one of the most common vegetables you’ll find in the grocery store. And it’s an easy vegetable to grow in the garden. But I wanted to know if it will grow in a pot placed in my container garden.
You can grow cabbage in a pot as long as it’s at least 12 inches deep. You need to use good potting soil mixed with compost to plant the seeds or seedlings. Provide at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day and 1-2 inches of water every week.
Cabbage is one of the easiest plants to grow in a pot as long as you understand the steps. And I’ve written details below that will help you with this.
When is the Best Time to Grow Cabbage?
Cabbage is a crop that flourishes in cooler weather. Interestingly enough, these plants can tolerate a pretty wide range of temperatures. They’re capable of growing as far north as hardiness zone 2 and as south as zone 11.
The best time to plant is going to depend on where you live. If you are in a cooler northern zone, cabbage does best as a spring crop. But those in warmer climates can harvest cabbage in the fall. Gardeners who are lucky enough to live in a temperate zone can choose either spring or fall planting.
For a spring harvest, you must start your seeds indoors. It’s best to start germinating about 4 weeks before the last frost date. If you want an autumn harvest, aim to plant the cabbage seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date.
You don’t have to be exact here. Cabbage can grow just fine in temperatures between 45 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you want to plan your gardening endeavor so that the plant matures when the daytime temperatures are around 60 degrees.
How Long Does Cabbage Take to Grow?
Cabbage plants take longer to grow than most people think. On average, it will take between 80 and 180 days to reach the harvest stage. That timeline applies to cabbages you grow from seed. If you take a shortcut with seedlings, the plant will mature in 65 to 105 days.
The growth process for cabbage is a bit unique. Like all leafy greens, the vegetable will appear early and continue to grow throughout the season. Technically speaking, you could harvest the cabbage early. But, that often results in lackluster flavor and subpar texture.
It’s best to wait until the plant is fully mature. Depending on the variety you choose, you could be looking at a crop that measures 4 feet in diameter.
One of the biggest factors to impact growth time is the variety you choose. There are over 400 different cabbage varieties out there. While most of us associate cabbage with whitish-green leaves, they come in several different colors. You can get red cabbage, white cabbage, and even curly cabbage.
Feel free to try out different cultivars. Do some research and figure out which ones work for your region and the desired timeline.
Some varieties, such as the Rubicon or Fast Ball cabbage take much less time to grow. These cultivars usually only require upwards of 50 days to mature.
That said, you might want to stick with container-friendly options. Many varieties grow more compactly than those you see lining fields. Some good cabbage types to try out include:
- Savoy cabbage
- Acre Flat
- Ruby Perfection
- Head Blue
- Red Acre
- Green Boy
- Jersey Wakefield
How to Choose a Container for Cabbage
The first thing you need to do when growing cabbage is to choose an appropriate pot. A small plastic pot for seedlings isn’t going to cut it.
You’re going to need a sizable pot that can hold a considerable amount of soil. Cabbage plants have relatively shallow roots. But, they can still penetrate anywhere from 12 to 18 inches deep. Plus, the roots can spread out wide to provide a secure anchor for the growing cabbage head.
A 5-gallon pot is the smallest you can go. Typically, 5-gallon containers are about 14 inches in diameter and more than 10 inches deep. This is just enough space to support the plant.
Stick to a single cabbage plant per 5-gallon pot. If you want to group the cabbage up, utilize a larger pot or a bed-style container.
When it comes to material, any option will work. Plastic pots are great if you’re trying to keep costs low. However, you may encounter issues if you need to move the pot.
Another thing to keep in mind is the plant’s temperature requirements. You don’t want the pot to get too hot or too cold. Otherwise, the plant will start to bolt. When this occurs, the plant’s energy goes to producing flowers rather than developing the vegetable.
One way to get around this is to use a thick pot with plenty of insulation. Containers made of ceramic, clay, or terracotta are good for this purpose.
How to Prepare the Container for Planting
Before you start planting, you’ll need to prepare the pot and soil.
Preparing the pot is all about improving drainage. Cabbage does not do well with soggy soil or standing water. The roots can become waterlogged, resulting in rot. The leaves of the cabbage will become soft and unpalatable as well.
If you get standard plastic pots, they’ll likely already have some drainage holes in them. But thicker pots may only come with a single hole. To be on the safe side, drill a few more.
Use a power drill to create additional holes along the perimeter.
Another trick you can utilize to improve drainage is to prop the pot up. Lift it off the ground to prevent the holes from getting clogged up. You can use a dedicated stand or use a few bricks to lift it off the ground.
Having the correct type of soil is just as important as getting a sizable pot.
Cabbage plants prefer loam soil. Loam soil is readily available at most garden centers. It’s simply a standard mix that contains equal parts of sand, silt, and clay.
It might not look like much, but loam soil provides exceptional drainage. Loam is less likely to clump up or compact.
Standard bagged soil isn’t enough to help your plant reach its full potential. Like all vegetable plants, cabbage needs to grow in nutrient-rich soil. The best way to improve nutrient content is to add some organic compost.
Work the compost into the soil so that it’s fully incorporated. Make sure that the compost infuses the soil from the bottom of the pot up to the top. It’s best to do this a few months before you plant. That way, the compost has plenty of time to work its magic.
Finally, you’ll need to check the pH balance. Cabbage isn’t super picky about pH levels. It will grow in environments that are slightly acidic, slightly alkaline, or neutral. However, you’re more likely to experience abundant growth in soil with some light acidity.
Do a soil test and add a small amount of sphagnum moss to lower the pH. Aim for readings between 6.5 and 6.8. The most important thing here is to ensure that the soil isn’t too far in one direction. It’s best to keep things neutral instead of making the soil too acidic or too alkaline.
How to Plant the Cabbage Seeds
Once the timing is right, you can plant some cabbage seeds. It’s best to do this indoors. If you follow the schedule I went over earlier, outdoor temperatures will be far too cold to germinate the seeds outside.
I recommend planting several seeds in the pot you want to grow the full plant in. Some gardeners prefer to germinate seeds in a separate tray. That’s fine, too. But if you already went to the trouble of preparing your pots, why not use them? Plus, it eliminates the need to transplant the sprouts later on.
Sprinkle several seeds on the surface of the soil and cover them up with a thin layer of your potting mix. Then, moisten the soil to kickstart the germination process.
Place the pot in a warm sunny location. You want the soil to maintain temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees. This is the ideal temperature range for germination. If placed in a warm room next to a window, you shouldn’t have any problems. But if you do, just use a heating pad or insulating wrap.
How to Plant the Cabbage Seedlings
Planting from seedlings can save you a lot of time. Germinating seeds are a hit or miss. If conditions aren’t right, you may not get any sprouts. Seedlings have already gone through the germination process. While the plants are young, they’re perfectly primed for growth.
To plant your seedlings, fill the pot with soil and create a small hole in the center. The hole should be about 2 inches deep and match the width of the seedling cell.
Gently remove the young plant from its container and transplant it into your pot. After filling in the hole with soil, water the plant and put it in a sunny spot.
Be extra careful with the transplant process. Don’t rough the young plant up too much. You could end up causing transplant shock.
How Much Sunlight Does Cabbage Need?
Having exposure to adequate sunlight is crucial for cabbage plants. A lack of sun could stunt the growth of the plant. Not only does this prolong the growing cycle, but it also results in smaller heads.
The sunlight needs of your plant will vary based on its stage of growth.
When you plant seeds, provide about 2 to 3 hours of unblocked sun. That’s all the seeds need to germinate. However, you must increase the exposure time after it sprouts. Seedlings require between 4 and 6 hours every day.
Once the plant gets its first set of true leaves, all-day sun exposure s a must. At least 6 to 8 hours will help the plant thrive.
Put the pot in a sunny location that isn’t affected by shadows. This can be an issue when the plant is indoors. But once you move it outside, you can put it on the south side of your home for all-day sun.
Moving the Cabbage Outdoors
The best time to move your plants outside is when the weather warms up. Test the temperature regularly and wait until daytime temperatures are consistently in the 60s.
Don’t just put your pots outside all at once. Those delicate plants spent all of their lives in the controlled environment of your home. Sudden exposure to the elements is sure to kill them off.
You must harden them first. This takes several days to do. But, it will smooth the transition and decrease the chances of trouble.
Start by putting the plant outside for only a few hours before bringing it back i. The next day, leave it out longer. Continue to prolong the outdoor exposure with each passing day. In about a week, the plant should be able to tolerate living outside full time.
How to Water Cabbage in Pots
Watering your cabbage plant can be tricky. There’s a fine line between providing too much hydration and depriving it of water.
Generally, these plants will need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week. It may be a little more or less depending on the weather. But that’s a good standard to follow.
That said, don’t rely on timing alone to determine when it’s time to hydrate your cabbage. Check the moisture levels of the soil instead.
Ideally, you want to keep the soil around the roots slightly moist at all times. But, you should also give the top layer some time to dry out. This ensures that you’re not providing too much water.
Overwatering leads to root rot and split cabbage heads.
One quick and easy way to check moisture levels is to use your finger. Stick your finger in the soil near the base of the plant. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water.
The weekly requirements should cover 2 or 3 watering sessions a week to keep moisture levels consistent. If you live in a warm area where water evaporates quickly, you can also use a mulch product to retain moisture.
When you water the plant, focus on the base and get the job done early in the morning. Also, avoid getting any water on the leaves. Soaked leaves will cause the leaves to rot.
How to Thin the Cabbage Seedlings
When you sow cabbage seeds, you’re going to need to thin your plant at some point.
Attempting to germinate several seeds at once is not an issue. In fact, it’s common practice. It ensures that you have at least one seedling to cultivate.
However, you can start to experience some trouble once the plant reaches the seedling stage. Seedlings will become crowded and fight for nutrients. The last thing you want is to slow the growth of your cabbage. So, you need to select a primary seedling and thin the rest.
Choose the healthiest seedling of the bunch. Then, pull out the rest. Be gentle to avoid any root damage.
It’s best to start thinning when you’re seedlings reach about 5 inches tall. The baby plants should already have their first set of true leaves. Do this before you move the plant outdoors to maximize the plant’s chances of survival.
How to Fertilize Cabbage Plants
Cabbage plants are always hungry for nutrients. So, regular applications can be beneficial. A constant supply of fertilizer will help the plant get large and flavorful before harvest.
You have a couple of options for fertilizer application.
The easiest is to amend the soil before planting. Remember when we went over incorporating compost into the loam soil? If you did that, you probably don’t need any additional fertilizers. Soil that’s rich in organic material should continue feeding the plant for 3 months or more.
If you don’t have compost on hand, you can always use slow-release granules. Just mix it into the soil like you would compost.
Now, if you’d rather provide ongoing applications, you can do that as well.
Use a standard 10-10-10 formula. Water-soluble products are the easiest to apply. Prepare the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package. Then, use it to water your plants. Use side-dressing techniques to avoid any potential harm from the fertilizer.
Ideally, you should start applying fertilizer when the plant gets it has 2 to 4 true leaves. Once your cabbage reaches that point, you can fertilize it every 2 weeks to ensure that it has all the nutrients it needs.
How to Harvest the Cabbage from Pots
Harvesting mature cabbage is pretty easy. Technically speaking, you can collect cabbage when the heads are only the size of a baseball. The flavor won’t be as rich, but you can still utilize the cabbage for salads and other dishes.
If you let the plant grow, heads can get very large. Some varieties will weigh up to 3 pounds.
Do some research about the variety of cabbage you planted. You want to pay close attention to the maturation time. While you can harvest the crop early, you can’t harvest them late.
Over-matured cabbages will split. The flavor weakens and the vegetable becomes a haven for bugs. We don’t want that. So, make sure you harvest the cabbage before it gets to that point.
When the head feels firm and compact, it should be ready. Use a sharp knife to separate the head from the stem. It’s as easy as that.
In the refrigerator, cabbage will stay good for up to two weeks when lightly wrapped. If you have a root cellar, you can store it for up to 3 months.