Starting cabbage from seedlings purchased in the nursery isn’t the only way to grow fresh crisp cabbage in the home garden. Directly sowing the seeds of early cabbage in the garden produces mature heads in about 60 days. Long-season varieties may require 110 days or more. Preparing the soil and choosing a variety that matures within the frost-free days in your area allows you to grow cabbage from seed that produces firm plump heads before fall frost threatens.
Prepare a garden bed in an area that receives full sun for six to eight hours a day. Till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Remove rocks and other debris from the soil and rake smooth.
Test the soil to determine its pH level. Adjust the pH to 6.0 to 6.5. Follow the instructions included with the soil test kit for adjusting the pH.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure over the soil. Work in well with the existing soil with a garden tiller or hand tools. This improves the texture of the soil, provides aeration and improves drainage.
Apply 5-10-10 fertilizer following the recommended application rate on the container. Mix in well with the existing soil to avoid damage to seeds.
Plant cabbage seeds in early spring in Northern climates so that plants have time to mature before hot weather appears. Plant in late summer or early fall in Southern gardens.
Sow cabbage seeds to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch, spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. Cover with soil. Firm down with your hands or the blade of the hoe to settle the seeds and remove air pockets.
Water to moisten the soil to a depth of 2 inches. Keep soil evenly moist until seedlings emerge in four to seven days, depending on the soil temperature and weather conditions.
Thin to 12 inches apart when the seedlings are 4 inches high. Transplant the seedlings from thinning to a new area, if desired.
Water cabbage plants deeply once a week to saturate the soil to the root level. Even moisture is important to forming solid heads of cabbage.
Handpick weeds as soon as they emerge, or use a garden hoe to keep weeds under control. Cut weeds growing near the base of the plants with the blade of the hoe, as pulling them may disrupt roots or uproot the cabbage plants.