Home Garden Cabbage Production

Revised 1/01 - Author Reviewed 1/01 HIL-8007

 D. C. Sanders
Larry Bass
Extension Horticultural Specialists
Department of Horticultural Science
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
North Carolina State University


Cabbage is grown commercially in eastern North Carolina as both a spring and fall crop, and in the mountains as an early summer and fall crop. Cabbage acreage in North Carolina averages 10,000 to 12,000 acres. The biggest problem in growing this crop is insect control.

SOILS - Cabbage grows well on a wide variety of soils, but a well-drained sandy loam with high organic matter content is preferred. Avoid soils that dry rapidly.

PLANTS - It's best to purchase plants that have been certified by inspectors from the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture. Using certified plants will reduce the chance of disease and result in more uniform stands. Some recommended varieties are described in Table 1.



Seeding Dates

Transplanting Dates

Eastern (Spring crop)

Sept. 20 - Oct. 20


Eastern (Fall crop)

Seed directly into field from July 15 - Sept. 15

Western (Early crop)

Feb. and March

March 15 - May 10

Western (Fall crop)

May 1 - June 15

June 1 - June 15

ROTATION - Never grow cabbage or related crops on the same soil more than once every three years. This is necessary to control various root rots. If club root is a problem, broadcast and till in 35 pounds of hydrated lime per 1,000 square feet 2 to 3 days prior to transplanting. Do not do this more than once every 3 years.

SPACING - Transplant plants or space seed 9 to 12 inches apart in rows 36 to 44 inches wide for 2- to 3-pound heads. When larger heads are desired, increase spacing in row. Using double rows per bed will increase yields 30 to 50% or more. If double rows are used, in-row spacing should be 12 to 14 inches. Plants in double rows compete with weeds better and produce a more uniform crop.

BOLTING - When cabbage forms a seed stalk (begins flowering) pre-maturely, it is called "bolting." This is only a problem in spring crops. Some are more tolerant than others. 'Market Prize' is extremely susceptible and is very often a problem variety in spring if plants are grown in eastern N.C. Florida-grown plants of 'Market Prize' have not been as susceptible to bolting.

OVERWINTERING - In extreme eastern N.C. along the sounds and in most of the southeastern part of the state, cabbage can overwinter. These plantings should be considered with caution, because winter kill and/or bolting can occur in some years causing complete crop loss. 'Bravo', 'Green Cup', 'Rio Verde' and 'Conquest' are good varieties to use for overwintering. Plant seed October 15 to 30 or transplant November 20 to 30 for best results.

FERTILIZATION - Apply lime and fertilizer according to a soil test report. The pH should be 6.0 to 6.4. If the soil is not tested, use 3 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. If boron is not added to the fertilizer, spray 1 tablespoon per gallon of Borax directed to the base of the plant.

SIDEDRESSING - Apply 3-4 cups of 8-8-8 fertilizer per 100 feet of row 2 weeks after transplanting. Cabbage plants need this as they begin growing. Apply another nitrogen sidedressing 3 weeks later. Cabbage has a high nitrogen requirement early in its growth.

WEED MANAGEMENT* - Cabbage is a shallow rooted crop. Cultivation should be shallow (2 inches or less) and only as needed to control grass and weeds.

INSECT MANAGEMENT* - Several insects- cabbage worm, cabbage looper, aphids, flea beetle, diamond back moth, and cabbage maggot (mountain counties only)-present problems for the cabbage grower. Because of the complexity of the problem, it is suggested that home gardeners work closely with their local cooperative extension agent in selection of materials and methods of application.

A control program must be started early. This is especially true for the cabbage looper and other worms. Generally the insect problem is much greater on summer and fall crops, compared to spring crops.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT* - Disease control begins with seed treatment for black rot control. Plant certification ensures freedom from black rot and keeps this problem in check. Also do not enter garden when plants are still wet. All this will help reduce black rot spread.

HARVESTING - Harvest only those heads that are well-formed and firm. Some varieties mature uniformly while others are variable. For this reason some varieties can be harvested in 1 or 2 cuttings while others will require selective cuttings 3 or more times.

Once cabbage is cut, move it out of the sun as soon as possible. Cabbage will "sun blister" and lose weight in direct sun. Cabbage can be stored at 32oF and 98% humidity for up to 5 months.

 Steps to Successful Cabbage Production

1. Select a site with well-drained soil.

2. Test soil for fertilizer, lime and nematodes.

3. Choose a proper variety.

4. Use certified plants.

5. Use seed treated for black rot control.

6. Use close spacing and consider double rows per bed.

7. Add boron to the fertilizer.

8. Sidedress.

9. Wait for plants to dry before cultivating soil to control weeds.

10. Use liquid or wettable powder pressure sprays for insect control.

11. Keep cabbage in shade after harvest.


Table 1. Recommended cabbage varieties and tolerance

Table 1 (Part I). Recommended cabbage varieties and tolerance
Yellows Black rot Tip burn Variety Size resistance tolerance tolerance Shape Color Days Hybrid
Applause L + + 0 globe G 72-78 + Bravo SM + 0 0 round G 78-83 + Blue Gem M + 0 0 G 78 + Cardinal L + 0 0 oval R 85 + Conquest ML + - 0 globe BG 75-80 + Discovery S + 0 0 round BG 80 + Gourmet SM + 0 0 round BG 70 + Green Cup M + + -- flat rd. G 98 + Head Start S 0 0 0 globe G 65 + Market Prize M + -- 0 globe MG 76 + Quisto M + ++ + flat rd. G 88 + Red Acre S 0 0 0 round R 75-80 - Red Rookie M 0 0 0 round R 78-82 + Rio Verde M 0 - 0 round BG 80-85 + Ruby Ball SM 0 0 0 oval R 90 + Savoy Ace ML + 0 0 flat rd. G. 85-90 + Showboat ML + + 0 globe 80-84 - Solid Blue 760 ML + + 0 oval BBG 76 + Solid Blue 780 ML + + + round BG 78 + Sombrero ML 0 0 0 round RG 70 +
+ = tolerance or resistance or high level. S = small, M = medium, L = large. 0 = no tolerance or unknown. G = green, R = red, BG = blue-green. - = lack of tolerance. S = spring, F = fall.  
Table 1 (Part II). Recommended cabbage varieties and tolerance
Spring/ Variety Fall uniform
Applause SF - Bravo SF + Blue Gem SF 0 Cardinal SF 0 Conquest S + Discovery SF ++ Gourmet SF ++ Green Cup SF 0 Head Start S ++ Market Prize S?F 0 Quisto SF 0 Red Acre S 0 Red Rookie S 0 Rio Verde SF 0 Ruby Ball SF 0 Savoy Ace S 0 Showboat S 0 Solid Blue 760 SF 0 Solid Blue 780 SF 0 Sombrero SF 0
+ = tolerance or resistance or high level. S = small, M = medium, L = large. 0 = no tolerance or unknown. G = green, R = red, BG = blue-green. - = lack of tolerance. S = spring, F = fall.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in your county.

Published by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.