Cabbage or Brassica oleracea is a popular vegetable for gardeners who love to cook! Cabbage is a delicious and key ingredient in many soups, salads, and coleslaw recipes. Growing cabbage is an easy way to ensure that you always have enough on hand, plus you can also cultivate it across the US in zones 2 to 11.
If you are eager to start growing cabbage, or you are looking to save space in your garden beds, cultivating cabbage in pots or containers is a great strategy. Learn these eight tips to get you ready for a successful growing season and a hearty cabbage harvest!
Types of Cabbage
There are many different types of cabbage to choose from! Picking out a variety that will thrive in a container is a key step toward a successful harvest. ‘Gonzales’ is an excellent choice for small garden containers. These cabbages will be about the size of a softball when they are ready to harvest. As well as ‘Gonzales,’ consider, ‘Dwarf Modern,’ ‘Little Leaguer,’ or ‘Red Ace.’ These cabbage cultivars all thrive in containers.
Fun Fact: In the olden days, farmers thought you had to plant cabbage at night in your pajamas for it to grow well!
Pesky Pests to Avoid
For a successful harvest of cabbage, it is important to watch out for pesky critters. Two of the most common pests which love to feast on cabbages are cabbage worms and cabbage aphids. Keep an eye out for signs of an infestation to prevent your crops from being eaten before harvest time!
There are several cabbage worms including ‘Cross-Striped Cabbageworm’ or Evergestis rimosalis, and ‘Imported Cabbageworm’ or Pieris rapae. If you place your containers outside, cabbage worms could become a problem. Look for large holes in the foliage that have ragged edges where the cabbage worms have been eating the produce.
To help prevent cabbageworm, plant thyme as a companion plant. If an attack is already underway, handpick them off the plants to get rid of the cabbage worms and prevent further damage.
Aphids are a bane in gardens, and cabbage aphids or Brevicoryne brassicae are a particular nuisance. When you place your cabbage pots outdoors, these aphids can attack and suck out the sap from the cabbage foliage. You’ll notice their presence when you see yellowing, curling leaves, or stunted growth. For an easy home remedy, place banana, and orange peels around your containers. Alternatively, dip a cloth or paper towel in a solution of one percent soap to water then wipe off the leaves.
Watch for Diseases
Cabbages are susceptible to many diseases. Black rot fungus is one of the most serious diseases your cabbage can get. It is a seed-borne bacteria, meaning that the seeds sometimes carry this fungus within them. It thrives in warm, rainy conditions, and there isn’t a cure. Once your cabbage catches this fungus, remove it immediately to prevent the spread.
Downy mildew is another common disease. This leaves a fuzzy white or grey fungus on the underside of foliage that can cause defoliation and kill the cabbage. To prevent it, try bottom watering your cabbage containers, this will stop water from gathering on the leaves. Simply place your container in a shallow dish with water, leave it for about a half hour, and then remove it from the shallow dish.
When cultivating cabbage in containers, an important consideration is the container itself! To give your cabbage enough room to grow comfortably, the container or pot should be 5 gallons. Cabbage roots grow fairly shallow, so 5 gallons is enough for the roots to thrive and the foliage to spread.
Apart from size, great drainage is essential. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot for water to drain. Cabbages aren’t too picky about the material of the container; plastic, wood, and clay are all good choices.
From Seed to Harvest
Container cabbages need your expertise to thrive! If you are starting from seed, temperatures should be around 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit for germination. Sow seeds a quarter inch deep, then in 20 days or less you should see sprouts pop up. Your plant will be mature and ready to harvest in 70 to 110 days or when the cabbage is firm and between 1 to 3 pounds.
Keep Them Warm and Sunny
To encourage your cabbages to thrive all the way from seed to harvest time, place containers in the full sun whether they are inside or outside. Cabbages need six to eight hours of daily sunlight. Then, temperatures should be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Adjust your thermostat accordingly if you are growing cabbage indoors or watch your outdoor thermometer before you move cabbage pots outside.
Then, harvest your cabbages before temperatures drop below 18 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Cabbages are tolerant of cold but when temperatures go below this, foliage can freeze.
Choose Nutritious Soil
When choosing your potting soil, look for soil that has a pH between 5.8 and 6.5. Cabbage thrives in loamy or sandy soil with great drainage. Water the soil directly or try bottom watering, to keep the soil moist to the touch but prevent mildew from growing on the leaves.
To boost the nutrients in your soil, choose a fertilizer that is nitrogen-rich with a ratio of 46-0-0 or 27-3-3. Side-dress the fertilizer, or apply it to the soil a few inches away from the base of the plant. Fertilize cabbages around four to six weeks after sowing seeds.
Pro Tip: Make sure your cabbage has a steady supply of water in the late summer. This will help prevent the head from splitting before harvest.
Cabbage in containers can benefit from companion plants. Consider adding herbs that grow well in containers or hanging baskets like thyme. Some of them will even offer additional benefits, for instance, thyme can help deter cabbage worms. Then, nasturtium flowers will help prevent cabbage aphids.
Cute Container Cabbages
Containers are a lovely way to grow cabbages. With the right size of pot or container, around 5 gallons, your cabbage will have enough room to thrive! Once you have the right container, continue caring for your cabbage by following easy care requirements like placing it in full sun, watering regularly, and using a nitrogen fertilizer. Then watch out for pests like cabbage worms, and diseases like black rot fungus.
Have you tried growing cabbages in containers? What helped your container cabbages to thrive? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!