Cabbage is quite easy to grow and it is one of the more common, nutritious plants that there are for harvesting. It is easy to grow because it is a vegetable that is robust and doesn’t require a lot of attention or fuss.
That doesn’t mean that you can just throw them in the ground on a whim, however. Cabbage needs ample space to grow to produce that hearty, vibrant green vegetable that is popular on tabletops everywhere.
Why Cabbages Need Space and How Far Apart They Should Be
One of the more common things that you will hear about cabbage is that they need space to grow. This is a bit of a vague statement to make and it is important to know just how much space that cabbage needs to properly grow.
Cabbage can actually require up to 24 inches of garden space. This is to provide ample room for their heads to grow up to their full size. You may hear someone say that cabbage “needs to breathe”; this is what they mean by that.
If you plan to grow only a few heads, you can still get away with using a container typically used for gardening on a balcony or patio.
The good thing about planting cabbage is you can actually decide what size heads you want to grow. By knowing how big they will be, you can properly space out your plants in the garden that you have available. This prevents any nasty surprises from creeping up.
Failing to give the cabbage the space it needs means it won’t be able to grow properly. Cabbage plants that are planted too close to one another can essentially run into one another, restricting growing space and resulting in cabbage heads that are stunted or don’t grow properly.
Cabbages can also get to be pretty big, too. Because cabbage can be harvested at different times, it yields different growth sizes. The earlier varieties of cabbage can get to be anywhere from one to three pounds in weight. But those later varieties can get to be big. As in eight pounds or more.
As we will cover later, there are actually alternating methods of harvesting so that you can get both the earlier and later harvests that vary in size and weight. But the key is to give your cabbage the proper space that it needs so it can grow to its full potential.
The more wide open your space, the better your cabbage will do.
That being said, not everyone has an unlimited amount of space to grow their cabbage, so make the most of your space and give the cabbage the room it needs to grow properly. Even if it means growing a little less, getting it right is the important part.
When you begin planting your cabbage seeds in an outdoor space, you will actually want to space them relatively close together. This is done for two reasons.
The first is that you will have more cabbage planted, taking into account those seeds that won’t sprout or the plants that will become infested. The second reason is that you can harvest the heads a bit early to have some smaller heads to enjoy while waiting for the larger ones to sprout.
When you begin your initial planting, you can plant them two inches apart while they are in rows that have at least a foot in space, though they could need two feet overall. When you have spread them out evenly, cover them with about a half inch of soil or so.
Keep an eye on your harvest. When they get to be around five inches tall or so, it is time to thin them out. If you planted them in the springtime, thin them down until they are six inches apart.
When it comes time to harvest those smaller heads, the plants that are left over will be around 12 inches or so in distance from one another; this gives them the ample space needed to grow to be full size.
If you plan to continuously grow cabbage throughout the season, replant your seeds after that initial harvest of the smaller heads. This way, you will have cabbage consistently growing throughout the season.
The process is the same throughout, simply repeating as you go.
Planting with Less Space
There are alternate ways of planting the cabbage that will save space while also helping the soil to retain some of its moisture. These methods will also reduce the need for more weeding and mulching that would have to be done with heavier patches of cabbage.
The first alternative spacing plan involves marking your row line. Plant a cabbage seedling on that row line and then plant one below and above it at around 10 to 12 inches of space.
Next, plant two more seedlings. One should be about 5 or 6 inches above the row line while the other will be the same distance below the row line.
Keep alternating these sets of seedlings until you have filled out your entire row. This will make the most of your small space while still giving the cabbage the space that it needs to grow properly.
The second alternative involves using two seedlings that are spaced the same way as they would be in the first alternative. Take one seedling and plant it on the row line around 12 inches or so from the seeds that are at the beginning of the row and continue with alternating sets of two with a set of one until you reach the end of the row.
The idea of placing the cabbages so close together here is that the shade provided by the outer leaves will allow the soil to retain its moisture and will also discourage weed growth. This makes it easier to harvest and results in less weeds that your cabbage has to contend with.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.
Tuesday 18th of October 2022
Great consolidated information. Really appreciate working it down to efficient practical information while most pages have too much fluff and marketing distracting from the article title. I found your article very useful for my beginner hydroponic garden. I'm making it for fermented food recipes to be grown in my apartment. Cabbage, dill, mint, peppers and still have to research carrots which have deeper root needs and that gets a bit complicated on a small all in one system.