Thanks for taking the time to read our article on how to grow cabbage for beginners in the UK. This is one of the most popular vegetables to grow in the UK. What makes those so popular is that they can be grown all year round depending on varieties and the times that you sow them. Generally speaking cabbage gets split into 3 varieties Spring, Summer and Winter which refers to the actual harvesting time.
For beginners, it is important to understand that cabbage is easy to grow as long as you keep good control over pests. It is also worth knowing before growing cabbage that they take up quite a lot of room in a garden. If you are tight on space you are advised not to grow cabbage for this reason.
Most people in the UK boil cabbage or use it raw in salads. It can also be used to make soup and many people like braised cabbage, but it's not a favourite with everyone. White cabbage is also very popular for making coleslaw.
Varieties that grow in the UK
There are three main seasonal varieties of cabbage and we are also going to include savoy cabbage, red cabbage and Chinese cabbage as their own varieties:
- Spring Cabbages - These cabbages are planted in the Autumn and provide slender cabbages in the early Spring which are smaller than a normal cabbage. Popular varieties include the Avon Crest, Durham Early, First Early Market 218, April, Harbinger, Spring Hero and Offenham Flower of Spring. We would recommend the April variety if you can find it as is is eraly compact and very reliable.
- Summer Cabbages - Summer cabbages are sown in April, planted out in May and June and harvested around August to September. They are generally ball headed and popular varieties include the Hispi, Greyhound, Primo Golden Acre, Derby Day, Minicole, Winningstadt and Marner Allfruh. We would recommend the Primo Golden Acre as it is compact, firm and reliable.
- Winter Cabbages- Winter cabbages are sown in late April or early May, planted out in late June or July and harvested around November to January. Popular varieties include Christmas Drumhead, January Kin, Celtic, Jupiter and Holland Late Winter. We would highly recommend the Celtic which is a hybrid Savoy and a winter white cabbage.
- Savoy Cabbages - Some people prefer the crisp and puckered green leaves of the savoy cabbage. They are also a winter cabbage and popular for some around Christmas. They have quite a long span of when they can be harvested and that depends on which variety you select. Popular varieties include the Best of All, Savoy King, Ormskirk-Rearguard and the Ormskirk late.
- Red Cabbages - In the UK we mainly buy these pickled in jars. They are much more popular in Europe. Popular varieties include Red Drumhead, Stockleys Giant Red and the Ruby Ball.
- Chinese Cabbages - These are usually sold as "Chinese leaves" in many supermarkets. They are tall and cylindrical and look more like a Cos lettuce. Popular varieties include Sampan, Tip Top, Pe-Tsai and Two Seasons. These are sown from May and harvested in July/August or sown in July/August and harvested in October.
Cabbage is grown from seed and needs well consolidated soil.
Germination time of seeds
Life expectancy of seed
No of seeds per ounce
Expected yield per plant
3/4-3 lbs depending on the variety
Ease of Growing
- Seed Sowing Time -Depends on the variety
- Picking Time -Depends on the variety
Best Soil & Planting Tips
All types of cabbage variety needs to be grown in consolidated soil. You will need to leave several months before digging and planting to let the ground consolidate. Ideally dig the bed in Autumn and work in some compost. Avoid any soil that is acidic. You need to plant in a sunny and wind protected spot.
A week before planting apply a general fertiliser Rake in Bromophos if cabbage root fly is a known problem. Never fork over the surface before planting seeds. Tread down gently, rake lightly and remove any surface rubbish.
Maintaining Your Cabbages
Plant your seeds about 3" apart in rows that are 6" apart. Sow to a depth of about 1/2"
When the seeds develop into plants that have 5 or 6 leaves then it is time to transplant. Make sure to water the rows the day before you plan on doing the transplanting. If you are concerned about club root you should dip the roots in Calomel dust paste.
Allow between 12-18" between the plants. If the weather is dry you should water the plants. Always apply a liquid feed as the cabbage heads begin to mature. In Autumn, earth up the stems of any Spring cabbages, and in Winter firm down any plants that have been loosened by the wind or frost.
Pests and Problems
Generally speaking cabbage is easy to grow and usually trouble free.
Birds can be a real nuisance with cabbage seeds and young plants especially sparrows. Use a net to protect when the plants are young.
Cabbage Root Fly
The signs are blue tinged leaves which start to wilt in sunny weather. This is most common once you transplant. Younger plants can die and older plants start to wilt. Use some type of crop saver to deal with this problem.
These caterpillars are common and you will see holes appearing in the leaves. The cabbage moth burrows at the heart of the cabbage. The risk times are April to October and bad in hot summers or if you live near the coast. You can remove caterpillars and crush any eggs they may have laid.
Sometimes the centre known as the heart of the cabbage fails to grow. The main reasons for this is not enough organic matter in the soil or the soil was too loose for planting, or the seeds were planted to loosely. Use something like Growmore fertiliser to encourage the growth.
Sometimes cabbage heads can split. There are a few reasons for this. In the summer time a heavy shower of rain can split the heart. Apply something like Instant Bio to help with this problem. It is always better to regularly water during dry spells to avoid this happening.
In Winter a sharp frost can also split the heart. You might want to harvest and store the heads if heavy frost or snow is forecast.
Slugs & Snails
A slug is basically a snail without a shell. They can devour seedlings in a very short space of time. The best way of controlling these is to just pick them out of the bed and get rid of them. If you don't like the idea of that then slug pellets works really well.
White moths and larvae feed on the underside of leaves. These can be hard to control and the best you can do is a crop saver spray in the morning and in the evening.
Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle
One of the worst diseases and recognised by cream coloured grubs who eat the stems. Nothing can fix this and the cabbages should be lifted and burned.
Hopefully we have given you enough information to be able to grow cabbage in the UK. As a beginner we would recommend trying these as they are very easy and fast to grow.