5 Tips For Growing Cabbage in Raised Beds

Cabbage is a very rewarding crop to grow. There’s nothing quite like twisting a giant head of cabbage right out of the soil. However, it can be challenging to grow if you don’t have the right conditions. This makes it an excellent candidate for a raised bed. In a raised bed, you can easily control the growing conditions. Gardening expert Kelli Klein shares 5 tips for growing cabbage in raised beds.

A close-up of vibrant green cabbages flourishing in nutrient-rich soil within wooden raised beds.

Contents

Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family of plants, which includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. It has similar growing requirements to other brassicas. This includes the need for full sun, consistent watering, and well-draining soil. These needs are easy to meet in a raised bed! Not to mention it’s so rewarding to start cabbage from small seeds either indoors or directly sown into your garden. 

Cabbage might not be the most glamorous crop, but it holds its own in the kitchen. Homemade sauerkraut is a great gateway into the world of fermenting. Not to mention, there is nothing that compares to a homegrown crisp cabbage coleslaw. It is also easy to pickle along with other vegetables like carrots and radish. Enjoy these pickled veggies as a crunchy taco topper. 

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Spacing

A close-up capturing cabbage plants adorned with glistening water droplets on tender young leaves, thriving in brown soil layered with straw mulch within a metal raised bed.
Compact cabbages like ‘Caraflex’ maximize small garden spaces.

When planting cabbage in a raised bed, consider the size of the fully mature plant. Cabbage spacing is the most important consideration. This will help utilize the raised bed space to its fullest. Additionally, the small seedlings can be deceiving. Cabbage grows wide and low to the ground, with some varieties reaching up to 24 inches across! Generally speaking, you’ll want to space seedlings 12-18 inches apart. Refer to your seed packet for information on the fully mature size, plant spacing guidelines, and transplant accordingly.  

Interplanting is another great layout option. Grow these brassicas around the edge of a raised bed with taller plants growing in the center. Or interplant with lettuce to take up space between the cabbage while they are small. Head lettuce will be harvested just as your cabbages begin to size up and fill the gaps. This will help keep the soil covered, which aids in retaining moisture. 

Although most cabbages grow to be quite large, there are smaller varieties that produce compact heads like ‘Caraflex’ that can help maximize your space. Caraflex cabbage grows to nine inches tall and four inches wide. Each petite cabbage weighs between one and a half to two pounds. No matter the size of your raised bed, there is a cabbage for you. 

Amend The Soil

A close-up of a shovel with rich brown soil, adorned with a large worm, ready for soil amendment; in the backdrop, lies more brown soil and a wooden container for a raised bed garden.
Ensure soil depth of 12-18 inches for shallow-rooted cabbage.

These brassicas require well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Cabbage is a heavy feeder, and an abundance of organic matter provides the nutrients that these plants need. It also helps to retain moisture, and cabbages love consistently moist soil. This is easy to achieve with a raised bed

Fill your beds with a high-quality soil mix that contains a healthy dose of compost or other organic matter. Or make your own soil mix using equal parts compost, perlite, and coco coir. Filling your raised bed for the first time? Consider using the hugelkultur method. When utilizing the hugelkultur method be sure to think about the depth of the final soil layer. Cabbage is relatively shallow-rooted and needs a soil depth of at least 12 to 18 inches. 

Choose Companion Plants

A close-up of cabbages, peas, and onions nestled in nutrient-rich brown soil within garden raised beds.
Marigolds and nasturtiums attract pollinators and are edible.

Like most garden plants, cabbage can benefit tremendously from companion plants. Carrots and beets loosen the soil around your cabbage plants. These cold-season root crops grow during the same season as cabbage. Since carrots and beets don’t take up much space above ground, they are easy to plant between cabbage plants. 

Companion plants are also employed for their ability to repel pests. Celery, onions, garlic, arugula, thyme, sage, marigolds, and nasturtium are all said to repel common cabbage pests. Celery has been purported to repel cabbage moths. Onions and garlic repel cabbage moths, cabbage loopers, aphids, and even rabbits! Arugula is a trap crop for flea beetles. The scent of thyme and sage repel cabbage moths. Marigolds and nasturtiums repel cabbage moths and cabbage worms, attract pollinators to your garden, and they are edible as well. 

Timing

 A close-up of cabbages nestled among companion plants like peas and onions, thriving within wooden raised beds.
Summer-grown cabbage may bolt, producing single flower stalks.

Cabbages prefer full sun, but they don’t like the heat. It’s best to begin growing cabbages during the cooler seasons of spring and fall. In spring, start your cabbage seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Plan to transplant these seedlings outdoors two to four weeks before your last frost date. This helps many gardeners scratch the itch of planting seedlings weeks before warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants can be transplanted.

In mild climates, start a second round of cabbage in fall and grow throughout the winter. Directly sow these seeds outside 10-12 weeks before your average first frost date. They will germinate quickly in the warm summer soil and experience a growth spurt as the days become shorter and nights become cooler in fall. Cabbage grown through the summer will struggle. These plants will bolt and produce a single flower stalk rather than a large head.    

Location, Location, Location

A close-up of a cabbage showcasing its tightly packed head and lush leaves, set in nutrient-rich brown soil accompanied by scattered small grasses.
Too much shade prevents cabbage from forming a tight head.

As mentioned above, it’s best to grow cabbages in a full-sun environment. This equates to six to eight hours of sunlight per day. That being said, cabbage does benefit from partial shade during the heading phase, especially in areas where the weather will already be warming up in late spring and early summer. In this situation, choose a planting site where they will receive afternoon shade.

For example, I plant my brassicas on the east side of my house, where they receive morning sun and shade during the later part of the day. Just be sure they receive at least six hours of sunlight daily. Cabbage that is grown in too much shade will not form a tight head

Final Thoughts

Cabbage is a fun and rewarding plant to grow in your garden. Though it has a few pests, there are tactics, like companion planting, that can be used to deter them. Plus, cabbages come in almost endless varieties, including a wide range of colors and sizes.

In the kitchen, the sky’s the limit! Dishes like sauerkraut greatly extend the shelf life of your cabbage, and there is nothing quite like homegrown coleslaw. Grow cabbages in your raised beds this season; you won’t regret it!

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