Cabbage Needs Wide Open Spaces
Cabbage can require as much as 24 inches of garden space for heads to grow to their full size. Containers for container gardening still provide enough space to grow cabbage on a patio or balcony in the city, though. Even if you have lots of garden space, you still may prefer smaller heads. You decide the size your heads should be, and then, space your cabbage plants accordingly.
Spacing Cabbage Seeds for Growing Your Own Seedlings
When you plan to grow your own seedlings, you will want to sow enough seeds to account for seeds that don’t sprout and transplanted seedlings that don’t survive. Also, your cabbages will only have three or four leaves when you transplant them, so you won’t need to leave a lot of space between plants.
Since your seeds will be indoors, they don’t need to be covered deeply with soil either.
For these reasons, when you are planting cabbage seeds to start seedlings that you will be transplanting outdoors, you can space the seeds 2 inches apart, and you will only need to cover them with 1/4 inch of soil.
Spacing Seeds for Planting Outdoors
When planting your cabbage seeds outdoors, you will still want to space them close together for two reasons:
- You will have more cabbage planted to account for seeds that don’t sprout and plants that fall victim to infestation.
- By spacing plants closer together, you can harvest every other head to have some smaller heads to enjoy early while you wait for larger heads later.
Initially, plant your seeds 2 inches apart in rows that are 12-24 inches apart, but since they are outdoors, cover them with 1/2 inch of soil.
When your plants grow to about 5 inches tall, thin them. For your first spring planting, thin them to 6 inches apart. When you harvest the smaller heads, the remaining plants will be 12 inches apart which will allow them to form full size heads.
Instead of discarding the plants you remove or placing them in your compost, consider moving them to another area of your garden.
After you have enjoyed your initial harvest of smaller heads and you have larger heads growing, you can begin planting seeds every two weeks so that you will have cabbage to enjoy throughout the growing season. Sow these later plantings 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep and thin them to 12 inches apart.
When transplanting seedlings, you can space them 6 inches apart if you would like some smaller heads to harvest and enjoy while waiting on the larger heads to develop. If you prefer larger heads, space your seedlings 12 inches apart.
Space the rows 12-24 inches apart.
Dig holes deep enough that you can place 1-2 inches of the stalk in the ground.
When the seedlings are 5 inches tall, thin them as described above.
Space Saving Alternatives to Traditional Rows
Two alternate ways of spacing cabbage not only save space but also help the soil retain moisture while reducing the need for mulching and weeding.
To use these alternate ways of spacing cabbage, first mark your row line.
To follow alternate spacing plan number one:
- Plant one cabbage seedling on the row line.
- Plant one seedling above the row line and one below it spaced 10-12 inches from the seedling on the row line.
- Measure 10-12 inches down the row from the three seedlings at the start of the row.
- Plant two more seedlings, one 5-6 inches above the row line and one 5-6 inches below the row line.
- Measure 10-12 inches down the row from the two seedlings you just planted, and plant three more seedlings spaced as the first three seedlings were placed.
- Measure another 10-12 inches down the row from this second set of three seedlings, and plant a second set of two seedlings.
- Continue to alternate sets of three seedlings with sets of two seedlings to the end of the row.
Alternate space saving plan number two starts with two seedlings spaced identically to the sets of two seedlings in alternate space saving plan number one. Plant one seedling on the row line 10-12 inches from the two seedlings at the beginning of the row, and then continue alternating sets of two seedlings with sets of one seedling to the end of the row.
The cabbages are placed so closely together that the outer leaves shade the soil as they grow, retaining soil moisture and discouraging the growth of weeds.
Spacing Cabbage for Container Gardening
Cabbages require containers that are 12 inches deep and that allow 18 inches of space for each plant. Cabbages can share containers with companion plants that add attractive contrasting textures while repelling your cabbage’s pests or enhancing its flavor or health.