How and When to Plant Cabbage in the UK

It’s key to kimchi and the cornerstone of coleslaw. So dig into our guide to learn how and when to grow cabbage in the UK, ensuring a bountiful, vibrant crop.

12 April 2024

What words spring to mind when thinking of cabbage? “Versatile” probably doesn’t top the list. And “chic” is unlikely to make the top ten. Yet this member of the mustard family keeps popping up in the world’s most sought after dishes. Think coleslaw, stir fries, and, of course, kimchi. Whether it’s braised in beer, fermented into tangy sauerkraut, or tossed fresh into salads, cabbage adds a distinctive crunch and a hefty dose of nutrition to every dish.

Rich in vitamins C and K, along with fibre and antioxidants, this leaf-encased orb packs plenty of plant power. Oh, and did we mention it can be harvested year-round? With all that in mind, we’re exploring how to grow cabbage in the UK. From when to sow cabbage seeds in the UK to harvest time tips, we’ve got it covered.

When to Plant Cabbage in the UK

Cabbage in the garden (Credit: Chokchai Silarug via Getty Images)

The key to deciding when to grow cabbage in the UK is to understand cabbage varieties. And there are plenty to pick from. In fact, for those in the know, this is one vegetable that can be harvested year-round. Why? Because cabbages are categorised by harvesting season, with spring, summer, autumn and even winter types all on the table.

When to Sow Cabbage Seeds in the UK for Spring Harvest

Cabbage seedlings (Credit: axeiz77 via Getty Images)

Commonly referred to as spring greens, spring cabbages are typically sown from late summer to early autumn, undergoing overwintering to mature in the spring. Unlike many other varieties of cabbage that develop dense heads, spring cabbages are known for their loose, leafy structure. This results in a milder and sweeter flavour profile, distinguishing them from their more robust counterparts.

When to Plant Cabbage Seeds in the UK for Summer Harvest

Cabbages on a market stall (Credit: Richard T. Nowitz via Getty Images)

Summer cabbages, sown from late winter to early spring, are a vibrant addition to the seasonal garden. These varieties are designed to mature quickly, ready for harvest in the summer months, providing a continuous supply of fresh vegetables during a time of abundant growth. Characterised by their crisp texture and a flavour that strikes a balance between sweetness and the classic cabbage bite, summer cabbages are ideal for both raw and cooked dishes. Their robust nature allows them to withstand the warmer temperatures of summer, making them a reliable choice for gardeners aiming to extend their vegetable harvest throughout the season. With a range of colours and sizes, summer cabbages add both visual appeal and nutritional value to the summer table.

When to Sow Cabbage Seeds in the UK for Autumn Harvest

Sauerkraut made from cabbage (Credit: Kinga Krzeminskavia Getty Images)

Sown in mid-spring, autumn cabbages are renowned for their dense heads and robust leaves. With a deeper, richer flavour compared to their spring and summer counterparts, they’re ideal for the heartiest of dishes, such as stews and roasts.

When to Plant Cabbage Seeds in the UK for Winter Harvest

Harvesting cabbage (Credit: kupicoo via Getty Images)

When it comes to harvest time, winter cabbage goes where few others dare. Sown from mid-spring to early summer, these hardy varieties are distinguished by their thick, robust leaves and the ability to form tight, substantial heads. They offer a rich, savoury flavour that deepens with the cold.

When to Plant and When to Sow

Fresh cabbage (Credit: maple's photographs via Getty Images)

There are various options as to when to sow and when to plant cabbage seeds. They can be sown indoors or out, in a seedbed, large container, or in the ground. While they grow best in the ground, they’re usually started off indoors for the first five weeks or so, putting them beyond the reach of pests and fungi. They can then be moved outdoors.

As to when to plant cabbage seeds outside in the UK, this again depends on the variety. Autumn and winter cabbages can be planted outside in April or May, spring cabbages in July or August, and summer cabbages from late February to early May.

Appropriate spacing is crucial when planting cabbage seeds. This differs depending on the variety, ranging from 12 to 24 inches between plants.

How to Grow Cabbage in the UK

Cabbage ready to be picked (Credit: Maria Korneeva via Getty Images)

Soil preparation is a vital component in how to grow cabbage in the UK. These veg thrive in well-draining, fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, enriched with well-rotted compost or manure. And firm, ideally very firm, soil is a must to avoid cabbage root fly.

Cabbage Care

Watering cabbage (Credit: Oliver Rossi via Getty Images)

To flourish, cabbage requires consistent care, including regular watering to maintain moist but not waterlogged soil, and mulching to keep soil moisture and temperature stable. A balanced, nitrogen-rich fertiliser will also support leafy growth.

Pest Control and Disease Prevention

Cabbage in the garden (Credit: Chokchai Silarug via Getty Images)

Maintaining vigilance against pests and diseases is integral to successfully growing cabbage in the UK. Caterpillars and aphids pose common threats, while diseases like clubroot can impede growth. Crop rotation, covering crops with fine-mesh netting, and organic pest control methods are effective in mitigating these risks, ensuring the cabbage’s optimal development.


Red cabbage on a chopping board (Credit: EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS via Getty Images)

The culmination of the process of how to grow cabbage in the UK is the harvest. Most cabbage varieties are ready after 20 weeks, when the heads are firm and before they split. Harvesting is done by using a sharp knife to cut through the stem just above the ground.

Wrapping Up

Cabbages in a basket (Credit: Diana Miller via Getty Images)

And so, we’ve looked at the various stages of how and when to grow cabbage in the UK, getting to the root of exactly how and when to plant cabbage seeds in the UK and right up to harvest.


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