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Cabbage Spacing: How Much Room for Productive Plants?

Proper cabbage spacing for a productive crop in the garden.

Cabbage Spacing: How Much Room for Productive Plants?

If there’s one thing that I’ve discovered is a make-or-break for a thriving cabbage patch, it’s being diligent to have the right cabbage spacing. It’s really hard to envision how big your tiny seedlings will get when they’re fully matured, but crowding too many plants too close together can leave you with puny cabbage heads- or even none at all.

And you definitely don’t want that after all your hard work in nurturing your garden all summer long!

So today, I’m sharing the details of what I’ve learned about how far apart to plant cabbage. You’ll learn more about why spacing is so important for healthy plants and how to achieve that spacing in your garden at each stage of development.

Let’s get started!

Key Points:

  • Proper cabbage spacing allows each plant to get the light, water, and nutrients it needs to thrive and produce full-sized heads. It also helps reduce the chances of disease and pest problems.
  • Spacing needs vary according to the plant’s developmental stage.
  • Miniature cabbage varieties need at least 10 inches of space between plants, and most standard varieties need at least 18 inches.

Related: After you’ve harvested your homegrown cabbage, don’t throw that stem stump away. Instead, get fresh, tender leaves from regrown cabbage scraps!

Why is Proper Cabbage Spacing Important?

As a general rule, cabbage plants get pretty large, especially compared to plants like lettuce or bush beans. And plants that are large above ground also typically need lots of space for a wide root system.

Giving each cabbage plant a good cushion of space prevents neighbors from shading each other from sunlight and the roots from competing for moisture and nutrients. Plus, properly-spaced plants are less prone to disease and pest infestations than ones in a crowded garden- there’s better airflow and it’s harder for some insects to travel from plant to plant.

So planning for adequate space in the cabbage patch is a critical step for success. Let’s take a closer look at what that actually means practically.

Conical cabbages growing under a protective netting in the garden.

Spacing Recommendations for Different Types of Cabbage

Did you know that there are more than 400 varieties in the cabbage family? That’s a lot, and there are some size variations within that group. But for the most part, cabbages are fairly large garden plants.

Here’s a rundown of spacing for some favorite cabbage types:

  • Baby cabbage: As the smallest cabbage plants, you can typically get away with 10-15 inches between plants. Space your rows at least 24 inches apart.
  • Red, white, and green cabbage: 18-24 inches between plants, in rows 24-36 inches apart.
  • Savoy cabbage: About 18 inches between plants with 24 inches between rows.
  • Chinese cabbage: For full-size varieties, plan for 18 inches between plants. For miniature varieties, allow at least 12 inches between plants. Space rows 24 inches apart.
  • Conical cabbage: About 10 inches in between plants, and at least 18 inches between rows.
  • Napa cabbage: Space plants about 18 inches apart, with 24 inches between rows.

Cabbage Spacing for Healthy Plants

Whether you’re sowing seeds indoors or transplanting young seedlings outdoors, spacing remains crucial at every stage. Here’s what you need to know about space requirements at each developmental stage.

Spacing for Cabbage Seeds

A gardener holds several cabbage seeds for planting.

I like to start all my seeds in a seed-starting cell tray- that takes care of a lot of spacing questions right off the bat! If that’s the route you’re going as well, drop 2-3 seeds per cell in your tray, burying them about ¼ inch deep. Once the sprouts are 1 inch tall, thin to one seedling per cell.

If you’re planting your cabbage seeds directly outdoors, make rows and drop seeds every few inches. Once the seedlings at about 2 inches tall, thin to the density appropriate for the variety you’re growing.

Spacing for Cabbage Transplants in Garden Rows

Whether you bought them at the garden center or started the plants yourself indoors, transplant your seedlings according to the spacing needs of the variety you’re growing.

If you’re unsure of how big your seedlings are going to get, err on the side of caution and allow for at least 18 inches between your plants.

Spacing for Cabbage in Raised Beds and Containers

Cabbage plants growing with other vegetables in a raised garden bed.

Even with a large raised bed, you won’t have the space for traditional rows. So I recommend planting miniature varieties that let you grow several plants in one bed- space these about 10-12 inches apart.

If you’re growing a full-size variety, try a triangle spacing method. Instead of straight rows, this is planting in a staggered pattern that makes better use of limited space.

And even if all you have room for is a large pot or container, you can still grow cabbage! Aim for one standard cabbage per 18-inch wide container. If you’re growing a miniature variety, you can probably get away with two plants in a 24-inch container.

Spacing for Cabbage in Square Foot Gardening

Allot two squares for each standard cabbage plant in your garden. For dwarf varieties, plant one plant per square foot.

Maintaining Proper Spacing Throughout the Season

Making sure your cabbages are properly spaced doesn’t end at planting time- do a regular check-in to see if any plants are getting particularly large and starting to creep into a neighbor’s space.

Sometimes, this might mean making the hard choice of thinning out some plants. But even if you have to pull one or two, it’s not a total loss. Cabbage leaves are edible at any stage of development, although they may not have the best flavor. Add them to salads or enjoy them in my favorite way- coarsely chopped, then roasted in avocado oil, salt, garlic, and onion powder. Delicious!

Frequently Asked Questions about Cabbage Spacing

Yes, cabbage is one of the larger garden plants, and it needs quite a bit of water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow properly. Because of this, standard cabbage plants usually need at least 18 inches of space between plants.

Most cabbage plants produce one large primary head and at least a couple of smaller secondary ones. The outer cabbage leaves are also edible, but the larger ones may be tougher.

Final Thoughts

I’ve learned through (at times painful) experience that proper spacing is the unsung hero of a successful cabbage patch. These plants can get large, so ensuring enough space for each cabbage to grow helps it reach its full potential.

If there’s one piece of wisdom I’d like to impart, it’s this: Give your cabbages the space they need, and they’ll reward you with a harvest that’s truly a feast for the eyes and the plate.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any more questions about cabbage planting distance? Or maybe you’ve got your own stories of success or failure from how you’ve spaced your cabbages in the past. Either way, your thoughts could be just what someone else needs to hear, so please feel free to share in the comments!

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