- Type Leafy vegetable
- USDA Zones All
- Soil Rich
- Peak Season Spring or fall
- Design Tip Ornamental varieties
- Companions Dill, celery
- Days to Maturity 70
- When to Plant Spring or fall
Cabbage: A Field Guide
Cabbages are as easy to grow as they are good for you. Just give them sunshine, rich soil, and plenty of water.
Brassica oleracea is the species name for edible cabbages, ornamental cabbages (which are by the way edible, as well, they’re just not the most delicious), cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and other similar greens. One thing that sets edible cultivars apart from the rest of the cruciferous family is its shape: it grows in round heads, with leaves that may be green purple, or white depending on the variety.
Cabbages can be stunningly beautiful. The photo at that top of the page, of Brassica oleracea var. acephala f. tricolor, is proof. This purple kale is considered an ornamental cabbage, because its leaves are leathery and tough.
Back to head cabbages. Most cabbages take more than two months to mature (70 days on average) and this is a crop that enjoys cool weather. So plant it early in spring or in early autumn for best results. Good companions in the edible garden are beets, celery, dill, and potatoes. You also can interplant cabbages with flowers—marigolds, lavender, and nasturtium are good candidates.
Purple cabbages also are useful for making beautiful, natural dyes. See DIY: A Holiday Tablecloth Dyed with Red Cabbage for step-by-step instructions.