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How to grow an Award-Winning cabbage from seed!

Updated: May 26, 2023

Last update: Sunday, May 21st, 2023: This post will follow how I start a cabbage from seed and nurture it to grow up to be an award-winning (1st Place at the Champaign County Fair in 2021 and 2022) cabbage. I will post 1-2 videos per week and detail every thing I did to grow this cabbage, transplant it outside in the Spring, and nurture it to full-size. Then harvest the cabbage just in time to enter in the Champaign County Fair sometime in mid-July. The full list of steps is below pictures and videos. The videos go in reverse chronological order when scrolling down so that the latest video is on top. The pictures go in chronological order from earliest to latest, so the last picture before last year's cabbage is the latest picture.

Update: Sunday, May 21st, 2023: One got munched :(

Update: Sunday, May 14th, 2023: His leaves are getting big! I cannot believe how much he's grown after just one month in the ground!

Update: Sunday, May 7th, 2023: Doing great under the clotures! (Clarification: they're not under clotures for this video so we can see the progress. The cabbages have been spending the days and nights under the clotures since they've been in the ground -- at first for protection from frost, but really, for protection from critters.) It is now that time in the season where being under a cloture would be like being in a sauna for these veggies, especially during the day. Plus, they are tall enough that I don't think even the bunnies could still get to them. But we'll see ...

Update: Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023: In the ground for a week and doing great!

Update: Wednesday, April 26th, 2023: In the ground!

Update: Sunday, April 16th, 2023: Ready to transplant!

Update: Sunday, April 9th, 2023: SO big!

Update: Sunday, April 2nd, 2023: The 4 seedlings got a lot stronger this past week! (planted 2/19/23)

Update: Friday, March 24th, 2024: The (now) 4 seedlings grew at least 1/2" in the past 5 days!

Update: Sunday, March 19th, 2023: The seedlings are quite tall and looking strong!

Update: Sunday, March 12th, 2023: This is the full video so far. It's only 3 mins. But from here on out, I will just post video updates -- not the full video. I will also detail my care for these seedlings as much as I possibly can so that we can all learn together! Note that at :35 I show my favorites, and there are indeed 3 cabbage seedlings. The 3rd appeared shortly after the first video was taken of the original two strongest cabbage seedlings. And now (4/2) there's a 4th! Cool! All 4 are thriving today!

Cabbage seeds planted 2/19/23, two sprouted in 10 days:

3/12/23: Under the grow light since 1" tall, watered every few days. Look -- there's a third sprout!

3/19/23 -- One month old. And surprise -- there's a fourth!

3/24/23: The tallest and strongest seedlings (of eight in other pots) by far! The other four were not put right under the grow light at 1" tall for some reason.

4/2/23: Taller and stronger in the past 8 days. I need to warm the soil outside.

4/9/23: Taller and stronger in the past 7 days! Still just watering every few days and keeping under the grow light every day.

4/15/23: Looking so strong -- just like Prairie Garden starters! So happy!

Also 4/15/23: 1st place 2023 cabbage from seed In The Ground! I sure hope this wasn't too hasty of a decision, but the weather is getting bad tomorrow. Today, it is 82 degrees in Champaign, IL. Tomorrow, temps drop by 40, and then I'm leaving town for a week. Three of the cabbage plants go in the ground today. The fourth didn't make it :( They look strong and are covered by clotures to protect them from tomorrow's weather. A Votre Santé! (A toast I give whenever a plant goes into the ground. It's French, it means, "to your health!")

4/26/23: In the ground for 11 days ... so far, so good! Two of three cabbage plants actually live under clotures and are watered every few days. One plant does not have a cloture and is surrounded by a fence. The plant below is the largest of the three.

5/2/23: A little taller ...

5/7/23: Been under the cloture for most of the days & nights since it has been in the ground. Doing great!

5/13/23: Time for a Quiz! Which of these seeds were started earlier? #1 or #2?

You know the answer: they were started at the same time! #2 was put under a grow light as SOON as it was 1" tall and watered every 2-3 days! Quite a difference!!

5/14/23: A better angle of the future 1st place cabbage! Being under the clotures really contributed to the growth of these two cabbages -- 1st place, and his close-second sibling. The sibling on the left was never under a cloture, because I only have two because they're $49! But interesting how it provided some much needed warmth in the early days of being planted in a "still not past the last frost date" garden! Don't mind the thistle. It will all be taken out eventually ...

5/21/23: The prize-winning cabbage looks great, but one of the three got eaten :(

Also 5/21/23: And later that day ... so ... LEARN THIS LESSON! See above update 5/21/23, one got munched when I went home at noon. I should have learned from this and COVERED my prized cabbage. Now, I'm thinking there's no way it can recover. THREE months of nurturing that seedling from seed planted 2/19/23, and I didn't react RIGHT AWAY when I saw damage.

5/26/23: There is a back-up. In Group 2 of the seedlings not placed under a grow light right away, one of them has survived. That's one out of five plants in the ground that survived. One.

To this: My 1st Place cabbage at the Champaign County Fair, July 22nd, 2022!

Here is the full list of steps:

  1. Prepare seedling growth area. I use a bay window on the west side of the house, so it gets great morning light and then I have grow lights.

  2. 2/19/23: Place 3-5 cabbage seeds in each pellet (that has opened up after watering) and water completely. I push them down a bit and try to move the pellet dirt over the seeds. Cover with plastic wrap or Jiffy plastic seed-starting cover to hold in moisture.

  3. Keep out of direct sunlight until the seeds germinate. This could take 1-3 weeks. Water every few days. These seeds germinated in 10 days.

  4. 3/1/23: When they are one-inch tall, get them under a grow light for 8-12 hours/day. The first video records their progress up through 3/12/23. To this date, I just watered every few days and kept them close under the grow light. One of the pellets sprouted 2 seeds at first, and then a 3rd popped up.

  5. 3/19/23: Finally lifted the grow light 1", since the plants outgrew the last level, and a 4th seedling sprouted this week in the pot with the strongest seedlings. Watered all thoroughly, and made sure they are right up against the grow light at it's new height. We now have 8 cabbage seedlings vying for transplantation, the tallest one pictured above still the favorite to win the blue ribbon. The tallest and strongest -- Zeus.

  6. 3/24/23: Watered 2x since last Sunday, otherwise kept under the grow light 8-12 hrs/day.

  7. 4/2/23: Same for the past 8 days -- grow light & watering every 2-3 days.

  8. 4/9/23: Same for the past 7 days -- grow light & watering every 2-3 days.

  9. 4/15/23: Three of the original seedlings look perfect -- just like the stores, only grown by me! I'm taking the risk of planting them in the ground and covering them with clotures. The risk is that they didn't have time to harden off before going in the ground, so I have to monitor the shock they receive. I also fed them with Vegetable food sprinkled around their bases and then watered. When they're watered every few days, I try as much as possible to water just at the roots and not directly on the leaves of the plant.

  10. Give a toast to each plant that goes in the ground. I give a French toast, A Votre Santé. It means, "To Your Health!"

  11. 4/26/23: All 3 look great, and are doing just fine in the ground. It's been windy in Champaign, too!

  12. 5/2/23: We've been out of town for the better part of two weeks, so they haven't received too much attention. Just watering every 3-4 days. But this weekend, the Sunday after the first Farmer's Market 5/6/23, we need to bring out the stirrup hoe and do some weeding and feeding!

  13. 5/7/23: 1st Farmer's Market of the 2023 season really took it out of us, so I was only able to get a few things done, but I did take care of the cabbages. Two of three cabbage plants have been under clotures since they've been in the ground. They're doing great, all watered and fed and the ground around, weeded. I planted some siblings nearby, hopefully not too close! One that hasn't been under a cloture is noticeably smaller.

  14. 5/14/23: Not under the clotures this week -- it's too hot and they're big enough now to go out in the world on their own. The watch now starts for the first actual little cabbage sighting. (Which will probably not be for a few weeks. The leaves get really big, and THEN the cabbage starts to grow.)

  15. 5/21/23: COVER your plants, because they will get eaten by critters. So, if they're so special that they are future prize winners, take the time to PROTECT them!!!

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