The cabbage vegetable is probably the second most popular household vegetable and even more popular among larger institutions that cook food on a large scale. For this reason, the cabbage market in Kenya is quite huge and the profit margins are very attractive for any farmer who chooses to dive into this farming niche. Therefore, this post will take you through how to plant cabbages in a stepwise fashion, for commercial purposes. In addition, we will delve into the cultivation requirements, harvesting and post-harvest best practices to ensure that you make maximum yields and profits in this venture.
Let’s dive in…
Cabbage is a leafy green, red, or white biennial plant grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. It is descended from the wild cabbage and belongs to the “cole crops” or brassicas, meaning it is closely related to broccoli and cauliflower; Brussels sprouts; and Savoy cabbage. A cabbage generally weighs between 500 to 1,000 grams. Smooth-leafed, firm-headed green cabbages are the most common, with smooth-leafed purple cabbages and crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages of both colours seen more rarely
Types of Cabbages
As mentioned above, there are many types of cabbages. The most common way of differentiating the is by colour. In such a classification system, there are three main types of cabbages according to colour, and they are:
- Green Cabbage – This is the most popular and abundant cabbage both in Kenya and the rest of the world
- White Cabbage – Don’t get confused here. Tips-Folder describes white cabbage a dense round head that is pale green to white on the inside. Green cabbage, on the other hand, is green and leafy, with a pointy shape at times. It has a stronger flavour than white cabbage.
- Red Cabbage – The red and green cabbage have the same taste despite being different in colour.
Colours aside, the most popular cabbage varieties, are:
- Drumhead Cabbage – This variety is characterized by its large, round, and tightly packed heads. It is highly popular due to its excellent flavour and crisp texture. Drumhead cabbage is commonly used in salads, coleslaws, and stir-fries.
- Copenhagen Market Cabbage – This variety is known for its compact and firm heads. It has a sweet flavour and is often used in traditional Kenyan dishes, as well as in soups, stews, and sautés.
- Sugarloaf Cabbage – Sugarloaf cabbage has a cone-shaped head with a pointed top. It is preferred by many Kenyan farmers and consumers due to its resistance to pests and diseases. It has a mild, sweet taste and can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, stir-fries, and pickling.
- Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage – This variety is characterized by its small to medium-sized heads that have a distinct conical shape. It is known for its early maturity, making it popular among farmers who want an early harvest. Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage has a tender texture and is often used in stir-fries, slaws, and sautés.
- Red Cabbage – While not as popular as the aforementioned varieties, red cabbage is still grown and consumed in Kenya. It has a deep purple-red colour and adds vibrant hues to dishes. Red cabbage is commonly used in salads, coleslaws, and pickling, and it offers nutritional benefits due to its high content of antioxidants.
For illustration, here are images of the different types of cabbages that are edible:
First things first, know your soils. You will do this by running a laboratory soil analysis. This will help you establish;
- Soil pH
- Diseases and pests
- Nutrients and minerals in the soil
Once you have the above soil properties, you will be in a better position to determine the kind of fertilizers to use, the seed varieties to plant, and the pests and diseases to control.
Soil preparation procedure
- Plough your land and make furrows for planting – Furrows should be 80 to 100 centimetres spaced out from each other, with individual depths of 15 to 20 centimetres (6 to 8 inches).
- After working on your furrows, you will need to irrigate/ water the furrows with sufficient water. This will prevent scalding or damage to the seedlings with hot soils when you start planting. The lack of moisture and high temperatures can cause stress and even lead to seedling mortality. Furthermore, watering your furrows will drain pests and worms that would otherwise damage your seedlings.
Planting your cabbage seedlings
You should start planting your seedlings soon after watering the furrows. This, of course, should be done after the excess water has drained from the soil.
Cabbage seedlings typically take 3-5 weeks in the nursery. However, you may opt to purchase the seedlings, as a way of making your planting process easy. You will need to get in contact with professional seedling propagators such as Mkulima Mdogo.
Cabbage seedlings have a specific way of planting seedlings within furrows.
To optimize planting conditions for cabbage seedlings, it is recommended to plant them slightly above the trough or in the middle of the furrow. This allows for proper drainage and adequate soil moisture retention, reducing the risk of both excessive drying and waterlogging. Further, seedlings should be 60 centimetres or 2 feet spaced from each other.
As you plant, make sure you don’t bury the stem. Use a stick or piece of wood to make holes sufficient to cover only the roots of the seedlings.
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Manure & Fertilizers
Manure or fertilizer can be applied before or after transplanting your seedlings from the nursery. Your decision will be based on your soil analysis results, as discussed earlier or whether or not you are practising crop rotation.
Based on soil test recommendations, apply fertilizers to provide the necessary nutrients for cabbage. Commonly used fertilizers include:
- DAP (Diammonium Phosphate)
- CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate)
- NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium)
- Organic fertilizers/Manure
Weeds, pest and disease management
Manage weeds around the cabbage plants to minimize competition for resources and reduce the risk of pest and disease problems. Regularly remove weeds by hand or use appropriate weed control methods, taking care not to damage the cabbage plants.
Monitor the cabbage plants for common pests and diseases, such as cabbage worms, aphids, or fungal infections. Implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices, which may include physical barriers, organic insecticides, or beneficial insect releases, to control pests and minimize the use of chemical pesticides.
Here is a simplified table of pests and disease management:
|Aphids||Pests feeding on cabbage leaves, cause holes and damage.||Plant companion plants that repel aphids. Use reflective mulch. Regularly inspect plants. Encourage beneficial insects.||Remove heavily infested leaves. Use insecticidal soap or organic insecticides if needed.|
|Cabbage Worms||Pests feeding on cabbage leaves, causing holes and damage.||Cover plants with row covers. Practice crop rotation. Handpick and destroy worms. Apply organic insecticides like Bt.||Introduce beneficial insects. Use insecticidal sprays if infestations are severe.|
|Flea Beetles||Small beetles that chew holes in cabbage leaves.||Use row covers. Cultivate soil before planting. Apply insecticidal sprays or dusts if necessary.||Remove infested plants. Encourage natural predators. Rotate cabbage crops.|
|Clubroot||Soil-borne disease-causing stunted growth and club-shaped roots.||Practice crop rotation. Improve soil drainage. Use resistant varieties. Apply lime to increase soil ph.||Remove and destroy infected plants. Solarize soil. Use biofungicides or fumigants if severe.|
|Black Rot||Bacterial disease-causing V-shaped lesions on leaves.||Purchase disease-free seeds. Practice crop rotation. Avoid overhead irrigation. Sanitize tools and equipment.||Remove and destroy infected plants. Use copper-based fungicides. Avoid planting susceptible crops in the same area.|
Harvesting & Post-Harvesting Practices
Cabbage plants are typically ready for harvest when the heads are firm and reach the desired size.
The time it takes for cabbage to mature and be ready for harvest depends on several factors, including the specific cabbage variety, growing conditions, and desired head size. On average, cabbage typically takes about 70 to 100 days from transplanting to reach maturity. However, it’s important to refer to the specific variety’s recommended maturity date provided by the seed supplier or breeders as they can vary.
Here are some general guidelines for cabbage maturity based on the type:
- Early-Season Cabbage – Usually around 60 to 75 days. They are quicker to mature and are ideal for regions with shorter growing seasons or for growers who want an early harvest.
- Mid-Season Cabbage – Ranging from 75 to 90 days.
- Late-Season Cabbage – Late-season cabbage varieties generally take longer to mature, typically around 90 to 120 days. These varieties are often larger and suitable for regions with longer growing.
It’s essential to monitor the growth of your cabbage plants and observe the head development. Cabbage heads are ready for harvest when they feel firm and solid. Depending on the variety, you may harvest cabbage when the heads are fully formed and reach their desired size, typically ranging from 1 to 4 pounds (0.5 to 2 kilograms).
Harvesting should be done by cutting the head at the base of the plant with a clean, sharp knife. Avoid delaying the harvest too long, as cabbage heads may become overmature, leading to looser leaves and potential quality issues.
Within this post are the best practices to follow as you start your cabbage farming business in Kenya. Keep updating yourself on more information related to cabbage farming to ensure you make maximum yields and profits.