How to get the best out of your hustle of growing cabbages

DR PESA |

As the cost of living spirals out of control amid the ravages of Covid-19, many households are stretching their budgets, especially their spending on food.

One of the foods helping households to this end is the cabbage because it is cost-effective and can serve many people. There are three varieties of cabbages in Kenya, namely smooth-leafed green, smooth-leafed red, and crinkled-leafed green, also known as savoy cabbage. Nelson Mungai is a small-scale cabbage farmer in Kiambu. He shares tips on cabbage farming. Cabbages do well in a cool climate, where there is a significant difference between day and night temperatures.

Preparation

Farmers are advised to check soil health. Cabbage needs a pH of six to seven.  “In case the pH of your field is lower, tests on the soil will inform the amount of lime you need to incorporate prior to planting. Lime should be applied three to six months before planting. Do your soil tests early and regularly,” says Mr Mungai. The soil test will also inform the kind and amount of fertiliser you should apply. The soil also needs to be deep and rich in organic matter with a high water retention capacity. This is the ability of the soil to hold rain or irrigation water for longer periods. Plants are propagated from seed in a nursery and transplanted when they are about 10-12cm high and about four to six weeks old.

Planting

The recommended spacing is 50cm by 50cm to 70cm by 70cm for larger varieties. In a square-foot planting system, plant a single cabbage per square foot.

According to the fertility of the soil, add the right amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. 

“If you do not know the fertility status of your soil, feeding high amounts of fertiliser might worsen or better the nutrient imbalances in your soil,” says Mbugua.

 Care

Check for caterpillars and aphids regularly, and dust your cabbages with wood ash from the start to avoid the pests.

“Cold season planting minimises caterpillar infestation. Also, keep the soil moist or mulched to avoid flea beetle damage. Aphid infestation is a sign of heat or water stress and inadequate nutrient supply,” he advises. Typical cabbage diseases are blackleg, black rot or leaf blight, clubroot, damping-off and stem rot. If one variety has presented any of these problems in the past, look for disease-resistant cultivars.

To avoid soil-borne diseases, avoid planting other plants from the cabbage family, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and broccoli in the same area more than once every three years. Plant cabbages after beans and follow them up with maize and or potatoes.?

Harvesting

The cabbage heads are mature and ready for harvest when they become firm to the touch. This will be up to three months after transplanting, depending on the variety selected. Cabbages are best stored away from the sun in a cool dry place. Heads can weigh up to four kilos each. Yield per acre can be between 12,000 and 16,000 heads.

Market

Since cabbages are widely consumed, there will always be a ready market. Mbugua mainly sells his cabbages online. He also sells to mama mbogas (greengrocers) and local restaurants.?

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