Getting Started into Cabbage Farming in Kenya

Cabbage farming in Kenya has gained significant popularity due to its nutritional value, profitability, and high demand in the local market.

If you’re a farmer looking to diversify your crops or an aspiring entrepreneur seeking a profitable venture, then cabbage farming is worth considering. Known for its versatility, nutritional value, and high demand in both local and international markets, cabbage is a crop that can bring great success.

Soil Requirements for Cabbage Farming

To achieve optimal growth and yield, cabbage requires specific soil conditions. The pH levels should be maintained between 5.5 and 6.5. Cabbage thrives in well-drained soils with a high organic matter content, such as sandy loam or loam soil types. It is recommended to conduct a soil analysis before planting to determine the nutrient composition and make necessary fertilization adjustments.

Note: Cabbage can’t perform well in highly acidic or highly alkaline soils.

Adjust the soil accordingly to keep it in the right condition. Add Lime, Calcium Carbonate, or wood ash to raise the pH levels. To lower the pH level, when your soil is too alkaline, add vinegar, sulfur, woodchips, or pine needles.

Variety selection

Successful cabbage farming requires proper variety selection. However, there are certain actors to consider such as yield potential, maturity duration, uniform maturity, tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases, good field holding capacity, and yield potential.

Some common cabbage varieties that you can grow in Kenya include:

  • Victoria F1

  • Pretoria F1

  • Zawadi F1

  • Gloria F1

  • Karen F1

  • Pruktor F1

  • Queen F1

Check the mentioned factors first before settling on the variety you want to grow. Also, these are not the only varieties and you can choose one that suits you most.

Nursery management

Seeds are raised in a nursery where they can stay for 25 to 35 days, considering there are optimum temperatures between 25-30°. For maximum germination rate, consider raising seedlings on germination trays using coco peat planting media. If done right, germination trays have a 99% germination rating.

Land preparation

Prepare the land well in advance to ensure optimal conditions for cabbage growth. Start by clearing the land of any debris, rocks, or weeds. Plow and harrow the field to loosen the soil and improve its drainage capacity. Add organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to enrich the soil with the necessary nutrients.

Spacing and Planting

Cabbage can be grown throughout the year in Kenya, but timing is crucial. The best time to plant cabbage is during the rainy season or when you can provide sufficient irrigation.

To start, prepare a nursery bed and sow cabbage seeds in well-prepared soil. Keep the nursery bed well-watered and protected from extreme temperatures and pests. After about 3-4 weeks, when the seedlings are about 10 – 15 centimeters tall.

The spacing varies depending on the variety. Use a spacing of 30cm x 30cm for small heads, 60cm x 45cm for medium heads, and 60cm x 60cm for large-headed varieties.

Nursery Management for Cabbage Seedlings

Establishing a healthy and robust nursery is crucial for producing quality cabbage seedlings. Use raised beds in the nursery to promote proper root development and drainage. The recommended bed width is 1.5 meters.

Before planting the seeds, prepare the soil to a fine tilth by breaking up clumps and removing any debris. Cabbage seeds can be sown directly into the nursery bed, and the recommended seed rate is 300 grams per hectare. Provide adequate water and maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels in the nursery for successful germination and seedling growth.

Nutrition and Fertilizer Requirements

Proper nutrition is essential for the healthy growth and development of cabbage plants. Conduct a soil analysis to determine the nutrient composition and make informed decisions regarding fertilizer application. Organic fertilizers, such as well-decomposed animal manure, can be added during soil preparation to improve nutrient content and soil structure.

Split applications of fertilizers are recommended to provide the necessary nutrients throughout the cabbage’s growth stages.

  • During planting, apply DAP fertilizer at the rate of 100kg/acre.

  • After 25 to 30 days after planting, apply CAN or a mixture of CAN and Urea.

  • At days 45 – 55, topdress again with NPK 17:17:17 at the rate of 100kg/acre.

  • At the second top dressing, you can also consider MAP at the rate of 30kg/acre and Ammonium Sulphate at the rate of 100kg/acre.

  • You can also apply other fertilizers such as Sulfan and Agromaster.

Avoid excessive nitrogen application, as it can lead to the development of slip heads.

Cabbage thrives on a balanced supply of macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Regularly apply fertilizers at appropriate intervals to maintain optimal nutrient levels.

Pest and Disease Management

Cabbage is susceptible to various pests and diseases that can significantly impact crop yield and quality.

Pests

Cabbage is mainly attacked by pests such as:

  • Diamondback moth

  • Cabbage aphids

  • Cutworms

  • Caterpillars

  • Thrips

  • Cabbage loopers

These pests can be controlled using pesticides such as Coragen, Thunder, Bestox, Prove, Tihan, Confidor, and Karate.

Diseases

Diseases that affect cabbage plants include:

  • Damping off

  • Downy Mildew

  • Ring spots

  • Black rot

  • Powdery mildew

  • Leaf spot

  • Head rot

  • Root rot

These diseases can be controlled using fungicides such as Score, Absolute, Funguran, Green Cop, Metacop, and Orius.

Implement integrated pest management strategies to minimize pest and disease damage. You can use a combination of chemical control and cultural practices such as crop rotation, maintaining proper sanitation, and using resistant varieties.

If necessary, chemical control methods can be employed using appropriate insecticides and fungicides, ensuring compliance with safety guidelines.

Irrigation Methods for Cabbage Farming

Cabbage has specific water requirements, and proper irrigation is essential for its growth and development. In Kenya, various irrigation methods can be used for cabbage farming, including drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and rain hose kits.

Drip irrigation is highly recommended as it provides precise water application directly to the plant roots, minimizing water wastage. It also helps maintain consistent soil moisture levels, which are crucial for cabbage growth.

Sprinkler irrigation and rain hose kits can be effective alternatives depending on the farm size and available resources.

Harvesting and marketing

Cabbage is typically ready for harvesting 75-90 days after transplanting, but this can vary depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Ensure the cabbage head is firm and compact when harvesting for the market. After harvesting, sort and pack the cabbage properly to maintain its quality and maximize market appeal. Establish relationships with brokers and buyers, such as markets, restaurants, or supermarkets, to guarantee a steady market for your produce.

Wrap Up

Cabbage farming in Kenya presents a lucrative opportunity for farmers due to its nutritional value, market demand, and profitability. By following the guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can successfully cultivate cabbage and achieve optimal yields.

From soil preparation and variety selection to irrigation methods and pest management, each step plays a crucial role in the overall success of your cabbage farming venture.

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