Mkulima today cabbages are one of the most consumed vegetables and a key source for revenue for farmers. In this article, we cover some of the introductory tips to the cabbage farming guide.

Cabbage is a common vegetable that grows especially well in fertile and well-drained soils. The increasing demand for vegetables has contributed to the growing popularity of this crop, particularly in urban areas.

If you are keen on maximizing cabbage production as a farmer, knowledge of major cabbage pests and diseases and their control is essential.

Some  Cabbage Varieties

There are three varieties of cabbages in the country namely

  • smooth-leafed green,
  • smooth leafed red, and
  • crinkled-leafed green, also known as savoy cabbage.

The most popular example are Gloria F1 hybrid, Copenhagen market, and golden acre. Cabbages are sold by type, shape, and colour of the head rather than by individual variety.

Green-colored cabbages are the most common, with red cabbages available. The shape of the cabbage head can be classified into three groups:

  • Ballhead (or roundhead). This is the most common type. It has a soccer-ball-sized head, and smooth white-veined leaves tightly packed together.
  • Conical (or sugarloaf). This type has a smaller pointed head.
  • Large drumhead types. These are larger cabbage with a flatter head shape.

Savoy cabbages are distinguished by their wrinkly leaves with sawtooth-like leaf margins. Savoy cabbages range in colour from light green to grey-green to bluish-green with a reddish tint.

The shape varies too, from rounded, soccer-ball size to cylinder-like.

Chinese cabbages (also known as ‘wong bok’) are increasingly grown.

Chinese cabbages are usually more elongated than other cabbage types with broad, very pale green leaves that have white veins that are often less tightly packed than in other types of cabbages.

There is a wide range of varieties available and their suitability for a particular area can only be judged by growing them in the region.

  • Corinth is suitable for processing and has good disease tolerance. It is similar to Green Coronet but with a larger frame (average weight 4 kg).
  • Green Coronet is a good-sized variety (average weight 3 kg) that has performed well in all areas. It is partially tolerant to black rot and is grown in small amounts during summer. It has a cream green colour and a good flavour. Harvesting is about 12 weeks from seeding.
  • Greengold (hybrid) is an early (12 weeks), slightly conical-headed cabbage, weighing about 3–4 kg. This type is a uniformly attractive, light green cabbage, but the heads do not hold as with the ball head types.
  • Hiyield or Beauty (hybrid) is a large cabbage of drumhead type, maturing in about 13 weeks and weighing about 3.5–4.5 kg. The variety has some resistance to black rot. The colour is grey-green and the leaves are heavily veined.
  • Kameron is a uniform cabbage with a large size for cool-season production. Produces large, flattened, globe-shaped heads and has excellent holding ability.
  • Red Ruby Ball (hybrid) is an early-maturing cabbage with purple-red leaves. The head is a very tight ball type weighing just over 1 kg.
  • Savoy King (hybrid) is an early-maturing (12 weeks) Savoy-type cabbage used mainly in coleslaw. Its dark green leaves are coarsely blistered but the head (which weighs about 3 kg) is lighter green and is a flattened ball shape.
  • Savoy Prince (hybrid) is larger than Savoy King with reasonably good holding capacity. It matures a couple of weeks after Savoy King. It is more susceptible to black rot. The head tends to be flatter than that of Savoy King.
  • Sugarloaf produces heads about 2 months after transplanting. The conical heads weigh about 2kg.
  • Warrior is a medium to large-sized variety (average 4 kg) with a round to the slightly globe-shaped head. The variety has some resistance to black rot and tip burn. Warrior is a popular processing variety.
  • Cardinal Red (hybrid) is a red cabbage with a large round head (average 1.5 to 2 kg). This variety makes better size when growing into the warm season.

cabbage farming guide


Require daytime temperatures ranging between 160C and 240C. Mature plants can tolerate temperatures of –3 0C.

Soil types

Cabbages grow well on a wide range of soils from light sand to heavier clays. Soils with high organic matter content give the best yields.

The soil pH should be in the range 6.0–6.5 for ideal growth. Cabbages are less demanding than cauliflowers, and good crops can be produced on most soils.

Alluvial soils on major river flats are excellent for cabbage production, provided drainage is satisfactory. Good drainage is important, and soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain or irrigation are unsuitable.


High yield – August to April

Low yield – January to May.

  • Certified disease-free seed should be used.
  • Retained seed should be heat treated at 500 C for 25 minutes to eliminate seed-borne diseases. The seed should then be dried and dusted with 2 g Thiram/kg seed.
  • Sow seed in seedbeds using a rate of 300-450 g for one hectare.
  • The seedbeds are treated with 60 g of compound sand and 3 kg manure per m2
  • It takes 7 – 14 days from germination to emergence.
  • Emergence to transplanting it will take four to eight weeks depending on the variety.
  • Harden seedlings and transplant when they are 10 – 15 cm tall
  • Transplant with the roots intact and irrigate immediately after transplanting to reduce transplanting shock.
  • Only healthy and vigorous seedlings should be used and transplanting should take place in cool overcast weather or late in the afternoon.


The recommended spacing is shown in the table below and varies depending on the variety of cabbage grown. Spacing also depends on soil type, cultural methods, and the district.

Where two rows are planted per bed, a plant spacing of 75 cm is used on a 1.2 m bed. A spacing of 40–60 cm is used on single-row plantings where the rows are 1 m apart.

Narrower plantings are used where smaller-sized cabbages are produced. A favored density is 20,000 plants/ha.


The production of seedlings in cells, or individual pots, is the major method of raising transplants. Plants grown by this system are available from commercial nurseries or they can be raised on the farm.

Transplants from this system suffer little transplanting shock and grow rapidly once transplanted into the field. Management of the young plants is easier than with bare-rooted seedlings.


Direct sowing is still an option but is not practiced much anymore. When cabbage crops are sown directly into the field with a precision planter, they may still need to be thinned to the desired spacing. Good seedbed preparation is essential if this system is used.

The young plants are easily damaged by heavy rain and wind and need to be irrigated regularly. Rates for direct sowing is given later.


A well-prepared seedbed is important and preparation must commence well before transplanting. Cabbages require soil with a pH of 5.6–6.4 for best growth.

This can be achieved by applying dolomite or lime at a rate of 2–5 t/ha when cultivation is commenced. In most areas cabbages are transplanted into raised beds to reduce the effect of heavy rain, which would waterlog the soil.

Beds should be formed as soon as possible to allow them to stabilize before transplanting. TRANSPLANTING

Transplanting is carried out by machines. Transplanters can be as simple as a furrow opener and press wheel which ensures the plant is firmly bedded into the soil.

More advanced machines can apply water and fertilizer to the root zone at transplanting. Transplanters require a tractor driver and at least one other operator.

One hectare per hour is a good rate for cell-grown transplants. A good watering immediately after transplanting is essential to ensure that the young plants become well established.


There are about 100 seeds/g but the purity of the seed and the resultant germination percentage are critical for success with direct seeding.

Cabbage seed loses its viability quickly, and fresh seed must be used each year unless proper storage facilities are available.

Do not sow seed deeper than 2 cm. The quantity of seed required for direct sowing can be accurately assessed by using the Bleasdale formula.

According to this, the seed required (in kilograms per hectare) is equal to: (1000 × No. plants/m²) ÷ (No. seeds/g × lab. germ.% × field factor) In the formula, 1000 is constant.

The field factor varies, from 0.5 where seedbed conditions are poor to 0.8 for a good seedbed condition.

For example, suppose that the seed supplied by the merchant has stated laboratory germination of 85% and contains 100 seeds/g and that the grower has a precision-belt drill and intends planting in rows 70 cm apart with plants every 60 cm in the row.

Then each plant will have 4200 cm² (70 cm × 60 cm) of space and there will be about 2.4 plants/m² (10 000 cm² ÷ 4200).

We will assume a good seedbed and a field factor of 0.8. Seed required = (1000 × 2.4) ÷ (100 × 85 × 0.8) = 0.3 kg/ha Nutrition Soil analysis prior to applying fertilisers is strongly advisable.

Cabbages require large amounts of fertiliser but are not as demanding as cauliflowers.

As cabbages benefit from high levels of organic matter, it is suggested that animal manure (if available) be the basis of the fertiliser program.

Broiler manure is ideal, as the sawdust and poultry manure are well mixed. A rate of 20 m³/ha is recommended, with the manure well cultivated into the soil.

Phosphorus (as superphosphate) is essential and must be applied in the root zone before transplanting.

Use about 300 kg/ha superphosphate. Where poultry manure is not available adopt a program based on chemical fertilisers, using 60–80 kg/ha phosphorus (equivalent to 600–800 kg/ha superphosphate); 60–85 kg/ha nitrogen (equivalent to 180–225 kg/ha Nitram®); and 30–90 kg/ha potash (equivalent to 60–180 kg/ha muriate of potash).

Apply this as a base dressing. At least one side-dressing before the head formation is needed, and in lighter soils crops would benefit from a second side-dressing shortly after the head forms.

Side-dressing rates suggested are 40 kg/ha nitrogen (equivalent to 120 kg/ha Nitram®) and 30 kg/ha potassium (equivalent to 60 kg/ha muriate of potash).

No benefit will be obtained from the superphosphate content of pre-mixed fertilisers applied as side-dressings.

Molybdenum deficiency could occur even though seedlings were treated in the nursery to give added protection against this problem.

A follow-up spray of: 500 g sodium molybdate / 500L water/ha is recommended when the plants have become established in the field.


Cabbages need regular irrigation to ensure rapid growth and evenness of maturity.

They can be irrigated by moveable spray lines, traveling irrigators or solid set, or, if the soil is suitable and water available, flood irrigation.

Cabbages grown in beds will require more irrigation than those grown on the flat. Soil type and weather will also influence the frequency of irrigation.

The use of tensiometers or other measuring equipment will improve yields and reduce water costs.

Cabbage Farming guide

Requirements Soils: – For optimal growth, cabbages require well-drained soils with a pH of 5.6 to 6.4. Loamy, black cotton and alluvial soils are best suited for this crop.

Climate: – The crop does well in cooler climates with adequate and well-distributed rains. It can also flourish under irrigation in the lower altitudes.

Weeding:- The crop should be kept free of weeds especially in its younger stages to avoid losses due to competition from weeds; which can also be a source of pests and should be controlled at all times.

Spacing: – A 60cm by 60cm spacing is recommended. The further apart you plant the cabbage, the larger the head will develop.

Fertilizer Application:- Fertilizer applications should be split into two; at planting and top dressing or even into three after every six weeks. Application of homemade liquid fertilizer made from comfrey leaves at transplanting and when the heads begin to form will give the crop an extra boost.

Fertilizer application

To get  the exact amount of nutrients that should be applied to meet the crop’s requirements, the following factors should be considered:

  1. The nutrient level in the soil and rocks
  2. Nutrients that can be derived from previous crop residues.
  3. Timing of nutrient application, for crops, to make the best use of the fertilizers.
  4. Soil type: this affects fertilizer use efficiency. There’s 70 percent efficiency in light sandy soils, 60 percent in medium, clay, silt, organic and peaty soils, and 55 percent efficiency in shallow soils over chalk and limestone.
  5. Estimation of nutrients gained from the use of organic manures
  6. Nutrients that must be replaced in order to maintain the soil index level
  7. The sources and cost involved in deciding the particular fertilizer one needs to produce the required nutrients.



The following is a guide for fertilizer application:

  • Nitrogen (NO3, NH4) – 250- 340 kg/ha,
  • Phosphate (P2O5) – 100-200kg/ha and
  • Potash (K2O) – 200-300 kg/ha. Magnesium (MgO) – 100-150kg/ha

Practical Practices

Nursery preparation: – The growing of these vegetables should be started by raising seedlings on nursery beds.

Plant seeds in raised or sunken beds for wet and hot areas respectively. The dimensions should be 1 meter wide and any desired length.

Soil should be well prepared to a fine tilth before planting, then seeds drilled into the nursery bed as cabbage seeds are small.

Seed rate: – The seed rate is 300gm/ha. Healthy vigorous seedlings should be transplanted when they are 10-12cm high, about 4-6 weeks old.

Manure application:- Soils low in organic matter require 20 tons/ha of manure or 1-2 handfuls of manure per planting hole should be applied. D.A.P fertilizer is recommended @ 200kg/ha at planting.

In acidic soils, dolomitic limestone should be applied @ 500- 1000kg/ha. In acid soils, D.A.P fertilizer should be avoided, and instead, triple superphosphate, double superphosphate or compound N.P.K fertilizer should be used.

Top dressing: – The plant should be top dressed with a nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 100kg/ha when seedlings are established and a second topdressing at a rate of 200kg/ha when the leaves start folding.

Have the soil tested for nutrient status where possible before planting.

Weeding: – The field should be kept free of weeds during the vegetable’s growing season and mulching conserves moisture.

Harvesting starts 1.5-4months after transplanting and lasts 4-6 weeks. The vegetable is ready when heads are firm.3-4 wrapper leaves should be left to cover the head and keep it fresh. Avoid bruising the head as it encourages rotting.

Pests and Diseases

Typical cabbage diseases are blackleg, black rot or leaf blight, clubroot, damping-off, and stem rot.

To avoid soil-borne diseases, don’t plant cabbage-family plants (Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli) in the same area more than once every three years.

Cabbage pests include: – caterpillars, aphids, and flea beetle.

To control these pests, check for caterpillars and aphids regularly and dust your cabbages with wood ash from the start to avoid the pests.

Cold season planting minimizes 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.


Harvest during cool morning hours to avoid cracking of the heads. Grade and pack cabbage vegetable heads in crates, arrange with the stem end facing the outer wall of the crates for transportation.

This will avoid bruising the vegetable head. Cabbage heads can store for some time at 0ºC and 95% relative humidity.

Harvesting takes place 60 to 90 days after transplanting depending on the variety.  As soon as the heads are full, firm, well-closed, and sufficiently developed they should be harvested.  Harvesting may be for a period of 15 to 20 days at 4-day intervals.

A cabbage is mature when the head is firm to the touch. Heads firm gradually until they become hard.

After a period they will split and the cabbage is then not suitable for sale. With some varieties, the head can split when touched or after being cut.

Earlier harvesting overcomes this problem. Cutting is usually carried out in the morning when the cabbage is at its coolest — cabbage will travel better than if cut in the heat of the day.

Cut so that a few wrapper leaves are present to protect the heart.

Infield conveyor belts and forklifts have streamlined cabbage harvesting on larger farms. On smaller properties, cabbages are still cut and carried or thrown to the edge of the field. Harvested cabbages are put into collapsible wire crates or wooden crates, or stacked on pallets on the back of a truck.

Cabbages grown through the coolest period of the year and exposed to short days begin to form seed heads during late August and September.

While this is not a desirable characteristic, all growers face the same problem and cabbages for sale are conical in shape.

Breeders are trying to produce cabbages not so susceptible to this condition.

Cabbages can be stored successfully for up to 3 months at 0°C and at a relative humidity of 90%– 95%.


At present, there are no grading regulations for cabbages in New South Wales, but the market demands a good product — medium to large firm cabbages with disease-free outer leaves and a solid heart.

As retailers cut most cabbages into halves and quarters, a pleasing internal appearance is important.

Cabbages are usually in plentiful supply so that buyers can purchase good quality products at reasonable prices. The cost of producing cabbage is estimated to be about 60 cents/head

Varieties with good storability grow hard compact heads e.g. Copenhagen market cabbage variety.

Depending on the variety, soil nutrient status, water availability, and environmental conditions the vegetable yields range from 40-100tons/ha.


Cabbage growers aim to harvest their crops with the least possible number of cuts. To achieve this, good cultural methods are necessary at all stages of production.

Careful attention to the size of transplants, fertilizing, irrigation, and pest and disease control help to ensure even maturity.

Cell-produced transplants are more uniform in their maturing than are seedbed-produced plants.

This is one of the major reasons growers are using this method of producing seedlings.


  • Expected yields vary according to variety.
  • Open-pollinated varieties yield 30 – 35 tonnes/ha and F1 hybrids yield 50 -75 tonnes/ha.

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