When you grow your cabbage successfully, you’re guaranteed bumper harvests. What’s more is the fact that you can plant cabbages throughout the year. All you need is enough land to rotate your crops as well as disease and pest control and you can enjoy non-stop harvests.
Types of cabbage
There are several varieties of cabbage varieties available varying in size and taste. The larger varieties take a little longer to mature while the smaller varieties usually mature faster. The most common in Zambia is the green cabbage, followed by red cabbage. Not so common are savoy types(curly cabbage) which are tolerant to cold conditions and have deep-wrinkled dark green-leaves.
Below are some common cabbages planted according to the time they take to mature:
Golden Acer (green cabbage) matures in 65 days and Red Express matures in 63 days. These are called early cabbages. Baby cabbages takes approximately 71 days to grow and are called mid season cabbages. Red cabbage which looks like the Red Acer takes 75 days to mature ad is one of the last season types
If you choose to grow different types, you can have cabbage growing all year round. However, you should NOT grow cabbage in the same place two years in a row because it uses too many nutrients from the soil in a single growing season. You have to practice crop rotation.
How to plant your cabbage
Cabbages grow best well drained, fertile soils that are high in organic matter. The soil PH should be between 6.0-7.5 but they can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Because cabbages are heavy feeders, you have to ensure there’s consistently lots of moisture.
When planting cabbage seedlings, plant them deep. This will help to keep their roots anchored because cabbage heads are heavy. Be sure to space the holes 18 inches apart. If you are planting multiple rows of cabbage, space the rows 2 feet apart.
Prepare your soil for seedlings by digging it over with a garden fork, then rake it to make a fine seed bed. Your cabbages will need a firm soil base to keep their roots anchored because cabbage heads are heavy. You can plant in rows or staggered. All you have to do is ensure your spacing of 30-45 cm wide and 40-45 cm between rows. Remember to follow the hardening off process of moving your seedlings outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and/or cold.
Caring for your cabbages
Cabbages are thirsty plants. However, they don’t do well if they sit in soggy soil for too long. They need about 2.5 cm of rain per week for best results. If there’s no rain, give your cabbages one good, deep soak per week. It’s better to water like this than several shallow soaks, as cabbage roots run deep. Furthermore, avoid watering the tops of the plants as this can encourage pests and diseases. Water your field the day before transplanting your seedlings and keep them well watered until established.
Fertilize your plants when growing especially just before transplanting. 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertilizer works best. Once the seedlings are about 16 cm, fertilize them again with a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer. When the heads start to form, add a second dose of water-soluble fertilizer. This will give the cabbages the energy they need to produce large, nicely formed heads. For a detailed fertilizer application program, go here.
Mulch, mulch and mulch… And remember to also weed as the need arises.
Pests and diseases
You can control cabbage moth caterpillars and butterflies with organic insecticides. Black leg fungus can cause the stem of the cabbage to turn black at the level of the soil. Use an organic fungicide and remove the adjacent soil away. If this doesn’t work, you may have to remove the crops. Black leg fungus can stay in the soil for several years, so avoid planting cabbages or cauliflowers in the affected area for atleast two seasons. For more information on cabbage diseases, click here
Harvesting your cabbage
Harvest your cabbages when the heads are not too big and firm to hand pressure (eight to 10 weeks for small varieties). You harvest them by cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife. You need to cut it before it cracks or splits when, heads mature.
Also, it’s important to note that sudden heavy rains can cause cabbage heads to crack or split wide open. If you see heavy rains, harvest.