The ABCD of Cabbage Farming in Kenya
Cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables in Kenya today. There are different varieties of cabbage, but hybrid varieties are more popular because they have large heads, more compact leaves, and a nice green color. Sugar loaf (an open pollinated variety) is good for kitchen gardens because of its longer harvesting period, but the flavor is not so good. Copenhagen also has a long harvesting period, but it has larger and more compact heads than Sugarloaf, so it is a good compromise.
Cabbage farming is not as efficient as kale farming when it comes to space, so only plant it in your kitchen garden if space is not a problem. If your kitchen garden is small, you are better off planting kale.
Varieties with small and medium sized heads are best for selling to the open market. Varieties with very large heads are best for selling to schools, hotels and hospitals. No one wants to go home with an eight kilogram cabbage. One to two kilos is the best size for the open market. Trust me I have seen some HUGE cabbages. The huge ones are fine if you are supplying institutions.
You also want to consider the climate. Cabbages generally prefer cooler climates but some varieties are more heat tolerant than others. So if your farm is not in Limuru or Molo you may want to look into some of the heat tolerant varieties.
The seed should cost around Sh 2,000 if you are doing an acre of cabbage. Use NPK and manure for the seedbed, and the seedlings will be ready to transplant in about six weeks. One 50 kilogram bag of NPK should cost about 3,100. Weed twice at a cost of Sh 2,500 per acre. The cost of chemicals varies depending on the one you want to use. Pyegar, is good for organic farmers. Chemical fertilizers also work pretty well. They are available at all agrovet shops. Some of the natural pest control methods include spraying water at high pressure, using garlic and chilli solutions and spraying a soap solution. The soap alters the surface of the cabbage; making it harder for bugs to hang on.
Some of the chemicals used to control pests and diseases include Topsin, Copper Oxychloride, and Cupracaffaro.
Apply NPK when transplanting and then again after two weeks. Cabbages need plenty of water especially when they are forming heads. More water means bigger heads.
Follow a spraying program to keep bugs away from your precious crop. Cabbages are susceptible to a number of bugs. A bug attack can prevent your cabbages from forming heads. The caterpillars will eat their way up the main stem and leaves, preventing the plant from feeding its leaves and forming a healthy head of cabbage.
The ideal plant population is 20,000 per acre.
Cabbages command good prices around February – May/June. So if you can invest in an irrigation system, plant your seedlings during the dry season and you will make a kill.
Depending on the variety, you should be harvesting your cabbage in 70-90 days.