Cabbages: a step-by-step beginner’s guide

Producing this crop is relatively easy, provided you follow a few simple steps, says Bill Kerr.

Cabbages: a step-by-step beginner’s guide
If there’s not enough nitrogen, cabbage yields will decrease while all other expenses remain the same.
Photo: Bill Kerr
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Cabbage cultivation can be discussed in great detail and this could include all the things that can go wrong. In most cases, however, you can get outstanding results by following a few simple steps.

READ: Diversifying on a small-scale for reduced financial risk

Cabbages step-by-step

Soil analysis
Small-scale farmers seldom carry out a soil analysis of their land. For farmers planting a larger area, a soil analysis is certainly worthwhile. An analysis will show what nutrients are in the soil and what fertilisers are required. Irrespective of what this report says, you should apply nitrogen.

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If it is available, use cattle manure; it improves the structure of the soil, stimulates healthy growth and provides macro- and micronutrients. Manure makes growing cabbages far easier. Apply 30t/ha to 50t/ ha before preparing the soil. If no manure is available, and you do not have a soil analysis to guide you, apply 600kg/ha of 2:3:4 (24), broadcast and worked in.

Soil Preparation
The soil preparation in producing cabbages does not have to be very fine. Spacing will depend on what size head you require: wider spacing will produce larger heads sooner. The general rule is to space rows 60cm apart. The in-row spacing should be 35cm – slightly further apart for larger heads, a bit closer for smaller heads.

Most important is the amount of nitrogen you apply and the timing of its application. The best form of nitrogen for most vegetables is LAN.

  • First application: Administer this a week after transplanting. Ensure that it is applied close to, but not touching, the plants. The most efficient method of administration is probably by hand; use one handful of LAN for every 12 plants. LAN can also be applied through a pipe tied into the corner of a fertiliser bag, which is rolled down halfway; walk down the rows with the fertiliser flowing out of the pipe, near the plants. If using this method, apply between 150kg/ha and 200kg/ha.
  • Second application: Administer this two weeks after the first application; it does not have to be sprinkled as closely to the plants. Apply 200kg/ ha to 250kg/ ha.
  • Third application: For the third application, use 250kg/ha, two weeks later in summer, or three weeks later in winter.
  • Fourth application: A fourth application may be necessary if you have plenty of rain in your area. This may seem excessive, but it is well worth it.

Without sufficient nitrogen, the yield will decrease, while all other expenses remain the same.

Pest control
To control pests, start with a pyrethroid spray applied before planting to eliminate cutworm damage. After this, watch the plants closely and apply the right product for the pest. Avoid spraying if there are no pests – it will save you money.
For aphids, use Aphox. For caterpillars, use Tracer or DiPel. These are safe for the pests’ natural predators.

Keep the crop well irrigated.Watch the condition of the leaves and dig into the soil to know when to irrigate. Your seedling grower will advise you on the best variety for the season. If applied, a herbicide should be well calibrated.