Summary of Cabbage Farming
In a few words, most cabbage growers start the plants from seed in an indoor protected environment (nursery). The period from indoor sowing till transplanting ranges from 18 to 38 days. Then, they transplant the young seedlings in a fertile well plowed field that is free from weeds. They plant the seedlings in rows, so that the plants will have proper spacing and aeration. In most cases, drip irrigation and fertigation are applied (fertilization through water soluble fertilizers that are injected in the irrigation system). In most varieties, cabbages are ready to be harvested from 75 to 88 days after transplanting. Harvesting can be performed either manually or mechanically.
Cabbage Soil Requirements
Cabbage is a plant that thrives in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. It also needs a sunny location. It is essential to perform a proper field preparation before planting the seeds or transplanting the young seedlings. Experienced farmers report that it is helpful to till the soil and apply compost or well rotted manure before transplanting or direct seeding. In most cases, cabbage prefers a fertile soil with a pH ranging from 6 to 6,8. The most common way to have thriving plants and good quality yields is keeping the soil constantly moist.
Growers shall perform a soil analysis before planting. It is recommended to consult a local licensed agronomist in order to form a rational field preparation plan.
Cabbage Water Requirements
In most cases, drip irrigation and fertigation are applied (fertilization through water soluble fertilizers that are injected in the irrigation system).
Cabbage needs a sufficient amount of water in order to produce its leafy heads. It is important to keep the soil moist but not soggy. We should be careful not to excessively irrigate our crops, because plants cannot tolerate waterlogged soil. Cabbage needs regular, consistent irrigation to develop properly, form firm heads and produce high quality leaves. When growing cabbage in the field, we can use sprinkler or drip irrigation systems. In order to keep the soil constantly moist, farmers may apply a thin layer of mulch to the ground (ask your local licensed agronomis).
Cabbage Planting and Spacing. How to grow healthy and thriving Cabbage
Even though cabbage is a frost tolerant plant, it can be severely affected during spring frosts. Injured plants will produce undeveloped heads, low quality leaves and generally product of low quality and quantity. We should focus on planting cabbage seeds in the appropriate time window, depending on when we want to harvest them. Farmers first sow summer cabbage, during mid spring. Then, they sow autumn-winter types in late spring. Finally, spring cabbages are sown in the last days of summer and farmers harvest them the second year.
We can plant our cabbage seeds indoors in seedbeds or pots 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. In most cases, the proper temperature to grow cabbage is 55-75 °F degrees (12-23 °C). We must regularly water our plants until they develop 3 to 4 leaves. Plants are ready to be transplanted 18-38 days after sowing. When plants develop 3 leaves and become 10-13 cm (4 to 5 inches) tall, we may transplant them in preferred location. Experienced farmers state that they often transplant cabbage on a cloudy day, in order to avoid plant’s sudden exposure to intense sunlight. No matter what growing methods we use, regular irrigation is always required. As mentioned before, keeping the soil moist is the key to well developed and healthy plants.
In order to achieve good growth and maximize their yields, farmers may take into consideration the following factors.
- Seeding rate: 250-400g (9 to 14 oz.) of seeds per hectare
- Number of Plants per hectare: 20000-40000 plants
- 1 hectare = 2,47 acres = 10.000 square meters
- Distance between plants in the row shall normally be 40-70 cm (15-27 inches) Distance between rows shall normally be 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). Keep in mind that these numbers vary depending on the desirable size of each head. The closer the plants are located to each other, the smaller head they produce.
- In most cases, it is beneficial to decrease irrigation when cabbage plants reach maturity. It has been reported that due to excessive watering, cabbage heads can grow too fast and start splitting.
- Farmers may seek advice from local licensed agronomists in order to schedule a proper plan to grow thriving and healthy plants.
Fertilizer Requirements in Cabbage Crops
It is essential to perform a soil analysis before any fertilizer application. The safest way is to know the exact nutrient profile of the soil. Cabbage needs a nutrient-rich soil in order to grow and maximize production and yields. Some cabbage farmers apply a well rotted manure and plow the soil two weeks before planting. They also report that they can add fertilizer to the young seedlings about two weeks or three weeks after transplant. It is important to let cabbage plants grown in height before any fertilizer application.
In most cases, drip irrigation and fertigation are applied (fertilization through water soluble fertilizers that are injected in the irrigation system). Alternatively, soil application is used. In general, experienced farmers suggest a well balanced fertilizer, consisting of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen (N), potassium (K) and phosphorus (P), in the form of granules. We may apply these fertilizers such as N-P-K 10-10-10 or 10-3-3. We can add the granular fertilizers directly to the soil surface and irrigate. It is crucial that the granules don’t come in touch with the young plants, because there is a risk of burning them.
However, these are just common patterns that should not be followed without making your own research. Every field is different and has different needs. You may seek advice from a licensed agronomist after conducting a soil analysis.
Cabbage Pests and Diseases
Throughout its growing season, cabbage is susceptible to several types of pests and diseases. It is a plant that attracts a lot of pests. It is necessary to know our crop enemies and form an environmentally friendly approach in order to tackle them. We can seek advice from a local licensed professional for a proper control of cabbage pests and diseases. The most common cabbage pests and diseases are listed below.
- Small or Large Cabbage White Butterflies. These insects lay their eggs under cabbage leaves. When their larvae emerge, it will feed on leaves.
- Aphids. Cabbage aphids are gray-green and cannot be easily identified. They mainly feed on leaves.
- Pigeons. Pigeons and other small birds love to fly near crops and attack young plants.
- Alternaria leaf spot. It is a fungal disease, caused by Alternaria species. It affects both seedlings and older plants with dark spots on the stem and brown spots on the leaves. If we don’t manage it right away, infected leaves will turn yellow and fall.
- Black Rot. It is a bacterial disease, caused by Xanthomonas campestris. It mainly infects the superficial parts of the plant.
- Downy Mildew of Cabbage. Peronospora parasitica is responsible for this disease, causing necrotic spots on older leaves.
Pest and Disease Control
The best way to control pests and diseases is always prevention rather than intervention. Cabbage growers shall take into consideration the following measures.
- Use of certified seeds is essential.
- Use of varieties and hybrids resistant to local diseases is essential.
- Establishing nets to cover our crops may protect cabbage from some pest attacks.
- Avoid excessive fertilizers application.
- Wire mesh can protect cabbage plants from pigeon attacks.
- Handpicking caterpillars and larvaes and carefully removing them from the crops can be a solution in some cases.
- In order to prevent alternaria leaf spot, it is suggested to collect and get rid of the residues that may remain in the field after harvesting.
- We can rotate our crops with other suitable plants in order to naturally control pest and diseases.
Cabbage Harvesting and Yield per Hectare
As a general rule, the period from sowing till transplanting ranges from 18 to 38 days. In most varieties, cabbages are ready to be harvested from 75 to 88 days after transplanting. There are very early varieties that can be harvested 55 days from transplanting. Some late varieties mature about 95-105 days after transplanting. The time that we shall harvest our cabbage plants depends on different varieties. There are some varieties that need to stay in the field a couple more weeks after they form a solid and firm head. On the contrary, some varieties need to be harvested immediately after they reach maturity.
Important things about Cabbage Harvesting:
- Harvesting must be done when cabbage reaches its full size.
- Cabbage is ready for harvest when its head is firm and fully formed.
- We must check cabbage firmness at regular intervals. When it reaches a size of 12 cm (5 inches) we may squeeze it to test its firmness.
- If we notice that cabbage heads start to split, we must harvest them without delay.
- We can cut headed cabbage from its base with a sharp knife.
- In large commercial cabbage farms, harvesting is performed through automated machines that are attached to tractors. These machines lift the whole plant from the soil using a share. Thus, the plant is completely destroyed. Soil, dirt, rocks and cabbages are transferred onto a series of webs where the cabbages are finally separated from the foreign materials.
- After harvesting, cabbage plants need to be stored in a shady place straight away.
- In most cases, the proper temperature to store cabbage is 32 to 40 °F degrees (0-4 °C). As a general rule, it needs a cold, moist place with roughly 95 % of humidity.
Cabbage Yield per Hectare
The average cabbage yield per hectare is 30-70 tons. (Keep in mind that 1 ton = 1000 kg = 2200 lbs. and 1 hectare = 2,47 acres = 10.000 square meters). There are cases in which farmers reported a yield of 80 tons per hectare or more. Of course, such high yields can be accomplished from experienced farmers after several years of practice.
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