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Cabbage Seedlings

Commercial Farming – Growing from Cabbage Seedlings

Cabbage is commercially propagated seedlings throughout South Africa, with the highest concentration in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. This highly adaptable vegetable can be grown in many soil types and various climates. The plant has a single, short stem that forms a head of leaves. This head is harvested for use in stews, salads, and more. The outer leaves are green, with the inner leaves being whitish. The leaves increase in number as the plant matures; cabbage seedlings only have a few leaves.

Cabbage types range from sugar loaf and ball head to drumhead and conical. The plants are furthermore classified according to their growth cycles and leaf colour. The leaves can be red or green, whilst their texture ranges from extremely wrinkled to quite smooth. The dark green and wrinkled green-leaved types are well adapted for propagation in cold climates. Cabbage seedlings and adult plants perform best in humid and relatively cool conditions. Dry air causes impaired head formation and loss of flavour. Summer-grown cabbage is susceptible to pest infestations, worse quality, and a lower yield. The optimal temperature range for growing cabbage is between 18 and 20 °C. The plant has good frost tolerance, and though it prefers temperatures well above zero, it can survive temperatures of -3 °C.

Cabbage seedlings perform best when transplanted to well-drained soil. Though the plant can be grown in many soil types, it does exceptionally well in loam soils that provide for good drainage and moisture retention. It performs poorly when propagated in acidic soil, so the pH of the soil should not drop below 4,5 or be higher than 6,5. When growing from seedlings, it is important to use hardy stock as available from Hishtil SA. The seedlings should be transplanted to damp and well-prepared soil. Once transplanted into the prepared holes, the soil surrounding the stems should be firmly pressed and the plants should be irrigated immediately after setting. When propagating cabbage from seedlings in a wet area, the plants must be transplanted to raised beds to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged, which can cause root rot and related conditions.

Correct spacing is imperative because it affects the crop’s head size and yield capacity. If planted closely together, plants tend to form pointed heads. If propagating large head types, the farmer can get up to 45 000 heads per hectare and for medium-sized types, up to 65 000 heads per hectare. When propagating baby cabbage, it is possible to get as many as 100 000 heads per hectare. It is best to plant large-head cabbage seedlings with at least 600 mm of spacing between the rows and a minimum of 450-500 mm between the seedlings. With the types with small heads, spacing can be 600 mm between rows and 300 mm between plants. The plant requires a lot of nutrients. As such, the farmer should implement a fertiliser programme according to the results of a soil analysis.

The heads can be harvested when full and firm. The head becomes lighter as it matures. If they are harvested too late, the heads split, so it is imperative to harvest at the right time, as premature harvesting result in immature and soft heads. Harvesting the plants for the fresh-produce market is labour intensive, as it requires manual harvesting using a knife. If harvesting for processing, mechanical means can be used. It is essential to cut the heads with the outer leaves in place. The stem must still be on it if harvested for storage. The harvested heads must be covered with sheets and transported in cooler weather to prevent frost damage. If transported in warm weather, the heads must not be covered.

Quality cabbage seedlings for commercial farming can be ordered from Hishtil South Africa.

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