Cabbage Farming in Kenya

Cabbage, members of the Brassica family, thrive in specific soil conditions:

  • Ideal pH levels range between 6.0 to 6.5.
  • Optimal soil types include those rich in organic matter, such as sandy loam or loam, and well-drained soils.
  • Soil analysis is highly recommended for precise fertilization strategies and to ensure optimal growing conditions.

Necessary Conditions for Cabbage Farming Success in Kenya

Cabbage Farming in Kenya

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable, thriving in cooler climates with growth temperatures ideally ranging from 15 to 20°C. In Kenya, cabbage cultivation flourishes at altitudes between 800 and 2,300 meters above sea level, with key growing regions including Mt. Elgon, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Molo, Elburgon, Njambini, Meru, Nyeri, Nyahururu, Elgeyo Marakwet highlands, Transzoia, and Muranga.

Adequate and evenly distributed rainfall is crucial for cabbage cultivation, especially during the early stages of growth. Supplementary irrigation is recommended for optimal results.

Cabbage exhibits versatility in soil adaptation, thriving in various soil types. However, it performs best in well-drained loamy soil with good moisture retention capabilities. Highly acidic soils are not conducive to cabbage growth. The optimal soil pH range for cabbage cultivation falls between 5.5 and 6.5, with a preference for soils rich in organic matter.

Land Preparation

Prepare the soil by thoroughly plowing the land to achieve a fine tilth. Plow the land 3-4 times and ensure proper leveling of the soil. During the final plowing, incorporate sufficient organic fertilizers, including well-decomposed animal manure and other organic amendments, to enrich the soil nutrient content.


When transplanting cabbages, place them on raised beds approximately 15cm high. The spacing between plants varies depending on the variety: 60cm x 60cm is suitable for large-headed varieties, 60cm x 45cm for medium-sized varieties, and 30cm x 30cm for small-headed varieties.

Pest and disease 

Pest Management:

  1. Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella):
    • Larvae emerge from mines in the leaf, feeding on the lower leaf surface.
    • Use Escort® 19EC at 10ml/20L + Integra® at 3ml/20L.
  2. Cabbage Leaf Sawfly (Athalia rosae):
    • Black/green caterpillars with a black head are sporadic but serious pests.
    • Use Escort® 19EC at 10ml/20L + Integra® at 3ml/20L.
  3. Cabbage Aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae):
    • Aphids cause yellowing, wilting, and stunting by sucking sap from plants.
    • Use Lexus® 247SC at 8mls/20L + Integra® at 3ml/20L.
  4. Cutworms:
    • Recognized by their smooth, greasy gray skin and “C-shaped” posture.
    • Use Pentagon® 50 EC at 10ml/20L.
Cabbage Farming in Kenya

Disease Management:

  1. Black Rots (Xanthomonas campenstris):
    • Identified by large yellow-orange “V”-shaped areas on leaves with black veins.
    • Use Green Cop® 500WP at 50g/20L + Integra® at 3ml/20L.
  2. Downy Mildew (Hyaloperonospora parasitica):
    • First seen as fluffy white spores on leaf undersides, followed by black speckling on upper surface.
    • Use Trinity Gold® 452WP at 50g/20L + Integra at 3ml/20L.
  3. Damping Off:
    • Seedlings collapse due to rot at or below soil line.
    • Use Trinity Gold® 452WP at 50g/20L + Integra at 3ml/20L.
  4. Head Rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum):
    • Symptoms include water-soaked spots, wilting, and white cottony growth.
    • Use Green Cop® 500WP at 50g/20L + Integra at 3ml/20L.
  5. Alternaria Leaf Spot (Alternaria brassicicola):
    • Identified by circular leaf spots with concentric rings, which may coalesce.
    • Use Chariot® 500SC at 20ml/20L + Integra at 3ml/20L.

Cabbage Farming in Kenya: Best Fertilizers

Cabbage Farming in Kenya

Fertilizer requirements are contingent upon soil analysis conducted prior to planting. However, the following serves as a general guideline:

For a total nutrient requirement of 120:60:60 kg NPK per acre, split applications are recommended:

  1. First Split: Apply Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) at 10g per plant for the first top dressing, approximately 15-20 days after transplanting. Use 50 kg of CAN per acre.
  2. Second Split: Apply a second split two weeks later at 5g per plant to avoid excessive nitrogen application, which can lead to slip heads. For the second top dressing, approximately 40-45 days after transplanting, use 100 kg of Ammonium Sulphate per acre along with 30 kg of Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP) per acre.

Top dressing should be applied in bands, and after each application, earthing up of plants is necessary to ensure proper nutrient uptake and plant health.

Harvesting Cabbages

Cabbage can be harvested once the heads have formed, offering flexibility in timing. For optimal yield, it’s best to harvest cabbage heads when they feel solid to the touch, retaining firmness under hand pressure. It’s crucial to harvest before any signs of cracking or splitting appear. Mature cabbage heads are susceptible to damage from sudden heavy rain, leading to undesirable cracking or wide splitting. Such damage exposes internal tissue, rendering it unusable shortly after.

Cabbage Farming Returns Per Acre

Cabbage Farming in Kenya

In contemporary Kenyan households, cabbages hold a revered status due to their versatility and longevity, making them a cost-effective choice that can serve many people over an extended period. This popularity renders cabbage farming highly profitable in Kenya, given the consistent and high demand throughout the year.

Cabbages are typically cultivated from seeds readily available in numerous agro-stores across Kenya. Thriving best in temperate climates with notable fluctuations between day and night temperatures, these plants boast short, thick stalks bearing leaves that tightly form into a characteristic ball known as a ‘head’. With a substantial water requirement, cabbages flourish with a minimum annual rainfall of 500 millimeters.

Beyond their popularity, cabbages are valued for their nutritional benefits, serving as rich sources of calcium, iron, and vitamins, albeit low in protein content. Commonly consumed after boiling or incorporated raw into salads, they offer a versatile addition to the diet.

The cultivation process begins with seed propagation in a nursery, with transplantation occurring once seedlings reach approximately 10 to 12 cm in height, typically within 4 to 6 weeks. Harvest readiness is signaled by firmness in touch, typically within 3 months post-transplantation, contingent upon the selected variety. Stored in cool, shaded environments, cabbage heads can weigh up to 4 kg each, with a yield ranging between 12,000 to 16,000 heads per acre.

Cabbage farming boasts substantial income potential, with a net profit of Ksh 220,000 per acre after accounting for expenses. Total expenditure, estimated at Ksh 80,000, covers various inputs from nursery to harvesting, excluding irrigation equipment. Gross profit, based on an estimated yield of 15,000 heads sold at Ksh 20 per head, amounts to Ksh 300,000.

It’s essential to note that expense costs encompass farm equipment, chemicals, seeds, and labor, while irrigation needs may vary across different regions of Kenya. Additionally, cabbage prices fluctuate seasonally, with an abundance of supply often observed during the rainy season. Growers equipped with drip irrigation systems can strategically time planting to capitalize on higher prices during the dry season.

Ideal Months for Cabbage Planting in Kenya

Navigating the volatile cabbage market in Kenya requires strategic planning, especially considering the fluctuating prices, which can shift rapidly, particularly during rainy seasons.

To mitigate risks associated with price unpredictability, farmers are advised to align cabbage planting schedules with the aim of harvesting during the driest months. Specifically, November and February emerge as the optimal months for cabbage cultivation in Kenya.

Cabbages planted in November typically reach maturity by February, coinciding with heightened demand attributed to the scarcity of indigenous vegetables like kale. During wet seasons, the market is flooded with indigenous vegetables, reducing the demand for cabbages.

It’s during these periods that cabbage prices plummet to as low as Ksh 5 per head, with some farmers resorting to repurposing them as animal feed due to lack of market demand.

To cultivate premium-quality cabbages commanding favorable market prices during dry seasons, farmers are encouraged to opt for hybrid varieties such as Kiboko or Kilimo. Additionally, timely fertilization and proactive pest control measures, particularly against pests like the Diamondback moth (DBM), are essential for optimal crop health and market competitiveness.

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