Chinese Cabbage Farming: Best Guide for Beginners & 20 Tips

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Chinese cabbage farming holds significant importance in global agriculture and nutrition. According to FAO, China, the largest producer, cultivated over 35 million metric tons.

This vegetable is rich in vitamins A and C, essential for human health. Its cultivation also enhances soil health through nitrogen fixation.

Moreover, Chinese cabbage’s short growth cycle allows for multiple harvests per year, contributing to food security and income generation.

With its popularity in Asian cuisine and its potential to mitigate malnutrition, Chinese cabbage farming plays a pivotal role in addressing global food needs and promoting healthy diets.

Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbages, also called Chinese leaves, grow fast and can be harvested for salads from spring to autumn. In late summer, when days are long and nights are warm, they can be grown as full cabbages. But if you grow them at other times, they might start flowering early unless you pick them when they’re young.

Chinese Cabbage
Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage belongs to the Brassicaceae family, commonly called the mustard or crucifer family, and its scientific name is Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis, with the genus being Brassica.

Health Benefits of Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage, like bok choy, contains bone-strengthening materials like Vitamin K and Calcium, which also support nerve function and blood clotting.

A cup of bok choy provides 64% of your daily Vitamin K needs and 16% of your Calcium needs.

According to R. Pokluda, per 100 grams, Chinese cabbage offers 13 calories of energy, 2.2 grams of carbohydrates, 1.0 grams of dietary fiber, 0.2 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of protein.

It also provides significant daily values for essential nutrients, including 89% of Vitamin A, 10% of Vitamin B-6, 75% of Vitamin C, 11% of Calcium, 6% of Iron, 5% of Magnesium, and 5% of Potassium.

How to Grow Chinese Cabbage?

Chinese cabbage is a popular and one of the most common Asian vegetables that you will find in supermarkets easily. But there’s nothing tastier than cabbage you pick from your own home garden. Here we are going to describe Chinese cabbage farming.

You Must Think Before Chinese Cabbage Farming

Chinese cabbage grows well in cold weather, usually planted in early spring. In some places, you can also plant it in early autumn.

Nowadays, there are special kinds of Chinese cabbage that can handle warmer weather and grow faster. When buying seeds, check the information on the packet to make sure you get the right type for your climate.

The temperature is crucial when growing Chinese cabbage. It should be warm when the cabbage is just starting to grow from the seed and when its leaves are young.

As the cabbage gets bigger and forms a head, the temperature should become cooler. If the temperature goes above 86 °F (30 °C) later on, your cabbage might not form a head, and it could start making flowers.

Chinese Cabbage Farming

Site Selection

Choosing the right site for Chinese cabbage farming is vital. Choose a location with well-draining soil, rich in organic matter, and a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Ensure the site receives ample sunlight, ideally 6-8 hours a day, for optimal growth.

 Adequate air circulation helps prevent disease and ensures healthy cabbage. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging, as excess moisture can harm the plants. Conduct soil tests to determine nutrient levels and supplement as needed. Provide mulch if needed.

Soil Preparation

Before planting, remove weeds and add some well-rotted manure or compost to help the soil keep moisture. Make the soil smooth and take out any big rocks.

If your soil is too acidic, add some lime to prevent a disease called clubroot.

You can also grow Chinese cabbage in big pots or 1-foot wide and deep containers in your balcony garden, even if you want it is possible to farm vertically using modern farming technology and equipment. Fill them with compost or better mulching materials and remember to water the plants in pots often. Growing in pots is helpful if your soil has clubroot disease.

Sowing

Sowing indoor

Start sowing the seeds inside small containers in the time of the middle of spring. Later, when it’s closer to summer, plant them in the soil after making sure they’re used to the outside conditions. This helps them grow smoothly.   

Planting Cabbage
Sowing Seed

Sowing outdoors

Plant your Chinese cabbage seeds outdoors between May and August. Prepare the soil or containers as mentioned earlier. Gently sprinkle the seeds along shallow trenches about 1cm (½in) deep, keeping rows about 38cm (15in) apart.

 You should see the seeds start to grow in about a week, and the little plants will grow fast. To have a steady supply of cabbage, plant small groups of seeds every three weeks or so.

As they grow, remove some of the young plants, leaving about 15cm (7in) of space between them for smaller salad leaves or 30cm (12in) apart for larger cabbage heads. You can add the extra plants to your salads.

Plant Care

Taking care of Chinese cabbages is easy. It doesn’t require modern farming technology, just remember to water them regularly, especially when it’s dry, especially if they’re in pots.

Watering

Water your baby plants often to keep the soil or potting mix always a bit damp. This helps them grow well and prevents them from making flowers too soon.

If you can, water them early in the morning, so they start the day strong and grow nicely. We suggest using smart watering technology for commercial farming.

Try not to water them in the evening because wet soil at night can bring slugs, snails, and plant diseases.

Mulching

Put a layer of garden compost on the soil around your cabbage plants. Mulch will keep the soil moist and stop weeds from growing.

Weeding

Keep the garden free from weeds. This helps young plants grow better because they won’t have to fight for water and sunlight, which can slow them down. Weeds can also be a hiding spot for pests like snails, so it’s important to remove them regularly.

Flowering

Chinese cabbages can start making flowers too early, especially when it’s hot and dry. In the summer, pick types of cabbage that are less likely to do this.

Make sure to give them enough water and shade them from the strong midday sun. If you see the cabbage making flower stems, take them off before they open up and cook the cabbage quickly.

Don’t wait too long to harvest the rest of the plant, or it won’t be as good. If you plant more cabbages at the same time, they might also start flowering soon, so pick them fast too.

Protecting crops

 During the summer, use a special net or cloth to cover plants that will grow big cabbage heads. This helps keep away caterpillars that might harm the cabbage.

You can also use collars to keep the cabbage root fly away, but you don’t need to do this for shorter salad crops.

As the weather gets cooler in early autumn, use cloches to shield the growing plants from too much moisture, which can cause the center of the cabbage to rot.

Harvesting

Chinese cabbage takes about 60 to 100 days to grow fully. You can start picking it as early as 3 weeks after it begins to form a head. At that stage, the cabbage head will be small with leaves that aren’t tightly packed, but it will still taste good for cooking.  However, if you want a big, mature cabbage head, it’s best to wait for at least 3 months after planting it.

To check if your Chinese cabbage is ready to pick, gently press it. It should feel firm when you touch it, and the leaves in the center should be packed tightly and standing upright. The size might differ depending on the type, but usually, it should be about 10 inches (25 cm) tall.

To pick your Chinese cabbage, just grab the whole plant and gently pull it out of the ground. The roots are not deep, so it should come out easily. Then, use a knife to cut off the bottom part where the roots are connected. After that, simply take off the outer layer of green leaves by hand. The leaves you want to use for cooking should have a wide, thick stem with wavy edges that are light green or yellow in color.

Marketing/ Storing

Once you’ve picked Chinese cabbage, you can sell it instantly or if you want store it in your fridge’s vegetable drawer for around 2 weeks. To make it last longer, you can wrap it in plastic. Remember not to wash it before putting it away, as this can make the leaves go bad and become soggy.

 20 Tips For Commercial Chinese Cabbage Farming

Commercial Chinese cabbage farming can be a profitable venture when executed efficiently. Here are 20 essential tips to help you succeed in this agricultural endeavor:

1. Variety Selection: Start by choosing the right Chinese cabbage variety suited for your climate and market demand. Common varieties include Napa and Michihili.

2. Soil Preparation: Ensure well-drained, fertile soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Incorporate organic matter to improve soil structure.

3. Crop Rotation: Implement a crop rotation plan to prevent soil-borne diseases and maintain soil fertility.

4. Planting Season: Timing is crucial. Plant Chinese cabbage in the spring or fall to avoid extreme heat.

5. Spacing: Space your plants adequately to promote air circulation and prevent overcrowding. Rows should be 18-24 inches apart.

6. Transplants vs. Direct Sowing: Consider starting with transplants for a head start, but direct seeding can also work.

7. Water Management: Ensure consistent moisture but avoid waterlogged conditions. Drip irrigation can be an efficient watering method.

8. Fertilization: Apply balanced fertilizers, especially rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Adjust based on soil test results.

9. Weed Control: Implement weed management strategies like mulching, hand weeding, or herbicides as needed.

10. Pest Management: Monitor for common pests like aphids, cabbage worms, and flea beetles. Use integrated pest management techniques.

11. Disease Prevention: Practice good sanitation and crop rotation to reduce the risk of diseases like clubroot and downy mildew.

12. Temperature Control: Use row covers or shade cloth to protect Chinese cabbage from extreme temperatures.

13. Harvesting: Harvest Chinese cabbage when heads are firm, dense, and reach the desired size (typically 10-12 inches in length).

14. Post-Harvest Handling: Handle the harvested cabbage carefully to avoid bruising. Store in a cool, humid environment.

15. Packaging: Use proper packaging materials to maintain freshness and protect against physical damage during transportation.

16. Market Research: Understand your local market demand and pricing trends to make informed planting decisions.

17. Crop Monitoring: Regularly inspect your crop for signs of pests, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies, and take appropriate action.

18. Crop Protection: Protect your crop from harsh weather conditions, such as heavy rains or strong winds, to prevent damage.

19. Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of planting dates, fertilization, pest and disease management, and harvest yields for future planning.

20. Marketing Strategy: Develop a marketing strategy that includes targeting local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants. Consider value-added products like packaged salads.

Successful Chinese cabbage farming requires dedication, attention to detail, and a willingness to adapt to changing conditions. By following these tips and continuously learning about the crop, you can increase your chances of a thriving commercial Chinese cabbage farming operation.


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