Kale has become increasingly popular because of its nutritional content-- it's high invitaminA, vitamin C, and fiber. Growing it couldn’t be easier. Kale, a relative of cabbage, comes in many varieties, including purple and green. Not only is kale delicious, but it makes a beautiful addition to your landscape.
Getting Started with Kale
There are many different varieties of kale available, including heirloom varieties. Some popular eating varieties include dwarf blue and red winter. And Italian Lacinato is a popular “dinosaur leaf” heirloom variety touted for its mild flavor. Kale is typically sold as seed by commercial garden centers and plant sellers.
Growing Conditions for Kale
Kale is an incredibly hardy plant that does well in cool weather. It is an ideal fall and spring crop for northern climates, but it can also be grown in warmer climates, grown as a fall crop. Kale grows best in full-sun conditions with 8-12 hours of sun exposure daily. The soil should be well drained, with a pH between 6.0-6.8. Soil may be enhanced with mulch, or in cases where the soil is on the acidic side, treated with lime or calcium to reach an ideal pH.
Kale may be planted directly in the ground or in containers. Containers should be at least 6 inches in diameter, with one plant per container.
Kale grows easily from seed. For a spring crop, the seeds may be sown directly into the ground in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Kale does not tolerate hot temperatures well and may not germinate easily in the summer to produce a fall crop. It is advisable to start a fall crop indoors and transplant the kale outdoors once the plants have been established.
Plant the seeds evenly and cover lightly with approximately ¼ inch of soil. For direct sow, leave 18-24 inches of space between rows. Water in lightly after planting. It is advisable to apply a light layer of mulch over the kale crop after planting to help keep the roots cool during hot summer temperatures.
Kale seeds will typically begin to sprout within 10-21 days of sowing. In the early stage of growth, make sure that they stay well watered and that the soil is allowed to dry between watering. Do not let the seedlings wilt.
When the seedlings are approximately 3-6 inches tall, thin out (remove) seedlings so that they are 18-24 inches apart. If you allow all of the seeds you planted to grow, the plants will eventually crowd each other out, resulting in a failure of the crop.
For the most part, kale is disease and pest resistant. They can be plagued by aphids and cabbage worms. Prevent infestations by making sure your kale crop is well cared for and by frequent scouting for pests. Kale can be treated for aphids and worms with insecticidal soap or even a simple dish soap and water solution applied to run-off. Kale does not require much feeding, and a good mid-season application of mulch should provide adequate nutrition for the season.
As mentioned earlier, kale plants do well in cold temperatures. They can tolerate frost and freezing temperatures well, which actually make the kale tastier, with a sweeter taste. It is ideal to wait for at least 2 nights of hard frost before harvesting the kale crop.
Kale reaches maturity between 55-60 days after sowing. Individual leaves may be harvested from each head of kale. Leave the center growing bud of the plant intact to ensure continued growth from the plant. Kale should be harvested while the leaves are still tender.
- Fantastic kale recipes - how to cook kale perfectly!
A cool-weather super-food, kale is packed with vitamins. Enjoy it raw in salads, braised or stir-fried as a side dish, or incorporate it into a fantastic vegetable pie.