After emerging as a superfood in the last few years, many people are now ordering kale at restaurants and wanting to plant the vegetable in their garden.
Kale is a lovely, hardy plant and having all of its nutritious elements readily available is a real bonus. Read on to find out how to plant kale so you can be a healthier version of yourself.
When to plant kale? Planting kale is quite easy with the only hurdle being that you need to decide if you want to plant it in the spring, fall, or both. Kale loves cold weather, so if you plant it in the spring, start three to four weeks before the last frost date. As for the fall, start three to four weeks before the first frost date.
Kale is ready in a few weeks and you can enjoy leaves from each plant for quite a while. Simply pick leaves starting at the bottom and the plant will continue to grow.
While kale will stop producing new leaves when the weather warms up in spring, if it is grown in the fall, you just might be able to have fresh kale into the winter.
Plant your kale in full sun and give it plenty of water. You’ll be able to enjoy this delicious vegetable for a large part of the year.
Planting Kale in Different Climates
Kale is a plant that likes the cold. It is so cold hearty, it can actually be planted before the threat of frost is over. Unfortunately, a tropical climate is much too warm for kale.
Kale needs regular watering and a dry climate can’t provide this. If the dry climate is cold enough, you could try to grow kale but you will need to provide enough water for the plant to thrive.
A temperate climate will definitely produce kale. You can even start kale in January or February if the winter is mild enough. Likewise, you can plant kale in October and there is a good chance that you will be able to eat kale throughout the fall and even into the winter.
With a continental climate, you can definitely grow kale. However, there is a shorter window of opportunity, so you will have to plan accordingly.
If you are growing kale in the spring, while you don’t have to wait for the threat of frost to be over, you do need to make sure the ground is warm enough to dig up.
Furthermore, if you are growing kale in the fall, you might want to plant the seeds earlier, in September, if your winters get especially cold.
Unfortunately, there is not enough sunlight in a polar climate to grow kale.
Choosing Kale Seeds
Kale has a lovely look to it, with large bushy leaves that curl around the edges. Some kale grows outwards with its leaves while other varieties make a circular pattern that is quite beautiful.
For those who are a bit impatient, Red Russian is a nice, early crop. It has a redder color to it and its leaves are quite tender.
Vates is another popular variety and as a bonus its leaves won’t turn yellow when it gets cold out. Its leaves have a deep blue-green color to them.
If you are worried about frost and want to plant kale in the fall, Winterbor is a good variety to consider. It is similar to the Vates variety with blue-green leaves but is more frost tolerant.
How to Plant Kale Seeds
One of the really nice aspects when it comes to planting kale is that you can start it either in early spring or in late summer. This means that you can actually have two crops of kale each year, which is perfect for those that love the leafy green vegetable.
Kale does best in cooler weather, and you can even start the seeds before the last frost. For spring planting, aim to plant kale seeds three to four weeks before the last frost. Depending on where you live, this could range from February to April.
For those wanting a fall crop, plant your kale seeds in September as you want it to grow when the weather is cooler, but not leave it too late as it won’t grow in frozen ground.
To pick a location for your kale seeds, you have many options. Kale can grow in regular gardens, raised garden beds, and even patio containers. Even if you have a small backyard, there is room for kale.
Another element to consider when choosing a growing location is that kale does prefer full sun. However, if you have an area with partial shade, it should do alright there.
As for soil, you have a bit of wiggle room. While you should aim for a pH level of 6.5 to 6.8, if you have alkaline soil that measures up to a pH of 7.5, you will still be ok.
Your soil should be able to drain well and have compost or fertilizer mixed in with it. Dig holes that are only ¼ to ½ inch deep. The seeds can be small so be careful when planting. Cover lightly with dirt.
Within two weeks, you should start to see kale popping up. Once it does, you can go ahead and think it out. Kale needs a lot of space, so you want to have 8 to 10 inches between each plant.
How to Water Kale
Once you plant your kale seeds, give the area a thorough watering to promote growth. Then, be sure to continuously water your seedlings.
If it doesn’t rain, you will need to water your kale every day. Without the water, it will become wilted and won’t grow properly.
If you have a particularly warm spring, then be sure to give your kale extra water. If it is too hot, your kale will not grow.
How to Grow Kale
Kale doesn’t like to compete with weeds, so make sure the area is clear of them before you plant your seeds. Then, be careful when plucking weeds so as to not disturb the area.
Place a layer of bark mulch around your kale as this will prevent weeds from growing. If you pant kale in the fall, keep an eye on it as it can continue to produce edible leaves even during the winter.
Kale is susceptible to some pests, so keep an eye out for them. If your kale leaves have small holes in them, this may be a sign that you have cabbageworms.
Another common pest is aphids, which are small, light green insects and are often found on the underside of leaves. To deter aphids, spray a mixture of soapy water on your kale.
How long does kale take to grow?
Within two weeks you will see tiny seedlings start to sprout. Once the leaves emerge, you will only have to wait a few more weeks before you can harvest it.
Once kale is fully mature, you can start to pick its leaves and enjoy. Pick what you need as kale will keep growing and as long as it doesn’t become too warm in the spring, or too cold in the fall, the plant will keep growing.
How to harvest kale?
Kale is a great plant to have as it will continue to produce edible leaves, even after you have picked them. Wait until the leaves are around the size of your hand.
Pick kale leaves from the bottom and be sure to leave the top center of the plant, also known as the terminal bud. If left intact, this part of kale will ensure it remains productive.
If you are able to pick small leaves, they will be more tender and are perfect for salads. On the other hand, if you have more mature leaves, they will be more bitter and are best cooked first. If you have larger leaves, remove the ribbing as it is quite bitter.
As for taste, fall kale is usually a bit sweeter. In fact, if you harvest kale when it is colder out, this will actually lead to sweeter tasting leaves.
For those growing kale in the fall, you can extend the growing season by using row covers to keep out the harsher temperatures. Keep checking your kale as it can be surprising just how long the plant remains edible.
For kale that is grown in the spring, there is a shorter window. Once it reaches 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your kale may no longer grow. It’s best to harvest more kale in a shorter period, especially if temperatures are expected to rise.
Once you have picked your kale, it’s time to store it. Put your kale leaves in a plastic bag but don’t close it. Then, place the bag in the refrigerator.
If stored in this manner, kale will last up to a week.
Kale is a versatile, easy-to-grow vegetable. It loves cold weather and you can plant kale seeds in the spring and the fall for two growing seasons.
Just make sure your kale has enough water and you plant it at a time when it won’t get too warm.