Everything You Need To Know About Kale

Kale

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 12/4/2022

Kale Cultivation, From Planting To Growing To Harvesting.

Have you ever been given the advice to "eat your greens?" One of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense greens you can cultivate is kale. In addition to having a delicious flavor, it is chock full of beneficial antioxidants and vitamins. Kale is a tough crop that thrives during the cool seasons, namely spring and fall. It can withstand low temperatures and even snowfall without being damaged. Acquire the knowledge necessary to plant, tend, and harvest kale.

About Kale

Kale

Kale is a tough, resilient, and non-heading green that can withstand freezing temperatures. It is one of the members of the brassica family that has the least difficult cultivation requirements (which includes cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other common cole crops.)

The first year that kale is grown, the plant develops leaves. The next year, or sometimes even later in the first year, the plant will form a flower stalk. Kale is a plant that lives for two years. The stalk produces flowers, which are followed by seeds. Once the seeds have reached maturity, the plant will pass away.

Think beyond the kale you find in grocery stores; if you grow your own seed, you have access to a wide variety of kale varieties with a wide range of flavors and textures, such as mild, almost salad-like greens, sweet 'Red Russian' kales, or the nutty and sometimes peppery flavors of Italian kales, or handsome 'Cavalo Nero' or Tuscan kale, also called dinosaur kale because of its texture.

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Kale is not only delicious but also very good for you because it comes in such a wide variety of colors and textures, ranging from bright green to dark purple, crunchy leaves to crinkled beauty, and everything in between. Kale is a superfood that has a lot of health benefits. Especially in the fall, you may take advantage of the ornamental value it offers by planting it in typical garden beds or containers.

If you want to have a truly big harvest of health-boosting leaves, despite the ease with which they can be grown, there are a few critical things that must be done correctly. Continue reading for more information on how to cultivate kale.

Planting

Kale

Although it prefers full light and good, well-drained soil, kale can grow in dappled shade as well. The leaves of kale grown in the full sun develop more quickly and are more sensitive. Before you plant anything, work a lot of compost into the ground, and if your soil isn't particularly rich, boost its fertility by working nitrogen-rich amendments like blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure into the ground before you plant anything. Compost is a very excellent source of nutrients for plants.

When Should Kale Be Planted?

When kale plants are allowed to develop quickly and mature either before the heat of summer (before temperatures above 75°F/24C) or after fall frosts have occurred, the vegetable has the best flavor. Temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius) do not cause significant harm to young plants. Plants that have reached their full maturity are exceptionally hardy and may survive in extremely low temperatures. However, higher temperatures will result in a slower growth rate and a flavor that is harsher.

  • For planting in the spring, you should wait between four and six weeks before the average date of the final spring frost to sow seeds directly into the ground or transfer start plants obtained from a nursery. Even at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius, seeds are able to germinate.

Kale

  • For planting in the fall, choose early maturing cultivars and start seeds indoors three months before the average date of the first fall frost. Take into consideration that if you live in a region that experiences particularly hot summers, you will need to postpone sowing until the temperatures begin to decrease. Kale is able to endure harsh frosts (temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit) without being damaged, and the sweet, nutty flavor of kale is wonderfully brought out by the cooler fall weather.
  • In areas of the country that experience mild winters, such as the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Southeast, kale can also be grown as a winter vegetable, either under cover or outside. They will continue to grow and produce throughout the entire winter. If you want to know whether or not you should plant winter veggies and when you should do so, we recommend getting in touch with your community's cooperative extension.

How To Start A Kale Garden

Kale

  • At the time of planting, work 1-and-a-half cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer into the top three to four inches of the soil. This will ensure optimal growth. If you decide to use compost such as a fertilizer, spread no more than one inch of well-decomposed organic matter throughout per 100 square feet of garden space.
  • Plant the seeds at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch, with 1 inch between each seed, and space the rows 18 to 30 inches apart.
  • If you are planting young plants (transplants), you should plant them at the same depth as they are growing in the container. Space them out a total of 12 inches, and leave between 18 and 30 inches between rows.
  • After planting, give the plants plenty of water.

Growing

kale

  • After around two weeks, thin the seedlings to a spacing of between eight and twelve inches.
  • It is essential to provide adequate water and fertilizer to kale plants throughout their growth. If there is a lack of steady rainfall, you should offer 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week (about 1 gallon per square foot).
  • Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer as a side dressing on an as-needed basis.
  • Applying mulch to the soil kills weeds, helps the soil retain moisture, and keeps kale at a comfortable temperature. If plants are under a lot of stress, kale growth may be affected (too hot or cold, inadequate water, pests, or disease).
  • After the ground has been frozen solid for the first time, apply a thick layer of mulch to ensure a steady supply of ripe leaves throughout the winter.

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  • "Red Russian" (also known as "Russian Red"): a heritage variety with the shape of an oak leaf, grayish-green leaves with dark-purple veins and stems, and an early harvest time.
  • 'Lacinato' (also known as 'Lacinato Blue,' 'Tuscan,' 'Black Palm Tree,' or 'Cavil Nero') is a heritage variety with straplike leaves that can grow up to 2 feet in length on plants that seem like miniature palm trees. It can withstand high temperatures and is also exceptionally cold-resistant.
  • "True Siberian": leaves that are huge, frilly, and blue-green in color; resistant to cold; can be picked throughout the winter in some regions.
  • "Vates Blue Curled" is a hardy variety that does not yellow in cold weather and is reluctant to bolt after it has flowered. Its namesake leaves can grow up to 12 to 14 inches long on plants that are 15 inches tall.
  • 'Winterbor' is a variety that is similar to 'Vates' and has leaves that are 24 inches long and grow on plants that are 2 to 3 feet tall. Baby leaves can be picked after only 28 days, and the plant can withstand frost.

Harvesting

Kale

  • When the leaves of the kale plant are about the size of your hand, it is time to harvest the plant. Each time you harvest, take around a fistful of leaves from the plant's outermost layers, but never more than one-third of the entire plant at once.
  • It is important to refrain from picking the terminal bud (located at the very top of the plant), as this helps to keep the plant's yield high.
  • The growth of kale will continue until the temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit or -7 degrees Celsius. Do not put an end to the harvesting process; a "kiss" of frost will make it much more delicious. (Be sure to check the local frost dates.)
  • Protect the crop using row covers or tarps so that you may continue harvesting for longer. Alternately, you may create a makeshift cover using old blankets that are supported by hay bales. Here are some other suggestions for extending the current season.

How To Keep Kale In Storage

Keep kale in the refrigerator in an open plastic bag, just like you would do with other leafy greens. It should be edible for around one week.

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Wisdom And Creativity

  • The kale plant does not originate in North America. Wild cabbage is the ancestor of all currently cultivated kinds.
  • Farmers have long farmed kale specifically for the purpose of providing feed for their livestock, including cattle and sheep.
  • As a result of its high content of minerals and vitamins A and C, kale offers a variety of advantages to one's health.
  • If you wish to avoid problems with pests and diseases, you should only plant kale and other cole crops in the same spot once every three to four years at the most.
  • The flavor of kale is significantly enhanced when it is exposed to moderate frost or light snow.

Pests/Diseases

Insects And Diseases That Affect Kale

Kale

Pest/DiseaseType SymptomsControl/Prevention
AphidsInsectInsect Leaves that are misshapen and yellow; Sticky Honeydew (excrement); Sooty, Black Mold InsectDevelop symbiotic relationships with other plant species, spray plants with water, treat with insecticidal soap, and mulch with banana and orange peels. Swab the leaves with a solution containing one to two percent dish soap (no additives) and water every two to three days for a period of two weeks; Include native plants in your garden to attract good bugs.
black rotfungus The fungus that causes black rot Yellow, V-shaped spots on the leaf edges that turn brown and advance toward the leaf center; leaves finally fall off; stem cross sections expose blackened veins.Destroy diseased plants; pick resistant kinds; provide sufficient drainage; remove plant waste; rotate crops.
CabbagewormsInsectLeaves are skeletonized or have big, ragged holes in them; heads are boring; dark green excrement is present; yellowish eggs are placed singly on the undersides of leaves.Picking fruit by hand; employing row coverings; Including native plants in your garden, to attract helpful insects. cultivate companion plants, thyme in particular, and apply Bacillus thuringiensis spray (Bt)
The flea beetle or flea bugInsecta great number of very small holes were found in the leafUtilize row covers, mulch extensively, and add native plants to your garden in order to encourage helpful insects.

Recipes

Kale

POTATO AND KALE SOUP

KALE SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES, FETA, AND WALNUTS

KALE, SAUSAGE, AND WHITE BEAN SOUP

Cooking Notes

Additionally, the delicate leaves can be consumed raw in the form of salads or smoothies. You may cut the larger leaves and prepare them like spinach, but before you steam or stir-fry them, you need to make sure the tough ribs are removed. In omelets, casseroles, and quesadillas, kale can also be used instead of spinach in place of spinach. Enjoy our greatest kale dishes.

Because it is so crisp and dry, kale can be off-putting to some people. It might sound strange, but massaging kale is a terrific method to bring out its natural flavor and aroma.