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How to Grow Kale

How to Grow Kale
Want to know how to grow kale in your home garden? Good idea!

Versatile, flavorful and very nutritious, kale is an easy care vegetable to grow. Especially good for more northern climates, kale is extremely frost tolerant and can be cooked into a variety of hot dishes including soups and casseroles.

High in calcium and potassium, kale also contains plenty of vitamin C as well as fiber, iron and vitamin A. It tastes great after being frozen and can add zip to your salad straight from the garden.

Kale is thought to be beneficial as a food to help naturally lower your blood pressure.

It’s an early summer harvest for this leafy green, but when frozen it will deliver nutritional benefits all year long.

Best Soil for Growing Kale

Kale likes a rich, organic soil that is well drained and maintains steady moisture. Your patch needs to be in full sun, even though kale does not like extreme heat. Hopefully you’ll be harvesting your crop before that hits, so be confident and keep your kale out of the shade. The pH level of the garden should land between 6.0 and 7.0.

When to Plant Kale

Since it is extremely frost tolerant kale can be planted just as soon as the soil can be worked. In some places you can even plant kale seeds the autumn before and enjoy a spring harvest.

Start by mixing compost or rotted manure into the bed to get it ready for seed, then move to planting soon after without worrying about the frost. Kale seeds will germinate in cool or warm soil temperatures.

Stagger two or three rounds of kale seeds at intervals of 3 weeks. This will push the harvest into the fall, where the chance of frost sweetens the crop.

How to Plant Kale

Sow the seeds directly into the ground as soon as you can. Starting indoors is not an advantage since the plant will start germinating right away in the garden, putting you no further ahead in the greenhouse.

Plant the kale seeds into the ground only ¼ to ½” inch deep and 1” apart. Cover lightly and moisten the soil. You can plant multiple rows with 18 to 24” spacing between them. Once they are growing, thin out the seedlings to a spacing of approximately 8 to 12 inches.

Proper Care of Kale

Kale tastes the best when it has been well fed. Use liquid fertilizer on a regular basis to give the plants a boost. Side-dress after the seed has sprouted and gently dig in more organics over the weeks following. You are only improving the flavor of your kale with these measures.

This plant will not do well if a heat spell arrives, so be sure to keep it well watered in any weather. Don’t drown the plant, but keep to a steady watering schedule and your kale will be slightly more tolerant of any heat surprises you.

When to Harvest Kale

Kale is another leafy vegetable that can be harvested at any time, similar to salad greens, spinach and collards. The smaller the leaf, the more tender it will be. For late batches sowed into May or June you can wait until the frost comes. That cold helps to sweeten up the crop, although the plant may have trouble making it through the heat of the summer. This method works best in more northern climates. Common varieties of the kale plant mature in 55 to 60 days.

How to Harvest Kale

Harvesting kale is done a few different ways. For single leaves or smaller quantities needed, the leaves can be cropped just above the bud allowing it to sprout a new leaf afterward. This helps the kale plant to last longer and keep producing for your table.

The entire plant can also be cut down and the leaves separated from the bud in the kitchen. Use a sharp knife or pruners and cut just above the soil.

Common Kale Pests and Diseases

If your kale is growing strong in organically rich soil it will be much more capable of fending off attacks from pests and disease. However, kale could also use your help to ward off pests such as aphids, cabbage worms and loopers. Attract ladybugs and parasitic wasps to your garden to feast on the aphids by planting natives around your bed. These beneficial bugs will be a big help to your kale. Row covers on your young kale plants will keep the moths and other flying pests away, which in turn will help keep the cabbage worms and loopers away.

Downy mildew and head rot can become a problem, but planting your kale with adequate spacing and thinning out as necessary will keep the air flowing through and reduce the chances of these diseases making head way.

Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Kale

The best way to have tasty kale is by feeding and watering the plant regularly. That will encourage growth and flavor, as well as help to keep the plant strong and able to fight off pests and disease. Your kale will thrive and become a menu mainstay in the kitchen.