Growing kale isn’t as difficult as we think it is. Kale is fairly low-maintenance and is a good source of nutritious food. Unlike other vegetables like lettuce and spinach, it can still grow during summer. With some protection, you can also grow this vegetable during winter and enjoy it throughout the year.
Choosing Your Kale: What’s Your Type?
First off, you’ll have to choose what kind of kale to grow. If it’s your first time growing kale, consider planting a Blue Curled Scotch as it is easy to grow and looks aesthetically pleasing during your meal.
Here are some of the popular types of kale you can consider:
Blue Curled Scotch
Easy to grow and looks aesthetically pleasing during your meal
Popular kale that’s available in grocery stores and tastes amazing whether it is eaten raw or cooked
Has broad, green leaves and purplish veins will taste better if planted in winter
The white-ribbed version of the Red Russian kale
Similar taste to the Red Russian with smooth leaves and purple veins
Sweet flavor and has a great cold-resistance
A purple kale variety that adds color to your garden and is easier to spot cabbage worms
Starting with the Basics: How to Plant
Kale is generally a cool-season crop, so it’s good to plant it indoors in early spring. You can start by planting it indoors in the beginning then replant it outdoors when it gets bigger. Consider planting it three to five weeks before the last frost date. When you’re shifting your plant to the outdoors, let it harden off for around ten days. When the seedlings form three leaves, transplant it.
In very cold climates, you may need to have a cold frame or heavy mulching to protect your kale. If your choice of plant is an extremely cold-hard variety, ensure that the plant has grown large enough before the frost sets in.
Having the right soil and amount of light is also important factors for your plant to grow. Fortunately, kale can still grow in partial shade so it’s possible to grow them even if your garden doesn’t have much exposure to lots of sun, Regardless, full sun exposure allows the kale plant to grow rapidly but it’s important to make sure to mulch around the bottom to conserve the moisture in the plant. While kale can grow quite easily, the best condition for your plant will be a loamy, well-drained soil with a pH level of about 5.5-6.8. It may also be a good idea to grow it in balcony gardens if you don’t have much space at home.
During germination, it’s best to have cooler soil. Kale generally germinates faster as compared to other plants and you can expect it to sprout in less than a week. The spacing also depends on the type of kale you chose to plant. For baby kale greens, it’s recommended to grow four plants per square foot. If you’re going for full-sized plants, try two plants per square foot. You should have a minimum of 12-inches between each plant.
Moving On: How to Care for Kale Plants
Kale requires regular watering of about 1 to 1.5-inches of water per week, especially when it’s exposed to full sunlight. Remember to mulch around the base of the plant to conserve water.
Kale is a medium feeder and grows best with a balanced fertilizer application after you first harvest them. This is only necessary if your soil is deficient. For seedlings, side fertilize them with high nitrogen fertilizer. During the growing season, use manure compost.
This plant doesn’t require pruning and you essentially prune it when harvesting. If you find the outer leaves turning yellow before snipping them, make sure to remove them to prevent pests from coming. It also doesn’t require weeding with adequate space.
Kale belongs to the brassica family and it’s good to plan your crop rotation to prevent planting brassicas in the same area every year. You can consider planting them in clusters to ease the effort on pest control.
However, you may face some issues with pests and diseases. One of the more destructive and common pests you may encounter once you place your plant outdoors is the cabbage looper. Plant other vegetables such as parsley, celery or spinach to help with the cabbage looper. You should also avoid planting plants such as tomatoes, grape, and strawberries near your kale plant.
Kale is an excellent succession crop as it is easy and quick to grow. You can obtain a steady supply of kale throughout the season by trimming the kale at a reasonable rate. This helps you a lot if you’re low on space as you don’t need to consider succession planning at all. Keep in mind that kale shrinks significantly when it’s cooked when you are planning for how much kale to plant.
Almost Done: Harvesting and Storing Kale
With this, you’ve almost come to the end of your journey. To harvest your kale, simply use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to snip them into a bowl. Harvest the outer leaves first to allow the inner leaves to continue growing and develop new leaves again. This prevents you from exhausting your plant.
When the leaves reach the desired size of about 8-inches long, you can choose to harvest the fully grown leaves. For baby greens, harvest them sooner when they are half the size of them. Generally, kale is ready for harvest in about 50 days.
In order to have your kale in the best possible condition, wash your kale immediately and store them in plastic bags in the fridge. This helps retain the moisture of the leaves and keep them crisp and fresh. This should allow you to store them and keep them fresh for about 10 days. On the flip side, some gardeners also believe in drying the kale leaves before storing them in the fridge. Experiment with it and see which method works best for you.
If you are a fan of kale and use it often in your salads or your meals, consider growing them yourself. Not only is kale low-maintenance compared to other similar vegetables, but you’ll also feel that sense of achievement when you harvest your own kale.