Tips on how to plant, grow and harvest Kale
Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae family. The plants make a decorative addition to the garden and a nutrient rich addition to the dinner table. We adore this vegetable. The two plants that I had planted last year could not keep up with our Kale Chip obsession. This year I have 12 plants in the garden. That should keep us going 🙂
Kale is easy to grow from seed. The seeds can be sown in late Summer-Autumn. They will germinate at a wide range of soil temperatures – between 8-30 degrees celsius.
When the seeds are large enough to plant they grow best in a well drain soil that has had compost recently added.
Space plants 30-50 cm apart, depending on the variety. If you plan to harvest the leaves young they can be planted closer together.
Sprinkle dry egg shells, ground coffee, or nut shells around young seedlings to protect them from snails and slugs.
Kale is tolerant of both hot and cold climates, but prefers a cool, moist climate. Water regularly until established, then the winter rain should take over.
Kale will tolerate being in a part shade location. Other than constant checking and removal of caterpillars and some companion planting, I have not given my plants any special care.
Kale is a frost tolerant plant. The leaves are said to be tastier if picked after frost. I have read in a number of articles that heat/ hot weather is responsible for making the leaves taste bitter. I can’t say that I noticed that with my crop last year….This year I have other varieties planted so will be interested to see if that is the case.
Pests can be an issue when growing Kale, particularly when the plants are small. Caterpillars and aphids are the most common pests.
Remove caterpillars by hand from the leaves and destroy, thus reducing the number of eggs layed. Dipel may also be sprayed, it is said to be safe to beneficial insects, bees and mammals.
Companion plants that may help to keep bugs at bay include:
It is important to rotate this crop. Other companion plants of Kale include: lettuce, marigolds, celery, potato and beetroot, rosemary, spinach
This year I have used sage with good results and have also planted white pansies around the plants – they look a little like white moths when they are in flower. The theory is that moths will not lay eggs where there are other moths.
Fake moths made of material may also work, we tried making some from clay this year and painted them white.
For aphids try mixing chopped garlic and chili in a spray bottle of water and spraying the leaves every few days. Beware that the chilli can burn the leaves if heavily applied. It can be tricky to regulate.
Harvesting and Eating Kale:
Kale is high in vitamins C and K, calcium, beta carotene, folate, and iron. Leaves will be ready to harvest from about 8 weeks. Pick leaves as they are required.
Ensure that leaves are washed well prior to cooking or eating. Fold the leaf in half and cut along the line of the stem to remove it.
Leaves are generally cooked for a little longer than spinach but it can be used similarly:
- Baked – chips
- Add to stews, soup, stir fry and casseroles
- Young leaves can be added to salads
- Dried – mixed with salt and serve with fish
- Canberra Organic Growers Society Inc
- Gardening know how
- Eden Seeds
- Green Harvest
- Organic Gardening in Australia (ed.) P Pears, A Dorling Kindersley Book, Camberwell, 2003
Are you growing Kale? Do you have any other tips that you could add? I would love for you to add them to the comments below.
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