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Grow Vegetables – Kale

Tips on how to plant, grow and harvest Kale

Grow Vegetables - 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 blue curled

Kale – Blue Curled

Kale red bor

Kale – Red Bor

Planting Kale:

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.

Growing Kale:

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.

Grow Kale

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.

Pest Control:

kale pest control

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:

  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Sage
  • Spearmint

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:

Haloumi Chilli Kale Chips

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


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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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Teresa July 1, 2014, 9:28 am

    Thanks Kyrstie for these great tips. I am trying to grow my first kale crop, but pesky caterpillars, and our own guinea pigs that escaped and went off on an adventure, have got to them first. The plants look rather sad, but I will keep persevering. T x

    • Kyrstie Barcak July 3, 2014, 4:21 pm

      Thanks Teresa, do keep trying. If the bugs and animals like it, it must be good 🙂

  • Tania @ The Cook's Pyjamas July 1, 2014, 10:33 am

    We have planted loads more kale this year too. It is so easy to grow. Great tip on the white pansy’s. I am going to give that a try. Last year I read a tip on boiling kale before using in dishes. I tried this and the resulting kale was delicious. I previously hadn’t thought it bitter but did notice the difference once I had tried it that way. We still eat most of our kale dried as chips but if I am putting it in a dish I am now inclined to boil it briefly first. And as kale is so high in vitamins and minerals, even a brief boil will not diminish these significantly.

  • Krista July 2, 2014, 10:30 pm

    I had to chuckle when I opened your post today, for yesterday I discovered that I’d inadvertently planted hundreds, and I mean HUNDREDS of kale plants, all of which are thriving. Oh my word. I’ll have kale by the bushel shortly, so I’m delighted by the recipe you shared. 🙂

    • Kyrstie Barcak July 3, 2014, 4:20 pm

      Oh my gosh Krista, hundreds!! You will need more than one recipe my friend 🙂 !!

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