Grow Vegetables – Kale
July 1, 2014
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. Last year I planted two plants but 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 will tolerate partial shade. Other than constant checking and removal of caterpillars and some companion planting, the plants do not require any special care.
Kale is frost tolerant. 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.
The caterpillars are hatched from tiny eggs layed on the leaves of the plants. Regularly check the underside of leaves and wipe these off if you see them. 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.
Fake moths made of material may also work, we tried making some from clay this year and painting them white. The theory is that the moths will not visit plants in an area where others are already present.
Companion plants that may help to keep bugs at bay include:
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.
It is important to rotate this crop, this means do not plant it in the same space each year.
Aphids tend to be an issue as the weather warms into Spring and the plant starts to experience some heat stress. 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.
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.
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.
Leaves are generally cooked for a little longer than spinach but it can be used similarly:
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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