How to Grow Kale | Sustainable Beginnings

September 27, 2015


Kale is a super food, and has really hit the media as an ‘it’ vegetable to eat now. Weird that a food can become a celebrity am I right?

Still Kale is a great source of nutrients and a relatively easy plant to grow.

First though I’ll go over some background, why not right?

Kale is grouped by leaf type. Such as the following:

  • Curly leaved or Scots Kale
  • Plain leaved
  • Rape kale
  • Leaf and spear (curly/plain hybrid)
  • Cavolo nero

And within those leaf shapes there are a number of varieties – each type has it’s own growth time. I suggest trying a couple types maybe even each season. Find the one you like the best and which works with your growing schedule. I’ve been trying to grow two types each season one with a short growth time and one with a longer growth time, why? I don’t know it’s just my plan! Do what works best for you, don’t be afraid to try new things they may fail, actually they will probably fail but that’s the point in learning right?

  • Blue Armour (45-75 days, hybrid)
  • Blue Curled Scotch (65 days)
  • Blue Knight (55 days, hybrid)
  • Dwarf Blue Curled (55 days)
  • Dwarf Blue Scotch (55 days)
  • Dwarf Green Curled (60 days)
  • Dwarf Siberian (65 days)
  • Greenpeace (65 days)
  • Hanover Late Seedling (68 days)
  • Konserva (60 days)
  • Red Russian (40-60 days)
  • Squire (60 days)
  • Verdura (60 days)
  • Winterbor (60-65 days, hybrid)

Kale is part of the cabbage family.

Growing it is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 … ish …

  1. You can plant kale anytime from early spring (2-4 weeks before last frost, or as soon as ground is workable) to late summer (for fall crops), it does like the cooler side of the thermometer.
    • You can start them in pots as well, plant about 1/2″ deep with medium fertilizer. Keep the soil moist but allow the top to dry between watering.
  2. You want to fertilize the ground with a good amount of compost before planting.
    • Soil should be loamy, well-drained, most but not soggy and have average fertility.
    • Kale doesn’t like a high nitrogen level, a pH between 5.5 – 6.8 is best.
    • If you have light sandy soil, or heavy clay soil it could affect the flavour of the kale – not in a good way.
  3. Plant the seeds 1/4 – 1/2 inch deep in well-drained, light soil.
    • Seeds will germinate in cool soil and grow best around 70F/21C.
    • If you like to start your seedlings indoors do so 5-7 weeks before the last expected frost.
      • You also want to make sure your plants are sturdy enough to survive being replanted. Your kale should be about 3-4″ high, and have at least 4 true leaves with the next 2 leaves beginning to grow.
  4. In about two weeks you’ll have some nice little seedlings in your garden, now is the time to thin them out. I always hate this part of gardening, it feels like a waste to essentially throw out what you just planted but it needs to be done. Throw those little seedlings into the compost and they can still help plant growth.

Care & Harvesting

Kale likes the cool, and water so keep it cool and water well. The moist soil does keep your kale sweeter as well. Fertilize your plants along the rows every 6-8 weeks or so.

Insects – Cabbage insects are just as likely to go after kale, such things as cutworms, and cabbage loopers, though kale is good at resisting disease you want to watch out for these little buggers.

Harvest – Once the leaves get to be about 8-10″ high cut the outer leaves first. You can cut the whole plant, if you do so make sure to leave about 2″ above the soil, and it will grow back.

Plant in a Pot

If you don’t have the option of planting outdoors you can grow kale in a pot. It will need at least 6 square inches of space for the plant to grow.

Plant as you would if you were planting it in the garden, once summer comes move your pot to a shaded area so it doesn’t get bitter.

How much kale is enough?

This is one of the hardest things for me to decide when planting, well anything, how much do I need? If you eat kale regularly you will want at least 3 – 4 plants per person in your household. This seems like a lot and I definitely suggest a trial and error process. It took me a long time to decide how much of what I needed to plant. My garden size is substantial but you never know what plants will make it and which won’t, so sometimes mother nature may ruin your best laid plans.

If you don’t have the room to plant as much as you want then plant a few and see where it goes. Especially with limited space it’s important to make sure you have the right quantity. Make notes each season. Did you plant 6 tomato plants but it seemed to be too much? And you had 3 kale plants that wasn’t enough? So next season take away a tomato plant and add a kale, or really whatever else you want. It’s a constant struggle to find the right amount but it’s also a great way to learn how to manage your homestead.

If you have more than enough room to plant whatever your heart desires then why not plant extra kale and sell it? Organic food is crazy popular now and so is kale, why not set up a little shop for yourself and sell your extra produce?

A few tips …

  1. Kale does best and thus tastes best in cooler climates.
  2. It’s super hardy, surviving in as little as 20F/-6C temperatures.
  3. When planting in the cooler seasons pick a spot with full sunlight, if planting in the warm season give it some shade.
  4. They like companion plants. (who doesn’t like to chill with a friend?) Great choices for these are beets, celery, different herbs, onions, or potatoes.
  5. Like everyone though they have their rivals so keep them away from beans, strawberries and tomatoes.
  6. Plant more seeds than you think you’ll need. Not every seed will make it.
Tags: , , ,

Share Your Thoughts!