The Vegetable Garden

Kale

    Kale is a leafy vegetable that is usually grouped into the “Cooking Greens” category with collards, mustard and Swiss chard. The leaves can be curly and quite ornamental, but become too tough to eat fresh, as they mature. Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is susceptible to many of the same pests.

    Varieties

    SCOTCH KALE
    • Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch’ (squat plant, good for container culture; curly blue leaves; good in salads when young, or cooked when mature; very cold hardy; 55 days)
    • Redbor’ (a red ‘Winterbor’ with deepest red-purple leaves; color enhances with cold; gorgeous in a flower bed or as an edging; sweet flavor; 28 days baby, 55 days mature)
    • Winterbor’ (2’ to 3’ tall; extremely hardy; very productive; blue-green; 28 days for baby kale; 60 days mature)

    SIBERIAN KALE

    • ‘Red Russian’ (blue-gray, flat, deeply cut leaves; veins and stems are blue-green in warm weather, turning red with cold; one of most tender kales; delicious raw in salads; add seeds to lettuces to make your own mesclun mix; 25 days baby, 50 days mature)
    • ‘Blue-Curled Vates’ (great flavor, can be used like lettuce; best cold weather kale; medium green; 60 days)
    • ‘White Russian’ (mild and sweet; excellent for cool weather salads; mulched it is hardy to 5ºF; 58 days)
    HEIRLOOM KALE
    • ‘Lacinato’ (an Italian heirloom also known as ‘Nero di Tosca’, ‘Tuscan Black’ or ‘Dinosaur’; 12” to 24” long, 3” wide, slightly crinkled, deep blue-gray leaves; excellent cooked; heat and cold tolerant; 30 days baby, 65 days mature)

    When To Plant

    In cool climates direct seed kale as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Kale germinates in soils that are 45°-95°. In warm climates plant kale seeds in early spring or in late summer or early fall for growing during the winter months. Plant the seeds 1/2" deep in prepared beds. Make sure the seeds do not dry out before germination.

    Kale can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost.
     
     

    Spacing & Depth


    If you plan to harvest the kale leaves at their youngest stage plant kale 8"-12" apart in rows 18-30" apart. Young leaves are great for salads. An alternate spacing is to give the kale plants more room to grow using a 16" spacing. This spacing allows for good air circulation and will allow the kale to grow longer without harvest. Older leaves are good for cooking but are too tough for salads.

    Care

    Kale produces sweet, crisp leaves if soils are kept moist. Kale does not like to dry out. Using straw mulch around the plants helps retain soil moisture but kale does need to be watered regularly throughout the growing season.

    The trick to producing excellent kale heads is to keep the kale plants growing at a steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest.

    Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition.

    Harvesting

    Kale can be harvested as soon as the leaves are ready to be used although the leaves are most delicious after the first frosts.


    Harvest kale by clipping off the outer leaves if you want the plant to keep producing. Or harvest the entire plant when there is a large rosette of leaves.

    Common Problems

    Diseases

    Black Rot, Club Root, Fusarium Wilt

    Pests

    Aphids, Cabbage Loopers, Imported Cabbageworm, Cutworms, Flea Beetles, and Diamond Back Moth