Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 50-65 days
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows
Reliable and quick to harvest, growing kale is relatively easy because cold weather doesn’t bother it. In fact, cold weather makes it taste… well, a whole lot better!
Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae family and related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. It is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, and super-loaded with vitamin K, a sometimes overlooked nutrient that may reduce the risk of cancer.
Fun Fact: This leafy-green vegetable is an AMAZING source of carotenoids, which are linked to one’s level of optimism.
One of the hardiest greens you can grow, kale is chock-full of vitamins and minerals.View all
- Plant seeds in full sun and cool, well-fertilized soil
- Excellent cold-weather crop
- Tastes best after a frost, so plant in early spring or late summer
- New leaves are best for salads, older leaves are fine for soups
- Very few pest and disease problems, but watch for mildew, aphids, flea beetles and cutworms
Kale grows best in full sun and cool, moist soil that is enriched with organic compost. Before planting, incorporate a legume cover crop or work in 30 pounds of compost per 100 square feet. Kale requires moderate amounts of fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Tip: Before you grow your organic garden, grow your soil. Consider adding soil amendments like alfalfa pellets, rock phosphate, greensand, and kelp meal to improve the structure of the soil and provide a slow-release mix of nutrients to plant roots.
How to Plant
Sow kale from seed or nursery stock in late summer for a fall harvest or early spring for summer harvest. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, allowing 1 foot between plants and 2 feet between rows. Fertilize with fish and seaweed and kelp extract to encourage more growth.
Mulch around kale plants with a heavy layer of garden compost. This keeps the soil cool, prevents moisture loss, and provides readily available nutrients to the shallow feeder roots.
Like most winter vegetables, the taste improves after the first frost. In fact, we recommend that you do not harvest kale until after at least one or two hard frosts (see Sweet Season). Pick outer leaves as they develop or harvest the entire plant. Kale matures 50-65 days after direct sowing or 30-40 days after transplanting.
An extremely hardy plant, kale can be harvested as late as December in many areas and will overwinter in warmer locations. If you grow it in a cold frame, you can harvest it almost all year long.
Insects and Diseases
Kale does not have many diseases or pest problems. Rotating crops helps to discourage many plant diseases such as downy mildew and black rot. Watch for flea beetles and aphids and protect young plants from cutworms with a collar made from paper cups with the bottoms removed.
Seed Saving Instructions
This biennial will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, so isolate by one mile the second year when going to seed. Before a hard frost, carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40˚F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.
Use to sow your rows with precision. Works fast with just the click of the thumb.
Dried Blood (13-0-0)
Used for years by growers as a powerful, slow release source of nitrogen (13%).
Alfalfa Meal (Organic)
Derived from sun-cured, non-genetically modified alfalfa that is freshly milled.