Easy Tips for Growing Kale
Growing kale, like most leafy green vegetables-chard, mustard or collard, is relatively easy. Kale grows quickly and can be sown, grown and harvested twice (or three times) per season throughout much of the US. Kale laves can be green and curly or quite ornamental ranging from pink/green to purple/green variations.
Traditionally, in most areas growing kale has been popular for its mature leaves to be used as a side dish or with potatoes or meat as a main dish. With the discovery of its great vitamin and mineral content it has in recent years become popular to harvest the young leaves as a raw addition to salads.
Though it is true kale is sweetened by the kiss of frost, its health potentials are present regardless of the season. Rich in vitamins A (denoted by dark green color) C, E & K (needed for proper blood clotting) the taste of kale is on the bitter side but can be mixed with sweeter greens. Also present are healthy amounts of plant based calcium (can be used by the human body), lutein (yellow carotenoid) and iron.
A member of the cabbage family-related to broccoli and cauliflower as well, kale contains seven times the beta-carotene of its cousins and about 10 times the amount of lutein; not to mention its fiber content which is needed for proper colon function. Growing kale for its phytochemicals in the fight against such cancers as breast and ovarian is just one of the new reasons this vegetable is seen on the plate for more than just an attractive garnish.
Kale likes cool weather with soil temperatures around 60-65 degrees (hot weather does increase bitterness). Soil should be rich, mixed with a good organic compost if necessary to ensure nitrogen for the leaves, and slightly acidic, as well. In warm climates sow seeds directly into ground outdoors (about ½” below surface and cover lightly) in prepared areas and expect germination in about one week. Use a good fertilizer with phosphorus and potassium, as well as the nitrogen.
In colder climates, growing kale can be just as easy by starting seeds indoors about six weeks before final frost and sow into prepared outdoor garden when weather permits. Plants should be about 15 inches apart as the spread of the leaves can be as much as two to two and a half feet. Depending on variety plants are mature in about 45-60 days.
Keep kale watered well as it is the moisture and the cooler weather that will ensure a sweeter taste. Mulch will help ensure moisture retention and they do require full sun. As for pests watch for cabbage worms, loopers and aphids. To safeguard against fungal and bacterial diseases allowing for good air circulation when planting will be the best prevention (humidity will be high around the time of harvest). Crop rotation also helps.
Kale cross pollinates with any of its cousins so if you want to save seeds for the following year be sure to plant all related varieties about a mile apart from each other. Good companion crops are potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, beets and bush beans.