Kale is a member of the cabbage family but is one of the so-called “loose-leafed” forms. It is perhaps one of the simplest vegetables to grow because cold weather doesn’t bother it at all and in fact, cold weather makes it taste a lot better. I don’t bother with it during the heat of the summer but plan on eating it in the fall and late fall when everything else has died off.
When to Plant
Kale is best sown as a fall crop (see below for how to make it a spring crop by overwintering it)
For fall crops, sow the seed in mid June to the end of July directly in the garden
If you have the good fortune to live in a climate where zero degrees is as low as it gets over the winter, you can mulch the kale and it will provide a great crop of spring greens for early salads before the early lettuce and spinach can be harvested. After the other greens are available, pull up the kale and resow later in the season for best growth and taste.
Where to Plant
Kale likes what other members of the cabbage family like – full sun, well-drained soil high in organic matter (add lots of compost) and fertility.
How to Plant
Sow kale seeds at 1 to 1.25 cm deep deep. Thin the plants to 30 cm apart in the row with rows .75m apart. These small thinned-out plants make excellent salads by the way. It also helps to gently tamp down the soil over the seeds to “firm up” the soil so the soil and even moisture are in contact with the seed.
Note About This Vegetable As An Ornamental
This plant can easily be grown as an ornamental for fall color. Many garden centers are selling it this way in the fall now. But they are edible and you can easily grow them yourself
Care & Maintenance
You can harvest this plant is one of two ways. In October after your first frost, you can cut down the entire plant and use it like you would spinach in salads or cooking. Or, you can harvest the inner leaves as they mature because they taste better than those big outer leaves. You can harvest the inner leaves right up until snow buries the plant. And just before snow comes, harvest the rest of the plant for the kitchen. It will keep in the refrigerator for a surprisingly long time.
As an aside, Kale has also been bred to produce multicoloured leaves and is used as a hardy ornamental plant for fall colour. These forms are as edible as any other kind of kale.
Try to rotate crops so that no other member of the cabbage family has been in the same garden spot for two years before you plant kale there. Keep it well watered during the heat of the summer and you’re in business.
(all numbers rounded out)
1/4 inch = .6 cm
1/2 inch = 1.3 cm
1 inch = 2.5 cm
6 inch = 15 cm
12 inch = 30 cm
18 inch = 45 cm
36 inch = 91 cm