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How to Grow Kale
and Best Time to Plant Kale

Learn how to grow kale, so you can eat the best tasting and nutritious kale.  Growing kale is best done at certain temperatures and planting kale at the wrong time will result in bitter tasting kale leaves.

There are a few different kale varieties to choose from these days.  However, some kale plants are just beautiful and are mainly grown for ornamental reasons.

Growing kale yourself can ensure a much better tasting crop by planting kale at the right time.  Not to mention you can harvest your own kale seeds and continue the tradition of growing your own kale every year.

Learning how to grow kale is very simple as kale is a very hardy vegetable.  And how to grow kale can basically be done anywhere as long as the temperature doesn't get too hot.

How to Grow Kale - The Basics

  • You can plant seeds indoors for transplanting after the danger of frost is gone or plant directly into your garden when soil conditions are right
  • Create fertile well-drained soil before placing seeds into soil
  • Plant seeds approx. 1/4 inch down into soil and cover seeds with soil
  • Moisten soil with a good misting of water and do not allow your seeds to dry out before they germinate
  • Kale seeds germinate quickly in warm soil and should be up within 5 to 8 days
  • When your seedlings are about 3 weeks old, space your seedlings approximately 18 inches apart
  • Kale plants will mature in about 70 days from planting your seeds

Tips for Planting Kale

Kale is a hardy plant and doesn't really need a lot of care. However, the best advice on how to grow kale to get a healthy kale plant is to provide good growing conditions.

Fertilize with compost and use mulch to keep the ground cool. Also make sure your kale is watered on a regular basis.

Along with planting kale in cool temperatures, moist soil helps to keep kale leaves sweet and tender instead of bitter and tough.  Planting kale in rich well-drained soil which is on the acidic side and with a high nitrogen content is also recommended.

Kale needs full sunshine or partial shade to grow.  Full sun is especially recommended at the beginning of growing kale.

Best Time for Growing Kale

The best time for growing kale is Spring/Summer or Fall/Winter.  Kale seeds should be sown from early spring for summer crops or later for fall/winter crops.

How to Grow Kale in Spring:  Sow seeds as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring as seeds will germinate in cool soil, however kale seeds sprout best when the soil temperature are at least 60 degrees F.

How to Grow Kale in Summer:   Growing kale in hot weather can turn kale bitter. Which means kale that is planted in the spring and grows into the hot summer months will not taste very good.

It also means that you should wait until the temperature is right before planting kale - like late summer.

How to Grow Kale for a Fall/Winter Crop:   Sow kale seeds 10 weeks before the first expected full frost. However, in certain climates you can sow seeds later for a winter crop.

Kale is a cool season plant and it makes an excellent fall/winter crop as kale is one of the most frost tolerant vegetables.

It can be left in the ground throughout early winter and kale plants can survive down to 15 degrees centigrade. Kale will be sweetened by frost as frost actually improves on the flavor of kale.

Several kale plants will start out green and then turn dark maroon after a frost. This is one way to tell that your kale has gotten sweeter.

Different Varieties of Kale

Curly Leaf Kale - this kale has wide ruffled leaves and a bright dark green color. It has a thick fibrous stalk and is known for its pungent peppery flavor.

Dinosaur Kale - also known as Lacinato kale and goes by other names as well. This flat leafed kale has a bumpy texture similar to dinosaur skin and has a dark blue-green color. It has a slightly sweeter taste than curly leaf kale.

Ornamental Kale - also known as flowering kale as its interior leaves can produce many striking colors such as violet. This type of kale is primarily grown for their looks. It is generally considered edible, but not as tasty as the more culinary varieties of kale.

Red Russian Kale - this type of kale has blue-green leaves that resemble oak leaves and are tinged with a reddish-purple color. It has chewy leaves that are considered by some to be the sweetest among the kale varieties.

Kale is considered by some to be one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. Kale is very rich in important minerals and vitamins.

The different types of kale or kale varieties are sometimes classified by the type of leaves on the plant. These leaves can be curly or flat and can come in many different colors.

Kale in general is known for having a pungent and somewhat bitter taste, but this will vary with each of the kale varieties.

Harvesting Kale Leaves

Harvesting kale leaves immediately after the first or second frost will give you the best tasting leaves.  However, you can begin harvesting kale leaves as soon as your plant is big enough.

Just cut and pinch the stems from the main stalk - just be sure to leave at least 3 to 6 leaves on your plant.

The center of the kale plant contains its bud, so by removing the outer leaves of your plant you ensure a continuous cycle of growth.  Its best to use kale fresh from the garden, but it will keep in your refrigerator for a week or two if stored in a plastic bag.

If you live in a favorable climate, another technique is to harvest your entire kale plant by cutting 2 inches above the soil. You should see new leaves sprouting in a couple of weeks.

Kale leaves are best eaten when they are young and tender.  Kale can get a bit tough when older or exposed to temperatures that exceed 80 degrees F, so you will want to harvest the entire head of kale before it reaches that point or let it go to seed.

Harvesting Kale Seeds

Mature kale plants will flower in the late summer or in the spring - if you overwintered your kale plants.  Flowering kale is beautiful and a huge attractor for honey bees.

After flowering, the kale stalks will begin producing seed pods.  Seed pods will grow to about 2 to 3 inches in length.

Its best to let the pods mature and dry on your kale plant before you cut them off to harvest kale seeds. You can then use scissors to cut the dried pods off of the kale stalks. Break open and remove the seeds from the pods.

Harvest in time to avoid the pods from opening on their own and dropping their seeds onto the ground.  You can place your dried matured seeds into an envelope or container and store in a cool area or even your refrigerator.

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