How to Grow Kale

How to Grow Kale

How to Grow Kale

In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing kale at home.

Quick Guide Information

Common Name: Kale

Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea

Family: Brassicaceae

Life Span: Biennial

Time Till Harvest: 60 to 90 days

Light Requirement: Full Sun

Optimum pH: 6.0 - 7.5

Kale is one of the most prolific and nutritious leafy greens you can have in your garden. Once established a couple plants can go a long way and can easily become a regular addition to your diet. They can be eaten raw, but are also great cooked into any savoury meal.

They are extremely hardy plants, handling frosts and cold snowy weather with no problem. They can easily grow for two years and in areas with mild winters potentially even longer. There are many varieties to choose from, certain ones like the Tuscan Black Kale, are even adapted to handle high temperatures.

Propagation

Kale is commonly purchased in nurseries as seedlings and can be an easy way to integrate the plants into your garden. Alternatively, they are not too difficult to start by seed. While they can be sown directly in the garden, it is typically recommended to start them in trays or pots before transplanting them in the garden.

1. Seeds should be started from seed once soil temperatures go above 10C. Alternatively, germinate seeds inside on a window or in a hothouse.
2. Start with nutrient rich and well-draining soil. Kale requires plenty of nutrients to get a good start.
3. Plant seeds 1.5 cm deep in starter trays or 5-10 cm apart in large pots.
4. They typically germinate after 1-2 weeks.
5. After 4 to 5 weeks from sowing, plants should be ready for transplanting.

Planting and Maintenance

1. Find a location with plenty of sunlight and fertile, well-draining soil. In hot climates, partial shade and cool microclimates may be favorable.

2. Plant small seedlings 50 cm apart and top-dress with a bit of compost. Again, Kale loves nutrient rich soil that is high in nitrogen.

3. Keep soil moist and wait about 45 days or until that plant has around 8 sets of leaves before harvesting.

4. Harvest regularly. This promotes the growth of new leaves and reduces incidence of pests.

Kale doesn’t require much maintenance once established. The most important thing is to harvest regularly and remove any diseased foliage. Keep soil well mulched to protect it from extreme temperatures and to retain moisture.

Common Problems

+ Aphids are not uncommon, especially during hot weather when they reproduce quickly. Remove infected foliage and insects from the stem. Using soapy water or another natural pest repellent can help reduce their prevalence.
+ White cabbage moths are an issue with Kale, especially in warm weather. They are difficult to manage, but removing eggs manually by hand can help reduce their impact.
+ Powdery mildew and other fungi can attack leaves. Remove infected foliage immediately and allow new growth to regrow. Applying trichoderma can help reduce the prevalence of fungal diseases.
+ Bolting occurs when temperatures are too hot, when there has been a lack of harvest, or just when the plants are mature. This typically means the plants are on their way out. You can wait for seeds or replace the plant.
+ Snail and slugs can be removed by hand. Alternatively, a snail trap can also help in the management of this pest.
+ Unproductive or slow growing plants may require more nutrients or water. Consider top dressing with compost and increasing irrigation if necessary. Alternatively, plants may just be too mature and losing vigorosity.

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