When it comes to growing a vegetable garden, there are many things you can do.

  • You can produce the best vegetables you’ve ever tasted.
  • Or you can develop a vegetable garden that’s small enough to fit on your patio.
  • Or you can raise a vegetable farm that’s so large you need a truck to move it around. 
  • You can even grow vegetables with no soil—all you need is a seed, water, and sunshine. 

But if you want to grow the ultimate superfood vegetable queen, you need to know how to grow kale.

kale leaves purple veins

What is Kale?

Kale, Brassica oleracea var. acephala, is a leafy green biennial vegetable in the family Brassicaceae grew annually for its leaves. The plant has a thick, upright stem with a dense, leafy crown of stiff, heart-shaped, dark green and purple leaves. Depending on variety and climate, the plant can grow to 23–50 inches high. Many varieties can differ in size, taste, and look.

The leaves of the kale plant are thick, fleshy, and tough and are used in a wide range of dishes steamed, sautéed, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, and even barbecued.

In the second year, plant produces a dense flower cluster at the apex of the stem, which will open up to reveal yellow flowers surrounded by 5-7 small, pointed leaves and edible seedpods.

You can find kale in supermarkets or better at your local CSA farmers market and it is often sold in bunches or small packs also available throughout the year. It is considered a superfood because of its many health benefits.

The plant originates from the eastern Medditerain region, where it was first time cultivated by ancient Romans.

Why should you grow kale in your garden?

Kale is a cool-season superfood vegetable that is incredibly easy to grow, delicious and nutritious. It is the perfect vegetable for new gardeners because it proliferates, doesn’t take up much space in the garden, doesn’t require much maintenance, and develops well in poor soil. 

Raising them in your garden also gives you a steady supply of nutrition throughout the year, and you will need 2 to 4 plants per family member.

In addition to being delicious to eat, kale is also loaded with Vitamin K, A, B6, and vitamin C.

According to Healthline, it is also great potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium source. Some varieties even have twice the amount of calcium as milk! It’s also an excellent source of iron, thiamin, manganese, and copper. Kale leaves are also rich in powerful antioxidants, which help keep the body healthy and protect against cell damage.

Kale is another veggie that is highly recommended for adding to your diet because it has too many benefits and contains a lot of fiber, which is vital for a healthy digestive system. 

 All these benefits give the kale title of “the queen of greens.”

kale fresh leaves harvested

How to grow?

Kale is the easiest brassica to grow cause it has extremely modest requirements for external conditions. It can withstand high temperatures and drought during the summer and low temperatures and snow during the winter.

They are fast-producing, resilient plants and thrive in almost any soil with adequate moisture and nutrients. You can grow them in pots, containers, raised beds, or directly in the ground. 

Kale loves to grow under 6 to 8 hours of sun and does best when the soil is rich in organic matter. But thrives even better if grown behind pre-crops abundantly fertilized with manure, such as early potatoes, peas, and legumes.

When to plant?

Kale can be planted year-round in many parts of the country but prefer cooler temperatures. It is most productive when sown in the spring and fall.
For early spring planting, start your seeds indoors, in individual cell trays, containers, or pots, about 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. You can sow seeds directly to the ground when the soil becomes workable.
For fall planting and winter harvesting, start seeding about 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost in your area.
Seeding in early summer will help you avoid pests like fleas, beetles, and caterpillars, but growth will be slower until the rainy season. Kale will develop faster in full sun, but you should plant seedlings in partial shade in warmer regions.

kale seedlings ready for transplanting

Sow seeds

Kale is best grown from seed and can be direct-seeded in your garden ground or started indoors in trays or seed beads for transplants.

Sow in a row about 0.5 inches deep in small groups of 4–8 seeds, allowing 1.5 inches between and when the seedlings, thin to a final spacing of 18 inches within the row, allowing at least 2 feet between rows.

Keep soil evenly moist after planting. If you are growing kale in containers or pots, you can thin them more tightly, but you will need to water them more often cause they will quickly become thirsty.

It is important to harden off your plant for 5 to 7 days before transplanting outside so they can adapt to outside temperatures. Bring seedlings out in the morning; choose a sunny day but place them in the shade for a few hours. Repeat the process for at least five days, but leave them outside for a couple of hours longer.

Soil and watering

Kale prefers high organic matter, well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. It does best in cool weather, temperatures 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like all cabbage family members, kale prefers soil that has been treated with compost or manure. If the ground is soggy growth rate will slow down. Dry mulch like wood chips or hay will help maintain the soil moisture and protect the roots from freezing during winter.

Kale likes to be watered regularly, although it doesn’t need much. A good time to water is in the early morning while the soil is still damp or in the evening. Water your plants once or twice a week, and then wait to water again until the soil dries out.

kale dinosaur leaves variety

Fertilizing

As a heavy feeder, kale requires a lot of nitrogen to produce strong leaf growth but will thrive even with a bit of nitrogen. As long as it is not too wet, plant should respond to a soil fertility program that includes a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

It is possible to grow kale organically, but it is often necessary to supplement its nitrogen needs with a balanced fertilizer. Organic fertilizers such as aged cow manure, bone meal, compost, and worm castings are all excellent choices for many gardeners. These materials are high in nitrogen and can be added directly to the soil around the your plants. Make sure to mix in some compost and cover it with another layer of straw or leaves. The best time for applying fertilizer is after seedling transplantation.

Companion plants

Root vegetables like beets, carrots, and radishes, are great companions because they help break down and improve the soil.

Pests and insects love kale, so best companions are natural pest repellers. 

Members of the allium or onion families like leeks, onions, and garlic will be a natural repellant for certain insect pests that like to munch on your plants, like cabbage worms, flea beetles, and aphids. Fast-growing herbs like cilantro, oregano, and parsley will also keep your plants safe, and some flowers like nasturtiums will keep egg-laying butterflies away from your plants.

Avoid planting with other brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. These brassicas are related to kale and will compete for the nutrients resulting in poor growth for all plants.  

kale ready for harvest

When to harvest?

Kale is grown for its thick, mild to slightly bitter, edible leaves available all year round. Leaves are ready for harvest 75 to 85 days after transplanting seedlings or 85 to 95 days after direct seeding.
You can begin harvesting individual leaves when the plant has 10 to 12 of them. When picking, start from the outer leaves, trim or easily snap them at the base of the plant.
The leaves are most delicious during harvested after the first frost – cold temperatures cause the conversion of carbohydrates in the leaves into sugar. In regions with mild winters, the plants will continue to produce fresh foliage almost all winter. Kale planted in the spring will mature during the summer, which will make leaves slightly bitter if hit by a heatwave. The plant will continue but slowly develop new leaves until the autumn rainy season, and when the temperature drops slightly, the leaves will be tastier again.
When picking, it is recommended to leave at least four leaves remaining on top of the plant, which will allow the plant to develop new leaves for future picking. Regular harvesting and watering will encourage the growth of fresh leaves.

Common problems

While growing kale, you’ll encounter many pests, such as aphids, spider mites, slugs, snails, and leafminers. In addition, kale plants are susceptible to a wide range of pests and insects, which is their biggest issue.

Other conditions that might result in the leaves turning into knots are poor soil quality, overgrowth by weeds, or inadequate watering. It’s also possible that a few of the leaves may turn yellow due to the warm days and intense sun.

Common diseases you can experience:

  • Alternaria leaf spot
  • Black rot 
  • Blackleg
  • Clubroot 
  • Downey mildew
  • Anthracnose
  • Damping-off
mature kale plant in garden

Conclusion

In conclusion, queen of greens is inexpensive, and easy-to-grow vegetable. It’s a true superfood which you can eat raw or cooked. Loaded with an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, it is full of nutrients, high fiber, and low calories. 

It has a mild flavor and a slightly bitter taste that will improve soups, salads, and sandwiches, but it can also be steamed, sauteed, grilled, or roasted.

There are many different varieties, including curly, red, purple, and dinosaur variants. They are all excellent varieties, and we are sure you will find your favorite.

Frequently asked questions

Should I cover kale for frost?

Yes. Kale is considered frost-resistant but should be covered with a row cover or frost blanket to help it survive the long winter months. In warmer climates, kale may be grown in containers or outdoors without a cover.
If your garden is located in an area where frost is likely to last longer, cover the entire crop with a row cover, thick blanket, or even cardboard.
Mulch layers like hay or wood chips will also help prevent roots from freezing.

Does kale regrow after cutting?

Yes. Kale regrows quickly, within 7 to 8 days. Cutting and trimming will help to regrow new foliage development.

The growth will be slowed down during summer and winter due to the high or low temperatures but will recover leaves you can pick over and over again.

Just water them after picking and make sure the soil is moist.

kale how to grow leaves

Can kale overwinter?

Yes it can survive a winter in zones 6 to 9 but will require some protection.

While some varieties can grow as long as a foot in winter, most will stop growing once temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grow it in a garden or container where the soil and air temperatures are controlled for winter survival, or add mulch and cover blankets.

Can you eat second-year kale?

Yes, second-year kale will be ready to harvest and can be eaten raw or cooked. It will have a more robust flavor but is still mild enough to be enjoyed raw in salads or added to soups.
Second-year plant will start to bolt and produce flowers with seed pods. Young green seed pods are nutritious and delicious with a sweet flavor. Matured and dried brown seed pods will give you plenty of tiny seeds for new plantings.

Sources

Cornell University http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene57dc.html