Kale

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Kale

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Kale

Kale is a hardy, cool-season green that is part of the cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate all fall frosts. Kale can be used in salads or as a garnish and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.

Planting

  • You can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer. If you plant kale late in the summer you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter.
  • Mix 1-½ cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.
  • Plant the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep into well-drained, light soil.
  • After about 2 weeks, thin the seedlings so that they are spaced 8 to 12 inches apart.

Care

  • Water the plants regularly but be sure not to overwater them.
  • Mulch the soil heavily after the first hard freeze; the plants may continue to produce leaves throughout the winter.

Pests/Diseases

Harvest/Storage

  • Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand.
  • Pick about one fistful of leaves per harvest. Avoid picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) because this will help to keep the plant productive.
  • Kale will continue growing until it’s 20 degrees F. It tastes even sweeter with a touch of frost.
  • If you wish to extend your harvest, shield your kale from the cold with row covers. Or, create a makeshift cover with tarps and old blankets propped up by hay bales or something similar.
  • The small, tender leaves can be eaten uncooked and used in salads.
  • Cut and cook the larger leaves like spinach, but be sure to remove the ribs before cooking.
  • You can store kale as you would any other leafy green; put the kale in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last about 1 week.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • The chill of a moderate frost or light snow improves the flavor of kale.
  • Embrace your leafy greens! Learn more about the health benefits of going green!

Recipes

Cooking Notes

Many people dislike kale because it is so crunchy and dry. It sounds odd, but a great way to make kale more tasty is to massage it!

Kale also makes a great compliment to spinach in a salad (try watching this video for great kale salad ideas), and kale chips can be a tasty treat. Find out more about kale and spinach.

Comments

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Kale

My Kale, planted last September has produced abundant leaves through the "winter" (Vancouver Island) and with the warmer temperatures has shot up from 12 to 24" inches almost overnight, and the top appears to be about to flower.
Should I be cutting this back or removing it?
Should I be saving seeds if they appear from the budding at the top?

Are you eating it, Charles?

Are you eating it, Charles?

That’s quite a lot of growth! If you want to save the seeds, let it flower and see what happens (we have not had the pleasure).

Because kale is an annual, we would expect that you would want to get another crop going for this year, so removing it after it sets seeds and you harvest those would seem like your best bet.

Kale

last year I grew red Swiss Chard and it just kept producing chard all summer long, does kale and/or spinach grow the same way?

Planting in winter

I am wondering if it is too late to plant kale in my garden? Will it still be able to grow this late winter season? We had an abundance last year in our flower garden that we mixed in but I know it was planted in the late fall. We are in the Atlanta GA area.

Thank you for your help.

planting kale

According to one chart produced by a Georgia county extension, Feb 1 to March 10 is good for a spring sowing of kale seeds or transplants in middle Georgia. Northern areas, such as Atlanta, should add 2 to 3 weeks to those dates (start around Feb 14). You might call your county’s Cooperative Extension for specific dates for your area. Contact information can be found at: 

http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services

Planting Kale in summer

Hi, I am in South Africa and wish to plant Kale in summer, is that OK? it is quite hot here in summer

End of season care

Hi, this was my first year growing kale. Now that we're into the fall season, I'm putting my raised garden to bed for the winter. I pulled out my old tomato stalks and roots, but I'm wondering if I have to do the same with the kale? Thanks in advance for the advice!

overwintering kale

Kale is usually treated as an annual, even though it is biennial. When treated as an annual, you can pull up the old stalks and roots, then grow new plants next growing season.

However, depending on your climate, the variety you choose, and how well protected it is over winter, your kale might make it through winter to produce a small harvest in spring before it goes to seed. If you wish to try this, and you live in a cold climate, then cut down any vegetation that has browned and died back, then provide a thick mulch, such as straw, over the kale bed in fall after harvest is over. In spring, uncover the plants when signs of growth emerge.

Growing Kale

This is my first attempt at growing kale. I see it has some lovely buds. Small. Is this something I should clip or let grow?

If they are leaf buds, leave

If they are leaf buds, leave them be. If they are flower buds, then the plant is starting to bolt (form a flower stalk), which can make the leaves taste bitter. When you see a flower stalk forming, snip it off as soon as possible, to delay the flowering process. (The flowers are edible.) It is a sign that you should harvest the leaves as soon as possible before the flavor becomes too bitter.

Kale is a biennial–setting leaves the first year, and flowering the second year before dying. However, in certain cases, kale can bolt the first year if they are under stress, such as high heat at certain stages, or dry soil.

This is my first year growing

This is my first year growing kale. Getting a good crop. It started out with a lot of leaf eating insects, but the problem seems to have cleared up. However, I noticed the kale is very bitter. I'm not really enjoying it! It is Toscano Kale. Any tips to reduce bitterness (soil quality?) or is this just how it is? Organic Kale from the store is not so bitter... Thank you!

We're not sure where you live

We're not sure where you live but kale taste bitter if it got too much heat. Kale grows best in cool temperatures (60 to 70°F. If you live in a hot climate, you could try a spot with partial shade.
Since you've grown the kale, here's another idea to reduce the bitter taste of your kale. When you prepare kale in the kitchen, put the leaves in a bowl. Add a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and gently rub the kale to break down its tough cellulose structure. This will make the taste more mellow.

I have never grown kale

I have never grown kale before but put one in a huge pot on my deck. It is about or foot or more high with large leaves. The tag calls it a dinosaur kale. How do I pick it and keep it growing? The instructions did not say.

Dinosaur kale is also called

Dinosaur kale is also called Tuscan kale, Italian kale, Lacinato kale, or palm tree kale. It usually grows to 2 or 3 feet high. You would harvest it the same as other kale (see the guidelines under "Harvest/Storage" above). Pick the outer, older leaves, cutting each off at the base of the leaf stem where it connects to the main stem. Leave at least 4 to 6 leaves on the plant so that it can make food for itself, and avoid picking the center small leaves, so that the plant will continue to grow. Enjoy!

Please help! I read through

Please help!
I read through the comments but don't have an exact answer on what to do.
my kale plants are 2 ft high.
If you call it a plant. There are only the original bottom 4 leaves then there is a 2 ft stalk in the center with a bunch of white flowers on the top.
Do I cut this off to get more leaves?
Please help.
Thank you

It sounds like your kale has

It sounds like your kale has bolted,or gone to seed. This occurs when the plant is to hot ,dry,or otherwise stressed.
You can cut back the flowery stem and it may produce more leaves. But chances are it's done producing well.
So, either let it go and harvest seed or try to start over.I had the same problem with some of my spring crop, as it has been an extremely warm,early season.
Hope this helped!!!

actually it is a little late

actually it is a little late to cut the flower. it is already finished the vernalization. it will only grow flowers and seeds, even you cut the flower, no more leaves again.
you can keep it and get the seeds. Seed the seeds and keep it from vernalization(low temperature).

should kale be soaked in

should kale be soaked in water after harvesting like lettuce or should it just be rinsed ?

We wash ours like lettuce and

We wash ours like lettuce and spin dry. Difinately soak and wash if there have been chemicals sprayed on the leaves. One batch we got had a tone afids, so we soaked them in the sink with just a touch of bleach, shook dry and ate. If the afids liked the leaves, they were really the best.

I was harvesting and enjoying

I was harvesting and enjoying my kale but now the leaves have little thorns on them--even the newest leaves coming up. I noticed when I went to harvest some and it pricked my finger. What is going on??

We usually only see prickles

We usually only see prickles on older kale, not the young leaf. Some types of kale (Russian Kale) are indeed prickly but not when you cook it!

I bought a planter with about

I bought a planter with about 4-5 kale plants all planted closely together. After doing some research (of course, after the fact), I've determined that the planter isn't big enough for even one kale plant. The plants are already about 12" tall and the roots are all intertwined and crammed agains the edges of the planter and begging to be re-planted. Am I better off transplanting the entire mass and hoping for the best, or would it be better to cut through the roots to separate them? I'd like to re-plant them in as ideal conditions as possible, but don't want to kill them trying to separate them.

Remove the kale from the

Remove the kale from the planter and see if you can gently pull the roots apart without breaking them. If you can then it's better to replant the individual plants in bigger pots or in the garden. If you can't pull them apart then we suggest that you transplant them all together into a large container with fresh soil or dig a large whole and plant them in the garden.

Thanks, will try this! :)

Thanks, will try this! :)

Does anyone know if you can

Does anyone know if you can pickle kale seed pods? I know you can do it with radish pods quite successfully, but I let a handful of my kale plants go to flower so the bees had something to eat and now I have a bunch of seed pods... curious as to how they would taste and wonder if there is any reason I shouldn't try...

my kale is has a tall flower

my kale is has a tall flower coming out at the top. my brocolli does too. do i cut and start over can igather seeds somehow

Kale will grow a long seed

Kale will grow a long seed pod near the flowers - the seeds don't live in the flower itself. Wait until the pods have grown to their fullest size and started to dry - then you can snip them, split the pod and find the seeds inside. These can be replanted.

Can I start my kale in a pot

Can I start my kale in a pot when it is very little and then transplant it in my garden when it is bigger.

Kale should transplant

Kale should transplant successfully, yes.

Hello! Sirs/Ma'mes Can I get

Hello!

Sirs/Ma'mes

Can I get seeds to plant kale in India. I am resident of Udaipur, Raasthan, India, where winter is very pleasant and sometimes temperature reaches to 4-5 degree centigrade (Low) but during summer it can reach at high of 44-45 degrees.

How much kale per sq.

How much kale per sq. Foot?
Thanks.
Jesus Christ loves YOU, kaleisgood

I'd just plant one per square

I'd just plant one per square foot, maybe two if you are disciplined. Kale can get huge.

The rest of my kale garden

The rest of my kale garden froze pretty harshly...can I still harvest and cook it?

Mild frosts tend to improve

Mild frosts tend to improve the flavor of kale but a hard freeze is likely to chill the life out of it. You might look for a few good leaves under the top ones, Diane, but from what you've described, we would not expect much, if anything, to harvest and cook.
In future, pick in advance of a hard freeze, steam to wilt, and pack to put into the freezer for use in soups and stews through the year.

My plants were great all

My plants were great all spring,summer and fall.Prior to reading your blog this morning I pulled all my plants.Should i replant the plants or just move forward to replanting new plants this spring. I guess I'm asking would these plants survive a harsh winter and re-flower this coming spring.I live in the northeast near Philadelphia.

Don't bother to replant the

Don't bother to replant the kale, Ron. It's an annual and would not restart. Hopefully you pulled any "good" leaves and saved them to eat in whatever way you like best.
Next year, grow them again—but in a different place; remember to rotate for best results!

I'm still a new gardener, but

I'm still a new gardener, but finishing my first serious season, and I feel like I'm raising more questions than vegetables... The lacinato kale I planted in an 8" deep raised bed (SFG method) last spring is still going well, having survived several barrages of various bugs/worms. The plants look like trees now, with "trunks" where the lower leaves have been harvested, and new leaves continuing to come out the tops. Can it continue through the fall, maybe even into the winter, or would it be better to start another crop? If better to start with new plants now, in late August, should I plant them in a different location? And if so, is there a particularly good fall crop to follow in this space after brassicas? Thanks!

Hi Ellen, Sounds like you

Hi Ellen,
Sounds like you have a wonderful kale crop. If the plants are healthy and growing new leaves there is no need to start new plants. The plants you have are well established and will continue to grow into the winter months.

I think i accidently grew

I think i accidently grew kale with kale seeds and the stems are purple and the leaves are green i dont know if its a weed or kale

Hi Ethan, There are so many

Hi Ethan, There are so many varieties of kale that any of us might get confused!  Some kale has purple stems (such as Redbor Kale). Here's an interesting page that shows pictures of different kale varieties if that helps! http://ecolocalizer.com/2012/0...

What can I use to deter pests

What can I use to deter pests chewing small holes in the kale leaves?!

The Diamondback moth larva

The Diamondback moth larva makes small holes in kale leaves. Cabbage worms can also be a problem.B.t. insecticide will control all the cabbage caterpillars.

this comment section is/and

this comment section is/and has been so helpful.
many of my questions are answered before i ask.

thank you.

We are glad you find the

We are glad you find the information helpful, Gerard. Good luck in the garden!

Hi. I grew purple kale this

Hi.

I grew purple kale this year in 15" pots from seedlings picked up at the local nursery. The plants did great until I harvested for the first time. I left a few good leaves on each plant and they've pretty much all wilted and died. The ones with a few robust green leaves still on them only have about an inch of root left. Can these be brought back to life? How? Thx.

My purple kale in squamish BC

My purple kale in squamish BC has done amazing all winter. now with flowers opening up in top will those flower buds act as seeds? I cut down the stalks but left the stem and roots with a few little growths. I tryed planting the flower buds as seeds. will I have any luck with any of these trials?

Hi Nigel, Flowers are the

Hi Nigel,

Flowers are the first step on the way to seeds. The bees need to pollinate the flowers for them to be able to form seeds. I wouldn't bother planting the flowers. The stem and roots may produce something--it depends upon a number of things.

I had some insect on my kale

I had some insect on my kale last year, all over
Do not know what the were bit ugly and
I pulled out my kale plants. Any recommendation
how to get rid of insects on kale. A

There are a variety of

There are a variety of insects that love kale. See the pests mentioned above to identify.

By mid-summer, my kale was

By mid-summer, my kale was wormy & bitter. I cut it down to about 6" tall & removed any remaining leaves. It leafed out again & I had a nice fall crop. Dispose of the leaves (& worms). Don't try to compose them.

Good guidance. Can kale grow

Good guidance. Can kale grow indoors without direct sunlight?

Hi Ratna, I've never tried

Hi Ratna,

I've never tried it myself, but you might be able to grow it under grow lights.

I grow kale & Swiss chard

I grow kale & Swiss chard under a grow light & use the small leaves in green salads to accompany my grow-light lettuce.

Kale will grow in low light

Kale will grow in low light conditions, just not very fast. I threw old plants that were going to seed under my deck and they grew. You may need some light to get the seedlings going. I've also grown red Russian and curly kale in pots. Again, much lower yield but if you've got the space, still work it.

It is possible to harvest

It is possible to harvest Kale in the caribbean?

Hi Jorge, I don't really

Hi Jorge,

I don't really know. Kale is generally considered a cool weather crop. Ask at a local nursery.

I planted kale for the first

I planted kale for the first time here on the costa blanca in Spain. Temp is 28c in shade. Planted in May/june. Its growing well and ready for harvest. Keep watering well.

I live in North Carolina

I live in North Carolina (Zone 7B) and the birds ate all my kale seedlings in the fall. Is it possible to start new seeds indoors now and transplant to my garden in a few weeks? Or will it be too cold for it to start?
Thank you.

Start your seeds indoors in a

Start your seeds indoors in a sunny location about 8 or 9 weeks before your expected last frost date. Transplant the seedlings out into the garden 3 weeks after you started them (6 weeks before your last frost date). They will tolerate the cold.

I'm an apartment dweller who

I'm an apartment dweller who recently acquired one with a balcony. Can you provide some suggestions / probability of successfully growing kale in containers? Specifically hoping to grow lacinato and curly purple varieties. Thanks.

Dear Kale-iscious, I have

Dear Kale-iscious,

I have never grown kale in pots, but don't see that it couldn't be done. Just use the biggest pots that you can find and make sure that they get at least 6 (preferably more) hours of Sun. Also, give them lots of organic matter (old manure, compost, etc.).

I have Kale growing in a pot

I have Kale growing in a pot with lavender right now. I pick it while it is no bigger than my hand and usually smaller. It is good in salads or in small batches of pesto which for me is often just olive oil and Kale. It gets a few hours of more direct light but is mostly getting indirect. This is not the large hearty kale like in my outdoor garden ( I am lucky to have a community p-patch garden). It is delicate and delicious.

Grow in a straw bale. They're

Grow in a straw bale. They're cute cheap and effective for growing plants.

Grow in a straw bale. They're

Grow in a straw bale. They're cute cheap and effective for growing plants.

I sowed kale seed in my new

I sowed kale seed in my new cold frame which has 12,000+ lumens of wintertime supplemental light here in NH. It all germinated and is now about 3" tall and is tightly spaced. If I use scissors to cut bunches of baby kale will it regenerate as lettuce would? Or must I harvest individual leaves to get the plants to continue to produce (as we have been doing in the open garden for 3 to 4 months now). Thanks.

Dear Winter Gardener I am

Dear Winter Gardener

I am not 100% sure, but I suspect that it will not generate like lettuce. I generally pick individual leaves from the outside or bottom first.

My kale plants are currently

My kale plants are currently covered with melting ice. Is it ok to harvest some leaves now, or will that harm the plant?

Kale is a cold-weather

Kale is a cold-weather champion and can withstand a hard frost; this even makes the veggie taste sweeter. Kale can even survive an extreme freeze; you may lose some leaves but when the temperature warms up to 0 degrees, the leaves start to regrow.

Can I put kale seeds directly

Can I put kale seeds directly in the ground now, even in the middle of summer? I live in southern NJ

You can plant kale in your

You can plant kale in your area as a fall crop. Planting seeds mid-July through late August is fine. (Southern readers: wait until October before planting.)

Harvesting Early

I planted Winterbor Kale April 16th it is growing wonderfully. Maturity is 55-60 days but in the next few days the temp. will reach above 80 degrees. Can I begin harvesting now before it gets too hot and the leaves get bitter?

summer

I just planted some curly kale plants. I keep reading that it is a cool weather plant. Is it too hot in the summer to grow kale?

Yes, kale is a cool-season

Yes, kale is a cool-season vegetable that is grown primarily in spring and fall. For good taste, kale is best harvested before summer heat or after frost in the fall to avoid bitter leaves.

How to harvest?

Do you just cut off what you need each time and leave the plant to keep regrowing or do you harvest the whole thing and it is done?

With kale, you can harvest

With kale, you can harvest the outer leaves when they are mature and allow the smaller inner leaves to keep growing.

flowers

Once the plant has gone to flower, should it be cut back ?

Yes, your plant has bolted

Yes, your plant has bolted and it is the end of its lifestyle. It is probably too warm now. Replace this cool weather vegetable with a new plant.

Cut the flower buds off

If you keep it from flowering, it will keep producing leaves. Pinch or cut the buds off.

I have a good sized patch of

I have a good sized patch of blue curled kale I grew mid July of last year in northern Arizona, it flowered and seeded this june after a great harvest through a -15 degree winter. I harvested the seed pods and now the plants are all producing more kale than ever. when will they exaust and die?

freezing kale?

Can kale be frozen, hopefully?

Yes, you can freeze kale.

Yes, you can freeze kale. Wash it and cut off stems. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then submerge in ice water. Spin in salad spinner and dry. Then, place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet or flat surface. Put in freezer until frozen. Then, you can shake into an airtight container.

Botanical Name: 

Brassica oleracea acephala

Plant Type: 

Sun Exposure: 

Soil Type: 

Bloom Time: 

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