Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting 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 fall frosts. Here’s how to grow kale in your garden.
Kale can be used in salads or simply as a garnish. Kale has a number of health benefits, as it is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.
When to Plant Kale
- In most areas, you can plant kale at any time, from early spring through early summer, and again from late summer to early fall. However, kale’s growth may be affected by hot temperatures, so it’s recommended to avoid growing it during height of summer.
- If you plant kale late in the summer, you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter. In fact, kale leaves often have a better flavor after a couple frosts.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
- Plant kale in full sun, in well-draining soil.
- Mix 1-½ cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.
How to Plant Kale
- 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.
How to Grow Kale
- Water the plants regularly, but be sure not to overwater them.
- Mulch the soil heavily after the first hard freeze in the fall; the plants may continue to produce leaves throughout the winter.
How to Harvest Kale
- 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°F. It tastes even sweeter with a touch of frost. (See local frost dates.)
- 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. Here are a few more season-extending ideas.
- 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 tough ribs before cooking.
How to Store Kale
- 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.
- ‘Vates’, which is a hardy variety and does not yellow in cold weather. It also has curly, blue-green leaves.
- ‘Winterbor’, which resembles the ‘Vates’ variety, but is frost tolerant.
- ‘Red Russian’, which has red, tender leaves and is an early crop.
Wit & Wisdom
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!