Kale is a sturdy green that handles cold weather well, and because it is so hardy, it has a long growing season. There are quite a few variations of kale, and it is considered a cooking green that is full of valuable nutrients.
When should you plant kale? The best time to plant kale is after the last spring frost has passed, but it can be planted nearly all year.
Because kale matures so quickly, there are options for starting your kale indoors to ensure you have a constant supply of this fantastic leafy green through most of the year. This article will explain how to plant and transplant kale, discuss various types of kale, give information about growing kale outdoors, and reveal great companion plants for this versatile leafy green.
How to Plant Kale
Kale can be planted as a seed either inside or outside, depending on your preferences. Kale will take 1 to 14 days to germinate, and the seeds need to be planted about ½ inch deep in soil that can drain well.
Planting Kale Indoors
If you prefer to get a jump start on having kale ready early in the growing season, you can start growing your kale inside. If you start your kale indoors, try to time planting the seeds about six weeks before the last anticipated spring frost. This way, you can get the kale transplanted outside before the plants mature and after any damaging frost.
An added benefit of planting indoors is avoiding slugs that like the tender leaves of kale. Planting kale indoors allows the plant to become established enough to survive issues with pests.
When transplanting kale, the plants should be placed approximately 16 inches apart from one another to allow air circulation. Air circulation will enable plants to dry thoroughly between waterings and prevent bugs and mildew that could spread to other plants.
According to “Growing Kale” from Bonnie Plants, you can continue to plant kale throughout the year to keep a cycle of fresh kale ready for harvest. Kale holds up very well in frost and even a little snow.
If you wish to continue your garden through winter and you live in climate zones 8 through 10, you can plant as late as six to eight weeks before you expect frost to hit your area.
Planting Kale in Containers Outdoors
Kale is not a fussy plant, and planting it in containers is easy to do. For a family of four, you need only three or four kale plants to supply a nice amount of kale for the whole family.
The size of pot matters with kale as you want to make sure there is enough space around the plant for air circulation and drainage. Consider a larger container if you’re going to plant companion plants for your kale or if you wish to plant a variety of kale plants together.
Your pot should be at least 12 inches in diameter and just as deep. Look for containers that have drainage at the bottom because kale is susceptible to root problems with poor drainage.
Cut and Come Again
An excellent benefit of kale is it is one of the greens gardeners call a “cut and come again” plant. This means it keeps growing and producing throughout the season while you are enjoying kale with your dinner or in your smoothie.
You will know kale is ready to be harvested when the leaves are the size of an adult hand. You will want to leave the terminal bud of the kale plant when collecting the leaves, which is located at the top near the center of the plant. It keeps the plant productive and growing even after you harvest kale leaves.
You will want to use pruning shears and gather the older leaves first, leaving the younger ones to grow a little longer.
Different Varieties of Kale
Kale comes in different varieties, and they are proven suitable for different meals. Some kale has more tender leaves, and others are sturdy enough to cook without falling apart. There are many varieties to choose from, and the following are a few popular types of kale for container gardens.
Common Curly Kale
The kale you spy in the grocery store is most likely curly kale. It growls as a head but is sold in bunches with the leaves bound together. This variety of kale is versatile enough to be used in dinner and your smoothie.
Red Russian Kale
This kale option tastes good and is a little sweeter than some other kale options. Red Russian kale gets along well with cold weather and tends to brighten up in color even more after being touched with a little frost.
Chinese Kale is an excellent substitute for broccoli in recipes. This kale tolerates heat better than other kale varieties. Also, it holds up in stir fry recipes and can be steamed or boiled, as well.
This micro version of kale is popular with those who garden in containers. It does not take up much space, and abundance kale is excellent in salads and for juicing.
This red kale is actually dark purple. It does not do well with cooking, but this kale is fantastic raw and in salads. It takes longer to mature, but it tends to get sweeter as it does.
Insects and Disease
According to Robert Lopez with Michigan State University Extention, Department of Horticulture, it is vital to recognize insects and pests that may stand in the way of your kale and your kitchen.
- Aphids are the most common pest to your kale along with caterpillars, flea beetles, whiteflies, slugs, and snails.
- Kale also suffers from common diseases such as leaf spot, black and club rot, mildew, and stem rot.
It is essential to ensure the soil can hold enough moisture to keep the leaves at the bottom of the plant from dying, but also be allowed to dry out enough to prevent damage to roots. Also, the correct spacing between plants helps with allowing air to circulate and prevents mildew issues.
When you plant kale in containers or a garden, having the right plants nearby can help save some frustrations with bugs and critters eating your plants as well as soil health.
Kale benefits when planted with other plants that assist in the health of your kale, such as:
Herbs attract specific bugs that eat the pests that like to snack on your kale. These bugs also pollinate your garden, so the diversity helps in a couple of different ways. Some herbs that go well with kale include:
Kale likes nitrogen, and some vegetables add nitrogen to the soil, such as:
- Hot peppers
- Green onions
There are specific flowers that do a fantastic job of keeping insects away. If you have space in your container garden, adding these flowers might help you avoid insect issues:
In the End
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse of a plant that is suitable for many meals. From salads to snacks like kale chips, the plant does not disappoint. It can be added to stir fry meals, sautéed, and even roasted. It holds up well in a stew and your smoothie.
Because kale is not a picky plant when it comes to soil and weather conditions, gardeners only need to know what to look for regarding pests and diseases to ensure their container garden supplies the whole family with this delicious and nutritious plant for the majority of the year.