Kale is a nutritional explosion due to the varying amounts of vitamins A, K, B6, and C it packs. Along with this, there is calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese in every single bite. One cup of raw kale has just 33 calories and only 7 grams of carbohydrates. This makes it a viable option for those who are hyper-glycemic or want to lose weight. Are you interested in growing kale?
A great crop of kale can be planted and harvested in your home garden. Being a healthy snack option and being simple to grow, it is the perfect option for beginners venturing into gardening.
Kale: Plant Profile
Kale belongs to the cruciferous mustard plant family, namely Brassicaceae. Other plants in the same family include broccoli and cabbage, but growing kale is the simplest of them all.
Different types of kale can be cultivated. Some of these include the Chinese Kale, the Standard Curly Kale, the Lacinato Kale, and so on. By the end of this article, you will be well-versed in knowing how to plant kale. Although there are different types, we shall follow the same method of growing kale for all of them.
Growing kale is not a daunting task. This crop can be sown in early spring for a summer crop and in late summer for a fall harvest.
If Growing Kale Outdoors
- Step 1: If growing kale in the spring, start with directly sowing seeds into the soil.
- Step 2: In early spring, kale ought to be planted in the garden almost 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost. For a fall harvest, kale can be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost.
- Step 3: Find a spot in sunlight but also encompassed by some partial shade.
- Step 4: Make sure that the soil pH is between 5.5 to 6.8 to ensure optimal growth of the growing kale.
- Step 5: Based on the soil test, amend your soil with nitrogen-rich compost. (If you didn’t test your soil, mix in a few inches of compost).
- Step 6: Soil needs to drain well and also be enriched for tender leaves. When planting, add fertilizer (1-½ cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil).
- Step 7: If you’re planting seeds, sow ¼ to ½ inch deep into well-drained, light soil.
- Step 8: After about 2 weeks, thin the seedlings so that they are spaced 8 to 12 inches apart.
- Step 9: After planting, water plants well.
If Growing Kale Indoors:
- Step 1: To learn how to plant kale indoors, get a large and flat container to plant the sprouts. You can also rely on a special growing tray that is easily available in the market. Recycling a sanitized plastic package is also a viable option.
- Step 2: Fill the tray or package with a few inches of potting mix, then dampen the mix with water.
- Step 3: Sprinkle a thick layer of kale seeds over the top, then cover with about a half-inch of potting soil.
- Step 4: Wet the soil after the seeds are planted.
- Step 5: For germination, seeds require warmth and moisture. You should cover the seed tray you planted the seeds in to mimic these conditions. Ideally, a plastic bag would be the best idea!
- Step 6: Adequate moisture is essential for the plants to grow. Check the growing trays every few days to ensure the growing medium has not dried out and is still exhibits healthy signs of moisture present.
If you do want bigger plants, you can always replant the seeds out in the sun. However, you will need to acclimatize your plants to sunlight slowly since you started growing kale indoors. Keep the tray with the sprouts in the sun for 5 days.
Increase the amount of sunlight received with each passing day. This is called hardening off, and soon enough, your growing kale plants will flourish. Plant them again in holes twice the size of the root ball.
How to Grow Kale: Basic Requirements
Once you are done with kale planting, there are still certain things to consider. After the how-to plant kale section, comes the how-to grow kale section. This section discusses how to grow kale in terms of its soil, water, light, temperature, and fertilizer requirements.
Selecting an appropriate area is of utmost importance since kale is a cool-weather crop that requires two months of chill weather to reach harvest. Sow seeds indoors or outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked. Also, kale planting is generally started indoors and transplanted into the garden when seedlings are 4 to 6 weeks old.
In regions that have cooler summers, start kale crops in early spring for a summer harvest. In hot summer regions, start kale crops in the ending part of summer seasons for a harvest in late fall. Whereas, in mildly cold regions, kale can be planted in the months of fall to achieve a successful harvest by the time winter arrives.
Kale prefers growing in humus-rich soil with a mildly acidic soil pH (up to 6.8). This is because high nitrogen content is essential to ensure the optimum growth of leaves and resistance to pesky pests. The soil should drain well for proper aeration and optimal growth for the growing kale.
Always double-check the soil temperature. Anything ranging between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit works just fine. All varieties of kale, irrespective of species, would rather cool temperature environments, and additionally, will also be considerably sweetened by a touch of frost. Hot weather turns kale bitter, which is not preferable.
Growing kale can last through winter in most zones with adequate protection, but it will collapse if exposed to heavy frosts or snow. You can also plant other winter plants if you’re looking to have a diverse harvest.
Kale grows best in full sunlight, but is capable of tolerating partial shade as well. Plants that receive fewer than 6 hours of sun daily will not have leaves that are as stocky as others. However, the taste of the plant will not be affected in either case. Like other crucifers, kale likes fertile, nitrogen-rich soil to grow fast and produce tender, green leaves.
Water your growing kale regularly if it doesn’t rain as most plants prefer about 1 inch of rain every 7 days. As with many other plants, we ought to be careful not to overwater the plants. The best quality usually thrives without heat or moisture stress.
Kale is ready to pick approximately 60 days after the seeds have been planted, either indoors or outdoors. At this point, healthy plants will have upwards of ten leaves, with small ones in the center and larger ones on the outside. You can harvest individual leaves too, with an easy snip at the stalk.
● Cut the entire plant in one snip of the scissors from right above the soil line.
● Cut the older leaves from 1 inch above ground level and leave the inner tender leaves intact. This will allow the growth to continue.
If you’re looking to grow baby kale, plants will be ready to pick and enjoy in 25 to 30 days after sowing.
Tips to Boost Kale Harvest
To boost kale growth, you should cover it with a frost blanket. This allows the cold to seep in through the fabric and sweeten the kale leaves. However, the frost is not able to sit on the leaves and damage them. In addition to this, you should also plant your kale seeds on a warm patch of land. Although kale can grow without direct sunlight, sunlight helps in making the leaves stockier and juicier.
Common Pests and Diseases to Look Out For
Cruciferous plants in general are highly susceptible to pests and other pathogens. It becomes essential to identify the onset of the symptoms of these diseases, to treat them better.
Some common fungal diseases that affect kale are:
Alternaria Leaf Spot
A condition commonly known as ‘black or brown spot’, these fungi leave dark, ugly spots on the leaves. These may look like a shade of colors of completely dead parts of generally shed leaves and its surrounding concentric rings, even uglier. Remember, fungi thrive in damp, moist conditions and so this problem is likely to be magnified in the summer months.
The fungus causing this disease leads to moisture-less, water-deprived, and circular lesions scattered around the majority of leaves budding from the kale plants. It can also lead to increased susceptibility to bacterial soft root. Various fallen leaves, specific weeds, manhandled or diseased seeds can be common sources of infection.
Fortunately, the probability of this fungal disease to occur is most likely during the days of summer, which is not typical weather for growing kale. Additionally, fungicides can be used to control this infection.
Downy mildew’s characteristic symptom is the presence of fluffy light grey patches on the afflicted leaves. Moreover, the leaves can even exhibit yellow spots that turn brown with the passing of time.
Similarly, the most common bacterial disease for kale is:
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Tiny black to purplish spots show up on outer leaves or stems. Yellow circles appear around the spots, and they eventually grow together to form light brown, papery areas. This results in rotting of the leaves or in severe cases, the death of the plant.
Like most other crops, kale too is affected by pest attacks. A few common pests are:
This caterpillar reduces leaves to powder. This is the result of heavy feeding by its larva. The holes can be circular or irregularly shaped.
However, there is no effective insecticide against these pests. The only effective option is to use Bt Kale, which is a genetically modified version of regular kale. It secretes an inactive toxin that gets activated in the caterpillar’s gut, killing it instantly.
Cabbage aphids can be disastrous for kale and other cruciferous crops. You can identify these pests by their exterior waxy layering. In cases where less than a handful of these aphids exist on the leaves, you can prune the aforementioned leaves. However, keep in mind, more the cabbage aphids, more hampering of the growth of the plant, or even its complete downfall can happen in extreme conditions.
You can even try spraying them with herbal oils to eliminate an infestation in the affected plant.
Now, our readers are aware of how to plant kale, care for it and harvest it. We encourage you to grab a good shovel and keep polishing and fine-tuning your gardening skills. Kale is a relatively simple plant to grow and offers multitudes of nutritional benefits.
With the help of this article, your Kale plants should thrive and be well taken care of. Remember, fungicides and insecticides can also be used to solve mild to moderate cases of diseases in the growing kale plants.
Another easy to grow vegetable is bok choy and you can refer to its planting guide to grow it on your own.