How to Grow Kale

Updated on January 18, 2018
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Source

The first time I grew kale, I knew nothing about it. I had heard about it, but I had never eaten it nor ever seen it. I was gifted a couple of plants by a fellow gardener. I planted it, watered it and waited to see what happened. It grew quite tall with large broad leaves. I knew that a lot of people hated the taste of kale, so I decided to make spicy kale chips from it hoping the spices would mask the taste if it was not to my liking. They turned out to be delicious. I was telling a friend about it, and she said that she loved kale, especially the curly type. The curly type? There was more than one kind of kale? I had a lot to learn.

Curly Leaf Kale
Curly Leaf Kale | Source

What is Kale?

Kale is a cool-season plant that is a member of the brassica family and is closely related to cabbage. It’s a non-head forming type of cabbage. It is a biennial but is usually grown as an annual. It has been grown and eaten for thousands of years in Europe and Russia. The Europeans brought kale to America in the 16th century. Russian traders brought it to Canada in the 19th century.

The plants are categorized by the shape of their leaves:

  • Curly Leaf
  • Bumpy Leaf
  • Plain Leaf
  • Rape Kale
  • Leaf and Spear

Rape kale is a hybrid cross between kale and a leafy green known as Forage Rape. It is nick-named “hungry gap” because kale grows into the winter when there is little left in the garden to harvest. Leaf and Spear Kale is a hybrid cross between Curly Leaf and Plain Leaf.

Rape Kale
Rape Kale | Source

What is Ornamental Kale?

Ornamental kale is a kale that is grown for its colorful leaves which grow in the shape of a rosette. The leaves can be white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet. Because it can be grown in cold weather, ornamental kale adds color to gardens and landscapes when other flowers have succumbed to the cold. The plants are edible but are not usually eaten.

Ornamental Kale
Ornamental Kale | Source

How to Grow Kale

Kale is a biennial that is usually grown as an annual. It is a cool season plant that does best in the spring and the fall. Optimal soil temperature is 60⁰F to 65⁰F. The soil should be rich in organic matter and high in nitrogen since you are growing it for the leaves. Make sure you have enough room in your garden. There are many varieties, but in general the plants are 2 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet in width. You can start your seeds indoors or direct sow the seeds into your garden.

To start seeds indoors, plant your seeds 6 weeks before your last frost. Plant them ½ inch deep. Germination should occur in 5 to 8 days. You can plant your seedlings in your garden after all danger of frost. Space them at least 16 inches apart. They should be ready for harvest in 30 to 40 days.

To direct sow your seeds, soil temperature in your garden should be at least 45⁰F. Plant the seeds ½ inch deep. Germination will be slower than indoors because of the cool soil. Once the plants have germinated, thin them after two weeks so that there they are at least 12 inches apart. They should be ready for harvest in 55 to 75 days.

Give your plants 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. As the season progresses and the soil warms, mulch your plants with a thick layer of straw to keep the soil cool. Cover them in the beginning of the season to protect the young plants from the cold. Once the summer heat sets in, the plants will stop growing and producing new leaves. It’s best to remove them from your garden to make room for heat loving veggies.

For a fall harvest, sow seeds directly into your garden 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost. The seedlings will grow slowly at first in the summer heat. Once the cool temperatures of fall set in, the plants will grow much more quickly. If you prefer to grow your fall kale from plants, you can plant the seedlings in your garden 3 to 5 weeks before your first frost. Mulch your plants to protect the roots from the summer heat. Give them 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week.

Bumpy Leaf Kale
Bumpy Leaf Kale | Source

How to Harvest Kale

Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are the size of your hand. Always harvest from the bottom of the plant, leaving the top leaves and terminal bud intact. This is where the plant is actively growing. If you cut off those top leaves and bud, the plant will stop growing and producing leaves. Once you have harvested from a plant, it will be ready for harvest again in 5 to 7 days. If you use a lot of kale, plant enough plants so that you can have daily harvests.

In the spring, you can continue to harvest your kale until the heat of summer when it will stop growing.

In the late fall you can continue to harvest your kale after a hard frost and right up until the ground freezes. The plants will survive down to 20⁰F. Kale tastes better after a frost. You can try to extend your season by covering your plants with a floating row cover or even a tarp.

How to Store Kale

You can store kale in a plastic bag in your refrigerator like any other leafy green. It will last 1 week.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • OldRoses profile image
        Author

        Caren White 5 months ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        Marlene, I love adding spices to my kale chips. I would never have thought of cooking them in the microwave. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from USA

        Kale is one of my favorite plants to grow and eat. I recently learned how to make kale chips in the microwave. Dry the leaves, break them into chip-sized pieces and place single-layered on a microwave safe plate. Sprinkle a little oil and salt over the kale. Pop the plate of kale leaves into the microwave for one minute and you will be amazed at how crunchy they are.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)