Growing Kale is fairly simple and rewarding. Kale has earned a household name lately due to its nutrient-dense leaves, its versatility as a cooked or salad green, and its amazing flavor. Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D. is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University...and also a farmer. He and chef Jennifer Iserloh co-authored 50 Shades of Kale, (HarperWave 2013) and endorse kale as an excellent fuel for brain health. In 2012, Ramsey and Iserloh founded "National Kale Day."
"I love recommending kale for three fundamental reasons: Kale tops the charts of nutrient density, possesses incredible culinary flexibility, and is easy to grow almost anywhere. My ultimate measure of a food is its power to support brain health, and it is clear that more kale in your diet means a happier, healthier, sexier you — all the basic signs that your brain is running well." -- Dr. Drew Ramsey
One cup of chopped raw kale contains 206% daily value (DV) vitamin A, 134%DV vitamin C and 684% vitamin K. The latter plays an important role in blood clotting and heart disease prevention, and as an adjunct to vitamin D works to process calcium and build strong, healthy bones.
Relative to most other vegetables kale is also high in alpha-linolenic acid. Vegans who avoid fish products can increase their omega-3 acids by eating lots (and lots) of kale. Fortunately, with the phenomenal popularity of this curly, dark green veggie, there are many delectable recipes for preparing raw and cooked kale.
We at Seed Needs recommend Vates' Blue Scotch Curled (Brassica oleracia) for a hardy variety that does not yellow after a light frost, or Red Russian Kale (Brassica napus) for a dash of color and a more tender texture lending itself as the best choice for fresh greens.
Soil & Site Preparation
Kale grows well in all but the hottest days of summer and thrives as a cool season crop. In some areas, well mulched kale will produce year round, even after hard freezes. For cool-season crops, select a site that receives full sun; provide late afternoon shade for summertime growing.
Two weeks prior to planting seeds or setting transplants, you'll want to amend your soil with aged compost or 5-10-10 fertilizer.
Planting Tips When Growing Kale
Seeds germinate at temps as low as 40° F, but do best at around 70°F. Many farmers and gardeners give their kale a head start in cold frames, greenhouses or sunny windows. Direct-sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, or transplant two-week-old (about four inches tall) seedlings 8-12 inches apart into compost-rich, well-drained soil one to two weeks before the last frost date for your spring crop.
Fall crops benefit from end-of-season chill, so plan for successive plantings up to 10 weeks prior to the last frost.
Water & Fertilizer
Keep the soil in your kale beds moist but not wet, and avoid watering the leaves. Side-dress with aged compost every 2-3 weeks, and mulch to ensure moisture retention around your plants. Dry soil causes tough, bitter leaves.
Kale plants do not form heads. Hand-pick individual leaves as they approach the size of your palm. Kale will continue to produce at temperatures as low as 20°F. Floating row covers or other frost protection can extend your season, and as with others in the collard family, light frost enhances and sweetens the flavor.
Pests & Diseases
Kale is vulnerable to common garden pests. Insecticidal soap or neem oil help control smaller pests such as aphids and whiteflies, and hand-pick any cabbage worms or caterpillars during your regular weeding and watering routine.
Proper watering and incorporation of compost, which aerates and feeds the soil, prevents many fungus issues, though copper-based fungicides can help with minor issues. Don't overdose your plants with nitrogen; we recommend aged compost sourced from varying manures and leaf litter. (Remember, never add diseased plants to your compost pile!)
We at Seed Needs like to encourage natural insect predators in our gardens, and we recommend regular cleanup of plant debris to help discourage pests and disease.
Fresh Kale from Seed to Table
Contact Seed Needs for more gardening tips, or for help selecting the right varieties for your personal needs. We only sell fresh seeds packaged for current-year crops, and the popularity of our selections means that our stock hasn't been sitting around in unsavory conditions. Healthy seeds grow healthy vegetables!