How To Grow Kale

Planting Kale

As a member of the cabbage family, these plants do well in cold weather and can withstand frosts. They do not like high heat and dry conditions. Start seed indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date in rich soil that is warmed to 60-65°. Ideal soil pH should be slightly acidic (5.5-5.6 pH). Plant 1/4-1/2" deep. Or can be direct sowed in the garden with plants 16-18" apart (after thinning) with rows at least 18-30" apart. Plants become large and leaves will spread out, so give them plenty of room. Allow 5-10 days for germination.

Harvesting Kale

All parts of the green plant can be harvested any time during the season. Rich green leaves that are firm are ready to harvest. Cut the leaves often. You may cut the plant all at once at the base or cut by picking the larger leaves first and allow the younger leaves to continue to develop for later use. Store unwashed leaves in moist paper towels and put in a sealed bag. They will keep fresh for about 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Wash thoroughly before using.

Saving Kale Seeds

Suggested isolation is ¼ mile to prevent cross pollination. If you have woods or buildings that could prevent pollination, distances can be closer. Kale is an insect-pollinated biennial. After the plants have flowered and been allowed to set seed pods, make sure the pods are dry and the seeds are black. Now they are ready to save. Handle carefully and use a screen to help clean the seed. Seeds will keep for 4-5 years if kept cool and dry.

Common Problems

  • White Cabbage Butterfly
    Plant mint, hyssop, oregano, thyme, or wormwood nearby as it repels the egglaying cabbage butterflies. Row covers help this also. There is also a botanical insecticide available called Pyrethrum which helps against the cabbage worm. Spraying with sour milk or buttermilk has proved beneficial. Simply picking off the cabbage worm on the plants can also be very effective, just check your plants daily.

  • Flea Beetle
    This tiny, black, brown, or bronze beetle, with large hind legs, likes to jump like a flea. Mingle your plants with tomatoes to help fight this pest.

Suggested Companions

  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Hyssop
  • Thyme
  • Wormwood
  • Celery
  • Dill
  • Peppermint
  • Onions

Poor Companions

  • Strawberries
  • Pole Beans