Popular Kale Varieties
The most common variety is curly kale – the one you’ll find in the grocery store. It has ruffled, dark green leaves and a slightly bitter flavor. Other popular varieties include:
- Lacinato kale: This Italian variety has long, narrow leaves with a blue-green color. It’s also called dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale.
- Redbor kale: This variety has dark red leaves and a sweet, earthy flavor. It’s often grown as an ornamental plant.
- Siberian kale: This isn’t the same species as other kales. It’s also known as rapeseed or oilseed rape. It has large, yellow-green leaves and a mild flavor.
No matter which variety you choose, kale is a nutrient-rich vegetable. It’s packed with vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains calcium, iron, and fiber. Keep reading to learn how to grow kale from seed!
When to Plant Kale Seeds
First, let’s discuss when to plant kale. The ideal time to plant kale seeds is in the spring, 3–5 weeks before the last frost. But that doesn’t mean you can only have one harvest per year! In fact, kale can also be planted in late summer, 6–8 weeks before the last frost. It will be ready to harvest in the fall or winter. In zones 8–10, you can even keep planting kale throughout the fall.
You can also grow kale indoors year-round. Because it’s so flexible, kale is a great vegetable to grow if you’re new to gardening.
How to Grow Kale Indoors
If you’re growing kale indoors, start by planting the seeds in pots or trays. Fill the containers with fertile potting mix (pH 6.5–6.8) and plant the seeds ½ inch deep. Water them well and place them in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and fertilize with a continuous-release plant food.
Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, thin them out so that they’re about 18 inches apart. The rows should be 2 feet apart. When the seedlings are big enough to handle, transplant them into larger pots or into the garden.
How to Grow Kale From Seed in a Garden
If you’re growing kale in a garden, start by preparing the soil. Kale prefers rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5–6.8. Mix in some aged compost to improve the drainage and fertility of the soil. Then, rake the soil so it’s smooth.
To plant the seeds, create furrows that are ½ inch deep and space the seeds 18-24 inches apart. Cover the seeds with soil and water them well. 1 to 1.5 inch of water per week is ideal. It’s easier to grow kale in raised beds because the soil drains better and weeds are less likely to grow.
How long does it take kale to grow? Kale seeds will germinate in about a week, and the plants will mature in 55 to 75 days. If you’re transplanting starter plants into your garden, they may be ready to harvest within 30–40 days.
Caring for Kale Plants
Once the kale plants are established, you’ll need to water them regularly. They should get about an inch of water per week. If it doesn’t rain, water the plants at the base of the stem to avoid wetting the leaves. Kale is a hardy plant, but it’s susceptible to a few pests and diseases. Read on to learn how to grow kale plants so that it’s protected from pests.
Protecting Kale From Pests
The most common pests that attack kale are cabbageworms and cabbage loopers. These caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. They’re green or brown and have stripes running along their bodies.
Cabbageworms are the most destructive because they bore into the kale leaves and eat them from the inside out. Cabbage loopers eat large, ragged holes in the leaves. To protect your kale from these pests, you can:
- Hand-pick the caterpillars off of the plants and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
- Cover the plants with a floating row cover or tulle. This will keep the caterpillars from getting to the kale leaves.
- Spray the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a biological insecticide.
Aphids can also be a problem for kale plants. These small, green insects suck the sap from the leaves, which can cause the leaves to yellow and curl. Pick off and discard any leaves that are badly infested.
Now you know how to grow kale indoors and outdoors! By following these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy this nutrient-rich vegetable all year long.
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