Kale is a highly nutritious leafy green that’s great to add to salads, blend into green smoothies and bake into kale chips. It’s an easy plant to grow in your home garden, and it requires very little care once it begins growing. Kale varieties such as Vates and Red Russian grow well in zones 6-11, making it a good choice in warmer climates where leafy greens like spinach and lettuce bolt too quickly. Follow these tips to grow the largest, healthiest and most attractive kale plants in your neighborhood.
(see also: Kale – My Homestead Planting Guide)
- Kale should be planted in mid-spring when the soil is at least 50 degrees. It can tolerate a light frost, but it does not germinate well if planted too early in the spring.
- Conduct a soil pH test before planting your kale. These can be purchased at your local garden store. Kale prefers neutral soil with a pH around 7, but can tolerate slightly alkaline soil with a pH up to 8. Adjust your pH before planting if necessary.
- Choose an area that receives full sunlight. Kale needs at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day in order to flourish.
- Fertilize your soil with a 5-10-10 formula before planting. Work the fertilizer in thoroughly, and make sure it is integrated into the top 4 inches of soil.
- Plant seeds ¼ inch deep, and leave approximately 4 inches between seeds.
- Keep the soil consistently moist until your kale germinates. Depending on the outdoor temperature, kale takes between 4 and 10 days to germinate.
Caring for Kale Plants
- When your kale seedlings reach 3 inches in height, thin them to leave 8 inches between plants.
- Apply a thin layer of wood mulch to the soil when the plants are approximately 4 weeks old.
- Keep the soil moist, but avoid over-watering as this can drown the plants’ roots.
- Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are approximately 4 inches long.
- Harvest kale several leaves at a time. Cut 3 – 4 leaves off of each plant per harvest, using scissors or your fingers to pick them from the base.
- Kale continues to produce new leaves into the late fall. It is far more heat tolerant than other greens, so you do not have to worry about bolting.
If you follow the tips above, you can expect a bountiful harvest of rich, leafy kale. Once you start planting this prosperous crop, it’s likely to become a staple in your vegetable garden.