Kale, a member of the cabbage family, is a fast-growing, cool-weather vegetable, delicious eaten raw or added to stir fries or soups. Plant kale seeds in the garden in autumn, approximately three months before the last expected frost in your area. Leave kale in the garden all winter for a supply of fresh, nutritious, green veggies. Kale can withstand temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit and can be harvested even when there is snow on the ground.
Things You'll Need
- Compost or manure
- All-purpose, balanced fertilizer
- Kale seeds
- Hose and spray attachment
- Nitrogen-rich fertilizer
- Organic mulch
Prepare a sunny, well-drained garden spot for planting kale. Spade the ground to a depth of at least 6 inches. Work in 2 to 4 inches of organic matter, such as compost or decomposed manure, along with an all-purpose fertilizer with a ratio such as 10-10-10. Use 4 to 6 cups of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of planting area. Rake the soil smooth.
Use the corner of your hoe to make shallow rows 2 feet apart. Sprinkle the kale seeds in the rows, and then cover the seeds with 1/4 to 3/4 inch of soil.
Water the area carefully with a hose and spray attachment. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. After that time, give the kale approximately 1 to 2 inches of water every week, watering at the base of the plant to avoid wetting the leaves as much as possible.
Thin the kale when the seedlings are 2 to 4 inches tall, allowing 12 to 18 inches between each plant. Transplant the extra seedlings to another spot or add them to soup or a salad.
Fertilize the plants after thinning, using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer with a ratio such as 34-0-0 or 21-0-0. Use about a cup of fertilizer for every 10 feet of row. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil about 6 inches from the plant, and then water immediately.
Spread 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch, such as straw or grass clippings, around the plant. Mulch will keep the soil moist and help to deter weeds.
Keep weeds under control. Hoe weeds that appear between the rows. Pull weeds next to the plants to avoid damaging the roots of the kale.
Harvest the kale as desired. Start at the bottom of the plant and remove as many leaves as you like. If you leave four small leaves at the top of the plant, the kale will continue to produce. In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 and above, the kale can be harvested all winter. Kale may survive in colder climates with a thick 4 to 6-inch layer of mulch spread around the plants.
Tips & Warnings
- Kale can also be planted in early spring, four to five weeks before the last expected frost. However, once the temperature reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit, kale won't do well, and production will decrease.
- Photo Credit Bed of ornamental cabbage, or kale, focus on white leaves image by GeoM from Fotolia.com
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