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Gardening Patch

Growing Kale - advice on how to grow Kale

Back to Vegetable Gardening

Kale is a hardy vegetable that thrives in cool weather. It can be cultivated in most areas, though, making it one of the most versatile plants in the garden.

It has extraordinary nutritious advantages, including Vitamins K, A, and C, as well as manganese, making it a dynamo of healthy foods.

Tolerant and tastily sweet, kale is a great addition to any garden.


To prepare your soil for kale, enhance your soil with fertilizer. Kale doesn’t do as well in clay-like soils, so make sure you’re loosening up the soil before planting.

Kale tends to like nitrogen, but keep in mind the pH level. Use things like compost, lime, and blood meal to adjust your acidity to an appropriate concentration.


There are two options available: you can sow your kale seeds directly into the garden or you can nurture the seedlings indoors for 6 weeks before transplanting.

Kale grows well in both spring and fall- any time there’s cool weather. In early spring, try to plant 3-5 weeks before the last frost. In late summer or fall, plant 6-8 weeks before the first frost.

When sowing, place the seeds 1.5 inches into the ground. Ideally, you would give the kale up to two feet on either side to stretch out, but planting somewhere around a foot apart generally yields good results.


Kale much prefers full sunlight, though it can tolerate shade better than many other plants. At least 6 hours a day of sunlight is necessary for healthy kale, but more is better.

Soil type

The soil should be a moist loam that drains but retains some water.

Kale does its best blooming in soil that hovers around 70°F. The temperature of the soil should not dip below 40° F if you want to avoid frost damage to the roots.


Even watering of about an inch to two inches per week is best. If the soil is still wet on top the next time you come to water, wait until it’s a bit dryer.

Mulch around your kale with any substance that allows air flow- this will help keep your soil cool and moist if there’s a spike in temperature.

If you begin to see holes in your leaves, you could have a pest problem that requires addressing. Proper garden pest control will vary based on whether you’re experiencing cabbage worms or aphids, etc.


Somewhere between two and three months after sowing is when you should be able to begin harvesting. As a general rule, the plant should be at least 6-8 inches tall.

Young leaves are good for eating raw in salads, while older leaves about the size of your hand are better for cooking. Remember to pick from the lowest part of the plant and never to pick the crown leaves at the very center. The stems are also edible, particularly if you steam them to make them tender.

You can continue to harvest over months, especially after a frost that will make the leaves sweeter to the taste. Store leaves in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 5 days before eating.


There are over 15 different types of kale, including Blue Dwarf Curled, Siberian, and Walking Stick. Scotch kale, the kind with a curly leaf, is the most common to grow for eating.

Winterbor, a hybrid type, is known for its particular ability to grow in the cold. It takes at least two months to come of age, compared to the beautiful Red Russian, which can take less than a month and a half.

Some kale is used purely for ornament, like the Tokyo, Peacock, and Color-Up cultivars. They can be a beautiful addition to a garden and are edible, but are not as tasty as their cousins, so be careful about what kind you choose.


There are several diseases that can affect kale, such as root-knot. A list of cruciferous vegetable disease signs and controls can be found here.

Written by Mackenzie Kupfer.