Everything you’ll need to know for growing kale in your garden, backyard or in containers. From planting to harvesting with every step in between.
Kale is one of those crops you either love or don’t. We enjoy kale at our house and I grow a few plants each year.
If you’re thinking of growing kale for the first time this gardening guide will give you all the information you’ll need to grow kale at home.
How Hard is it to Grow Kale?
Kale is a pretty hardy plant and fairly easy to grow. It’s the hardiest of all greens and can survive below freezing temperatures.
It can be started from seed and grown in the spring and fall. If you live in a milder climate you might even be able to grow kale over the winter.
Most kale is curly leafed but some varieties have a flatter leaf with curly edges. One of our favorites is Russian Red Kale, it’s flavorful and winter hardy and not quite so curly. Plus it’s a pretty purple green color.
When and Where to Plant Kale Outside
Kale can be planted in early spring and late summer for a fall crop. You want to plant the kale in the fall so it matures in the cool weather.
Plant kale in fertile soil and cover the soil with mulch to keep the soil moist and cool. Once the seeds have sprouted and start to grow thin the seedlings down to give each plant about 8+ inches to grow. Giving the plant room will ensure each leaf gets the sun it needs.
Kale can also be grown in pots if your garden space is limited. Be sure that each plant has about 6 square inches of space.
Kale seeds will sprout between 40-70 degrees. If you are direct sowing the seeds outside it’s best to plant them 2-4 weeks before the last frost or 10 weeks before the first frost of the new season.
Kale grows well with companion plants like beets, celery, onions, and potatoes. Kale doesn’t like being planted near beans, strawberries or tomatoes avoid those plants.
How to Grow Kale, Gardening Tips
Kale is a pretty hardy plant and grows well in cool weather but doesn’t do well in warm weather. If it matures in warm weather it can be bitter.
Keep kale watered and mulch around the plants. Kale likes well drained but not soggy soil, be sure not to over water. Kale roots are close to the surface so mulching with compost or other mulch is important.
You can add fish emulsion or fertilizer as a side dressing every 6-8 weeks to keep the plant producing well.
Be sure to use proper crop rotation for growing kale to avoid diseases such as downy mildew and black rot.
Watch for aphids, if you see aphids on the plants remove the infected leaves and follow up with an aphid spray to get rid of those sap sucking bugs.
Most kale is ready to harvest from direct sowing of seeds at 75-90 days.
How to Harvest Kale
Harvest kale leaves regularly before they become old and tough. If you can’t use that much kale harvest the leaves before they turn brown and compost them to keep bugs and diseases away.
If you can wait for a frost or freezing temperatures overnight the kale’s flavor will be improved. A hard frost can turn the starches to sugar in the kale plant.
When harvesting pick individual leaves about 1-2 leaves per serving. Avoid harvesting the developing bud in the center to keep the plant producing.
Storing and Cooking with Kale
After harvest store kale as you would any other green, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
When preparing kale you can use the smaller leaves raw in salads. It’s great mixed in with other greens like lettuce and spinach in salads.
For larger leaves, it’s best to remove the woody stem from the center of the leaves. Then the kale can be boiled, steamed, sautéed or stir-fried.
We like to enjoy kale sautéed in a little olive oil infused with garlic it’s delicious. Or we make our own baked kale chips for a healthy and delicious snack.
You can dress up plain rice with a little chopped kale added. Stir fry a few leaves and add them to an omelet. There are so many ways you can enjoy kale.
Have you tried growing kale before? What’s your favorite variety to grow?
Find More Spring Crop Tips and Recipes from the Other Tuesday in the Garden Bloggers
This week Michelle is sharing where to buy heirloom seeds. Diane shared tips for growing rhubarb. Angie shared her tips for growing peas. Patti shared her favorite spinach recipes and Jami shared her recipe for shrimp with asparagus sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Bren has 5 ingredients to grow in your spring garden. Click on the photos below to be taken to each person post.
Get the Companion Plants List
When you join the gardening email list, you'll not only get gardening tips sent to your inbox, you'll also get the companion plants list too.