Vegetables

How to Grow Kale II

There are many different ways to grow your kale, namely, in the ground in your garden or in a container you can keep on your balcony, deck or even inside your home. Growing kale in pots is ideal for those who don’t have enough space. Pots are also great for those who want to save some time and minimize the care needed to provide. If you opt to grow your kale in a container, keep in mind that while this is a perfectly ok way to grow kale, you will not be able to get as many kale plants as you can in the garden conditions. This is why this method is suitable for those who don’t need much kale.

Kale can be grown in a pot or another soil-appropriate container. An appropriate container must offer at least six square inches for an individual plant to grow. The best way to plant the seeds or a seedling is in the center of the pot. It’s important to provide it with a good layer of compost. The seeds should be planted about 1/2 inch deep.

To care for your growing kale plant, give it appropriate fertilization (same as the one given to garden plants, see below). If you grow your kale in containers outside, don’t forget to move the containers into a partially shaded area in the summer.

When it comes to planting kale in your garden, there are several steps you need to take t o ensure success and grow strong and healthy plants.

Finding the Right Spot and Time

The first step to a success is to find a good spot in your garden to plant kale. Also, you need to think about the most appropriate time to plant. Keep in mind that kale is a hardy biennial. It takes two years for kale to flower and complete its life cycle. However, it’s usually grown as annual.

You can plant your kale in the cool season, but you need to find a spot where it will receive full sunshine. In case you want to plant it during a warm season (or generally in a warmer climate), make sure to plant kale in partial shade.

Another thing to keep in mind are plants you can grow alongside kale to make them all thrive. It’s safe to plant kale in the companion of plants such as celery, beets, onions, potatoes and various herbs. On the other hand, kale doesn’t enjoy to be planted near tomatoes, strawberries and beans, so keep this in mind when deciding how to organize your garden.

It’s best to plant kale in a well-drained, loamy and moist (but not soggy) soil. It needs soil of average fertility. It doesn’t like soil that’s too rich in nitrogen and thrives in soils with pH values between 5.5 and 6.8. In case your garden soil is too acidic, you may add some wood ash to sweeten it.

While kale seeds can germinate even in the cool soil, they will sprout most successfully if the soil temperature is about 70 degrees. In case you want to start kale seeds inside, do it about 5 to 7 weeks before the last expected frost. if you want to sow the seeds directly in your garden, do it about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost and at least 10 weeks before the first frost of the next season. Keep in mind: the soil temperature should be at least 40 degrees F or higher to achieve the best germination. Also, keep in mind that the hotter the weather, the more bitter and tough your kale with be. However, even this bitter kale is very nutritious and can be used in the kitchen.

Ripbor Kale

Starting Your Seeds

To starts the seeds, it’s best to sow them in small pots filled with a good mix of soil and compost (or veganic fertilizer). Make sure to put the seed at least 1/2 inches deep. Keep the soil evenly moist around your growing seedling. However, you need to allow the top layer of soil to dry between watering.

Alternatively, you can directly sow your seeds in the garden. Do it about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date or as soon as you can work the ground in the spring.

This is when you should think about the quantity. If you want to eat kale regularly, you will need about 3-4 plants per family member. It’s also a good idea to plant even more seeds or buy more starts to have enough if some of them don’t make it.

Preparing the Bed

Before you plant the seed, you need to distribute a good amount of organic fertilizer over the area you want to use. Depending on your chosen fertilizer, you may need to fertilize and then cover the bed and plant about week or two later. If you want to use seasoned compost to fertilize the soil, you can plant the next day. If you want to use mulch to fertilize the soil, all you need to do is to distribute it around the plants after they are in the ground.

Remember, what is considered “a good amount” of fertilizer will depend on the fertilizer type and potency. You should always follow the directions on the package closely. If you decide to go with compost or mulches, you will need to work them in to a couple of inches deep. When it comes to soil amendments (such as seaweed powder or rock dust), you need to simply sprinkle them on the ground.

Planting

If you want to plant kale from starts, you need to start them 4-6 weeks before or purchase them. Place the starts in the ground about 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost. However, it’s important to plant only starts that are strong enough to survive the conditions in the garden. They have to have at least 4 true leaves, with a few of the next leaves forming. By this point, the seedling should be about 3-4 inches high.

When a seedling emerges from the soil it will have a set of two leaves – cotyledons. These are not “true leaves” because they don’t perform photosynthesis. They are part of the seed and make the seed’s first first food source. As the seedling grows, it will develop two more leaves, and these leaves will look very differently than the cotyledons. These are the first “true leaves” on your plant. They will look like the plant’s adult leaves, only smaller. Once they emerge, the plant can use them for photosynthesis and the cotyledons will wither and fall off. This is when your seedling is ready to be planted.

Plant the seedlings about 12 to 15 inches apart. It’s best to use rows that are 18-24 inches apart. If you’re using direct sowing, you can plant the seeds closer. Just make sure to plant the seed at least 1/2 inches in the ground and 3 inches apart. If you’re planting thin plants place them about 12 inches apart (they need to be about 4-5 inches tall at this point).

Keep in mind that you have to set all transplants perpendicular to the ground so they can grow straight up. Plant them deep enough so they can be properly supported. However, you shouldn’t go deeper than their first leaves. You will probably need to experiment a bit to see what works the best for your plants.

Further Care

Here are some quick tips on how to care for your kale once you have successfully planted it:

  • Make sure to keep them well-watered. Kale loves the moist soil. It will keep the leaves crisp and sweet.
  • You can make your kale produce more leaves and becoming richer if you use the so-called “side dressing” (fertilizing along the rows) with compost. Do it throughout the growing season, every 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Dirt has tendency to stick to your kale leaves, making them rot. To prevent this, put mulch (grass, straw) around the kale when it reaches about 6 inches in height. This will prevent dirt from touching the leaves.

Photo credit: photofarmer via photopin cc