Are you a kale enthusiast who can’t resist the fresh, nutrient-packed goodness of this leafy green? Well, you’re in luck! Growing kale in your own backyard is not only a rewarding experience but also a fantastic way to ensure a steady supply of this superfood.
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice, we’ve got you covered with these 11 steps to grow kale like a pro. So put on your gardening gloves, grab your trowel, and let’s get started!
The Ultimate Kale Growing Guide
Discover the secrets to cultivating delicious and nutritious kale in your own backyard. From selecting the right variety to mastering the art of harvesting, this comprehensive guide will walk you through 11 essential steps to grow kale with confidence and success.
Become a kale-growing pro and enjoy a bountiful supply of this superfood favorite!
1. Choose the right variety:
When it comes to kale, there’s a kaleidoscope of options to choose from. Whether you prefer the bouncy curls of curly kale, the textured leaves of Lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale), or the vibrant colors of ornamental kale, selecting the right variety is key.
Consider your climate, taste preferences, and the aesthetics of your garden to find the perfect kale variety for you.
2. Find the perfect spot:
Kale loves soaking up the sun, but it also appreciates a little shade during scorching summer days. Look for a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
Additionally, kale enjoys cool weather, so consider planting it where it can benefit from some afternoon shade when the temperatures rise. Make sure the soil is well-drained, fertile, and slightly acidic for optimal growth.
3. Start seeds indoors (optional):
For an early start to the growing season, you can start your kale seeds indoors. It’s like giving your plants a head start before they venture into the great outdoors.
Fill seed trays or pots with a quality seed-starting mix, sow the seeds according to the packet instructions, and provide them with warmth and moisture. Before you know it, your kale seedlings will be ready to transplant into the garden.
4. Direct sow in the garden:
If you’re itching to get your hands dirty and skip the indoor seed starting, you can directly sow kale seeds in the garden. Wait until the soil temperature reaches around 45°F (7°C) in early spring or late summer for a fall crop.
Plant the seeds about half an inch deep and space them 12-18 inches apart in rows. Remember, patience is a virtue in gardening!
5. Water consistently:
Just like humans, kale plants need hydration to thrive. Water your kale plants deeply once or twice a week, providing about 1-1.5 inches of water each time. It’s important to ensure the water reaches the roots for proper absorption.
Avoid overhead watering, as it can lead to moisture-related diseases. Mulching around your kale plants will help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
6. Fertilize with care:
Kale appreciates a nutritious diet, but don’t overdo it! Before planting, enrich the soil with a balanced organic fertilizer to give your kale a nutrient boost. As the plants grow, side-dress them with compost or a slow-release organic fertilizer to provide ongoing nourishment.
Just remember, moderation is the key. Over-fertilizing can result in excessive leaf growth but might compromise the flavor.
7. Protect from pests:
Kale may be a nutritional powerhouse, but it’s not immune to the nibbles of pesky pests. Keep a watchful eye for unwelcome visitors like aphids, cabbage worms, and flea beetles.
To shield your kale from these leaf-munching critters, cover your plants with floating row covers or use organic pest control methods like insecticidal soap or neem oil. Show those pests who’s the boss in your garden!
8. Thin the seedlings:
As your kale seedlings grow, they might start feeling a bit cramped. Give them some room to spread their leafy wings by thinning them out. Remove the weaker seedlings, allowing the stronger ones to thrive with sufficient space for air circulation. It’s like creating a kale VIP section in your garden!
9. Weed diligently:
Weeds are like unwanted party crashers in your garden. They steal nutrients, water, and sunlight that your kale plants need to flourish. Take some time to weed around your kale plants regularly. Use a hand cultivator or your trusty hands to gently remove the interlopers, being mindful not to disturb the shallow roots of your kale.
10. Watch out for diseases:
Kale is generally a hardy plant, but a few diseases can try to rain on its parade. Keep an eye out for issues like downy mildew and black rot. Prevent these diseases by practicing good garden hygiene, such as crop rotation and ensuring proper spacing between plants.
If necessary, use organic fungicides following the product instructions to keep your kale healthy and disease-free.
11. Enjoy the leaves at their peak:
The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived—it’s time to harvest your kale! Once the outer leaves reach around 6-8 inches in length, they’re ready to be enjoyed.
Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves just above the base, leaving the central growing point intact. By harvesting the outer leaves first, you allow the plant to continue producing new growth, ensuring a bountiful supply of fresh kale throughout the season.
Nurturing Your Kale Plants for Optimal Growth
Growing kale is a labor of love, and providing daily care is essential to ensure your kale plants reach their full potential.By dedicating a little time each day to tend to your leafy green beauties, you’ll be rewarded with healthy, vibrant kale leaves that will elevate your culinary creations.
Here are some daily care steps to nurture your kale plants for optimal growth.
Monitor moisture levels:
Keeping an eye on the moisture levels in your garden is crucial for the well-being of your kale plants. Insert your finger about an inch into the soil around your kale plants to check if it’s dry.
If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Remember to water deeply to ensure the moisture reaches the roots. Adjust your watering schedule based on the weather conditions and rainfall.
Keep pests at bay:
Pests can be unwelcome guests in your kale garden party. Regularly inspect your kale plants for any signs of pest infestation, such as chewed leaves, holes, or sticky residue. If you spot any pests, take immediate action to control them.
You can use organic pest control methods like handpicking, insecticidal soap, or introducing beneficial insects to keep those pests in check.
Mulch to conserve moisture:
Mulching is like giving your kale plants a cozy blanket. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around your kale plants. Mulching helps conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth.
Maintain a mulch depth of 2-3 inches, ensuring it’s a few inches away from the base of the plants to prevent rot.
Provide support (if needed):
While most kale varieties don’t require support, some with larger leaves might benefit from a little extra support. If you notice the leaves touching the ground, gently stake the plants using bamboo stakes or plant cages.
This will prevent the leaves from getting dirty, reduce the risk of disease, and keep your kale looking tidy and proud.
Time to Reap the Rewards: Harvesting Kale at Its Best
Introduction: After weeks of nurturing and watching your kale plants flourish, the moment of truth arrives—harvest time!
Knowing when and how to harvest your kale will ensure you savor the flavors at their peak and enjoy a continuous supply of fresh greens. Get ready to reap the rewards of your hard work by following these harvest guidelines.
Harvest the outer leaves:
The outer leaves of your kale plants are the mature ones that are ready for harvest. When they reach around 6-8 inches in length, it’s time to grab your trusty knife or scissors and get cutting.
Aim to cut the leaves just above the base, leaving the central growing point intact. This way, the plant will continue to produce new leaves for a prolonged harvest.
Leave the central growing point:
The central growing point, also known as the terminal bud, is the heart of your kale plant’s growth. When harvesting, be careful not to damage or remove this essential part.
By leaving the central growing point untouched, you allow your kale plant to continue sprouting new leaves and ensure a steady supply of fresh kale throughout the season.
Selectively harvest for longer harvests:
If you prefer to enjoy a prolonged harvest period, take a selective approach. Instead of harvesting entire plants at once, choose a few leaves from each plant.
This way, you’ll allow the remaining leaves to continue growing, providing a continuous supply of fresh kale for your culinary adventures. It’s like having your own kale buffet in the backyard!
Enjoy kale’s cold resistance:
One of the remarkable qualities of kale is its ability to withstand cold temperatures. In fact, kale becomes even sweeter and more flavorful after exposure to light frost.
If you live in a colder climate, you can extend your kale harvest by leaving some plants in the ground, protected with a layer of mulch, even after the first frost. Embrace the cold and savor the frost-kissed flavors of your homegrown kale.
Growing kale is a journey that requires patience, care, and a touch of green-thumb magic. By following the 11 steps to grow kale, providing daily care, and mastering the art of harvest, you’ll soon be enjoying the fresh, nutritious delights of your own homegrown kale.
So, get ready to experience the joy of cultivating this leafy green powerhouse and reap the tasty rewards! Happy kale growing!