There’s one undisputed king of the winter vegetable garden: kale! It’s packed with goodness, remarkably hardy, will carry on cropping throughout most of the winter – and it isn’t half good looking! If you’re looking to grow this hard-working beauty now’s the time to get started. So here, then, is our sowing-to-harvest guide to kale.
Types of Kale
Kale is a stunning vegetable, with varieties that offer a choice of frothy, frilled leaves; crinkled leaves; and flatter leaves suitable for both cooking and salads. And then there’s the opportunity to grow red or purple kale, which we reckon wouldn’t look out of place in any ornamental border.
Kale is best sown from late spring to early summer, which makes it the perfect choice to follow on from earlier crops such as garlic, fava beans, or early salads.
Where to Grow Kale
Hardy kale is the most reliable crop of the cabbage family. It stands up to frosts with ease and thrives in just about any well-drained, fertile soil. Give it a sunny position in order to encourage stronger growth during the dark winter months.
Like cabbage, kale grows best when well-fed. Add plenty of compost to the ground before planting and if your soil isn’t especially rich, top up its fertility by applying a balanced organic fertilizer such as chicken manure pellets a week or two before planting.
How to Sow Kale
Kale needs plenty of room to develop properly. To make the most of the space you have it’s almost always better to start plants off in plug trays or pots. This way you can get seedlings growing while other crops are still in the ground. Once you’ve harvested the previous crop, your sturdy young kale seedlings will be ready to plant.
Fill plug trays or small pots with multipurpose potting soil. Firm it in with your fingertips then make holes about half an inch (1cm) deep. Sow two seeds per plug or pot, cover, and water. Should two seedlings grow remove the weaker of the two.
Depending on how soon you plan on planting your kale you may need to pot your seedlings on into larger containers. Then, about a week before planting, start moving plants outside so they can acclimatize. Leave them out for gradually longer periods until they’re staying out all day and night.
Space the young plants about 18in (45cm) apart. Dig a hole, pop the plant in and backfill with soil. Kale needs to be well anchored, so be sure to properly firm the plants into position so that the rootballs are in good contact with the soil. Thoroughly water once you’re done.
Kale that will be harvested for smaller salad leaves can be planted closer to leave about 10in (25cm) between plants.