How to Grow and Care For Kale
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How to Grow and Care For Kale

From its hearty leaves to its crunchy texture, kale has quickly risen in popularity over the last decade for a good reason. Classified as a superfood, nutrient-dense, and full of flavor, it is one of those vegetables that seems to do it all! Avid gardeners and beginners plant kale in their gardens to recap the many benefits of this cruciferous vegetable.

Of course, when it comes to leafy greens, nothing tastes better than growing it yourself. Are you thinking of adding a new plant to your outdoor garden? Below, you will learn everything about growing and caring for this tasty vegetable.

Materials Needed

Image credits: By serggn via Canva

Growing kale is easy, but you must have a few essentials to get the job done. Here is what you will need to grow kale in your garden.

  • Kale seeds or transplants
  • Potting soil
  • Seed tray or container
  • Watering can
  • Gardening gloves
  • Trowel
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears

How to Grow Kale

You can start growing kale in the garden in two ways, either from seed or transplant. Cultivate it in the ground or a small-sized container, depending on your preference and climate. Popular varieties include ‘Red Russian,’ ‘True Siberian,’ ‘Vates Blue Curled,’ and ‘Winterbor.’

Growing From Seeds

Close-up of Chinese kale seeds that have germinated on moist water soaked kitchen towel
Image credits: ThamKC via Shutterstock

Purchase kale seeds and start them indoors a few weeks before your last frost date. Typically seeds are sowed for a spring or fall harvest, so start them according to your climate. It would be best to find out what USDA hardiness zone you live in so you can buy the best kale for your conditions. 

Step One

Sow the seeds indoors by filling a seed tray or container with potting soil or seed-starting mix. Place multiple seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep and water thoroughly. Germination for kale seeds typically takes seven to 10 days.

Step Two

Once germination has occurred, move the kale seedlings under a grow light. Seedlings need anywhere from 14 to 16 hours of sunlight a day, but don’t keep them in light all day. Some plants like kale, need a period of shade. 

Step Three

Wait four to five weeks before transitioning your kale outdoors. From there, start a process called hardening off, which exposes the seedlings to the outdoors for a few hours each day. Slowly increase the amount of time over a week. It allows the plant to become accustomed to outdoor conditions, including temperature, wind, and sunlight.

Step Four

Transplant seedlings outdoors to a location in the garden or a container. Seedlings should have five to six leaves before you transplant them permanently. Gently press the plant into the ground and cover it with soil. Give the plant a good drink of water after transplanting.

Growing From Transplant

Kale seedlings in container with wooden name tag. Close up. Brassica oleracea or cruciferous vegetables. Red Russian Kale planted indoors. Soon ready to be transplanted. True leaves visible.
Image credits: sophiecat via Shutterstock

If you don’t want to start from seeds, you can grow kale from transplants instead. Growing from store-bought transplants is faster and easier, but it can be more expensive than purchasing a pack of seeds.

Step One

Start by picking up a transplant from your local garden center. Choose a permanent location for your plant, such as a container, raised garden bed, or directly in the ground.

Step Two

Gently remove the transplant from its current container, breaking up the roots slightly. Dig a hole in the soil a few inches deep and place the plant inside. Cover with more soil until all roots are buried. If planting multiple plants, sow in rows at least 18 inches apart.

Step Three

Water thoroughly after transplanting and mulch the top layer of soil. Use materials like straw, woodchips, fallen leaves, or bark.

Kale Care Requirements

kale plant
Image credits: Pixabay via Pexels

Watering Needs

Kale plants need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week. Check the soil moisture every few days to ensure it doesn’t dry out completely. If needed, use a moisture meter to measure the water retention in the soil.

Always grow kale in well-draining soil, and when growing in a container, make sure it has proper drainage holes. Mulch around your plant to keep it cool and help retain moisture in the soil.

Light and Temperature

Kale grows best in full sun and temperatures from 25 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This dark leafy green is a cool-season crop and can tolerate some shade and a light frost without causing any damage to the plant. 

Cooler temperatures mean your greens will be more sweet-tasting! Kale will keep growing even when temperatures dip as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, keep in mind that kale does not like temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat for long periods will result in stunted growth, bitter-tasting leaves, or bolting. To avoid this, plant kale during the right time of year, which is typically spring or fall when the temperatures are lower. Again, make sure you you check your zone before planting outside.

Type of Fertilizer

Fertilize kale regularly to keep it growing healthy and producing lush green leaves. Use an all-purpose organic fertilizer for vegetables and apply it every few weeks. Follow the package directions to see how much fertilizer to apply to your plants.

Use a meter to test the pH of your soil to ensure optimal growth. An ideal soil pH for kale is between 6.0 to 7.5.

Harvesting Kale

Kale leaves drying on a towel on a cutting board
Image credits: Laura Johnston via Unsplash

Kale will be ready to harvest anywhere from 50 to 90 days, depending on the variety and growing conditions. You’ll know when it’s ready for harvest when the leaves are deep green and have a firm texture.

When harvesting this type of plant, use the cut-and-come-again method, where you harvest the plant more frequently so that it continues to keep growing and producing. Using sharp pruning shears, harvest the side leaves of your plant and leave the main growth in the middle.

Once harvested, kale can last 10 to 14 days when you keep it in a cool environment. Store in the fridge, and to extend the shelf life even further, place the cut end of the leaves in water.

Fresh Leafy Greens

With these tips and guidance, consider adding a kale plant to your garden this spring! You can harvest homegrown kale to use it in a variety of dishes. Add it to a salad, blend in a green smoothie, toss into a soup, or sautée it with some garlic and herbs.

Have you tried growing kale before? Leave a comment down below and share your experience.