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How to Grow Kale


kale, seed, seed, plants, how, grow

Kale plants are not well known. Members of the cabbage family, Kale and Collard are closely related. Kale does not form a large, round head. Rather, this strong flavored plant, is an open-leafed cabbage. Kale is most popular in the southern part of the U.S.A., where it is grown as a spring and fall crop in the cooler parts of the year. In some areas, it is grown in the winter.

Some varieties of Kale are used in flower gardens, as they make colorful flowers.

Despite being easier to grow than regular cabbage, why are very few gardeners growing Kale? The answer is taste. Kale has a strong taste, and can be quite bitter, especially in the warmer weather.

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  • Kale- There are two major types: curled leaves and plain or "straight" leaves.

  • There is also a flowering, or ornamental Kale, that is popular in flower beds and rock gardens. They produce colorful leaves or "flowers".

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Sowing Kale Seeds:

Many areas can grow a spring and a fall crop. All members of the cabbage family withstand frosts and freezes. Plan to place your seeds or seedlings in your garden as one of the first crops. If you time your crop right, you will have a couple weeks in the middle of summers' heat and humidity when you are not growing Kale. The plants do not like high heat and dry conditions.

TIP: If you plant early in the year, consider using a raised row or bed, to allow better drainage during early spring rains. See Raised Beds

Indoors: Start your spring crop indoors four to six weeks before planting outdoors. Plant seedlings outdoors very early in the season. The hardy seedlings can be planted outdoors before the last frost date for your area.

Plant seeds in containers 1/2 inch deep, in sterile starting mix. Water thoroughly once, then lightly after the seeds have sprouted. Provide plenty of sunlight or artificial grow lights, so the plants do not become spindly. Boost your plants health with a light application of liquid fertilizer once or twice during this period.

Outdoors: Kale seeds can be direct sowed into the row, or seeded in a separate area and transplanted to the row after a few weeks. We recommend planting them together in a seedbed, and transplanting the seedlings. This allows for better control of the spacing of your seedlings. This is a common method for the second planting. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep. Water well and make sure to keep the top level of soil moist, especially during the drier mid-summer planting.

Whether direct seeding or transplanting, make the final spacing 18 to 24 inches apart, in rows three feet apart. The outer leaves of a healthy plant will spread and cover a lot of space.

Tip: For direct seeding, prepare the soil first. Then, place tomato cages (to mark your planting) 18 to 24 inches apart. Sow several seeds inside the ring of the cage. Thin to two plants a week after germination, and to one plant after a couple of weeks. This avoids transplant shock ,and affords proper spacing for maximum growth. Remove the tomato cages after the seedlings have begun to grow.

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How to Grow Kale Plants:

Because Kale does not form a head, it is easier to grow than cabbage. The young leaves can be harvested as the plant grows for salads, soups and other recipes.

Kale plants prefer full sunlight. Kale plants will grow in average and poorer soils. But like any plant, they respond favorably to richer soil high in nutrients.

Tip: Add plenty of high nitrogen fertilizer, for a greener, faster growing crop.

Keep the soil moist, but not wet. In dry soil, the leaves turn bitter.

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Days to Maturity:

Kale matures in 55 - 60 Days. The more tender, young leaves can be harvested as soon as they reach a size that is easy for picking.

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Insects and Pests:

All members of the cabbage family are extremely susceptible to insects. Kale are no exception. Among the most common are aphids, and cabbage loopers. Cabbage loopers the larva stage of a moth. Those white moths that visit your garden and yard are the culprits. Effective treatment in the home garden is to place a screen over the plant so the moth can not lay her eggs. Commercial growers apply insecticides to control them. Aphids are controlled by frequent spraying. Organic controls in the form of soap or garlic sprays are also effective.

See Organic sprays

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Kale plants are fairly resistant to most diseases.

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Kale, as previously mentioned, are among the hardiest of annuals. The plants can withstand temperatures into the upper 20's. You know you have a hardy plant when you go out to the garden in December, brush a little snow away, and harvest some vegetables.

Did you Know? For all members of the cabbage family, flavor is better in cool weather. Most growers will attest that the flavor is best after a frost.

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More Information:

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