Growing Kale is a worthwhile pursuit. Kale is a crop that keeps on giving. It’s a fast-growing favorite that is delicious and nutritious, and ornamentally beautiful with its striking foliage. These nutrient-rich leaves are packed with vitamins and antioxidants and can be either curly or flat.
Kale is a cool-weather crop that grows best in the early spring, through the fall, and even into the winter months in some climates. Kale is relatively easy to grow and can be grown in pots or containers, and in-ground in backyard gardens.
Follow our guide filled with expert tips on how to grow kale in pots, containers & more so you can produce the best crop of kale in your home garden.
Ideal Soil Composition & pH for Growing Kale
Amend your garden soil with rich organic matter and well-decomposed compost. Growing kale is most successfully done in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil with a pH range of about 6.5 to 6.8. Mulch your garden and around your plants to help regulate temperature and moisture levels.
If you are uncertain of your soil’s quality, visit your local extension center with a soil sample so that your soil can be tested and you can amend accordingly.
Light & Temperature Requirements for Growing Kale
Plant kale in an area of the garden that receives full sun for 6-8 hours or more each day. This is especially important since kale is often grown in the early spring and fall when the sun is not as intense and prominent in the sky. This vigorous grower needs as much energy from the sun as possible in order to reach its full potential.
Kale is a fantastic, high-performing cool-weather crop and should be planted when temperatures are a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, many varieties can withstand temperatures that drop a little lower from time to time. The average daily temperature when growing kale should be no higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Planting from Seed vs. Buying Kale Plants
Kale comes from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage and is the easiest to grow in the brassica family. You can direct sow kale seeds into the garden bed, start seeds indoors, or purchase already growing kale plant varieties from your local garden center or nursery. Follow these fundamental planting guidelines for growing this super-producing crop.
How To Sow Kale Seeds
- Sow seeds directly into the soil in early spring for an early summer crop or in late summer for a fall crop.
- Sow seeds in rows that are 18 inches apart.
- Lightly sprinkle seeds in a line ¼ inch deep and cover in a light layer of soil.
- Water in well.
- As seedlings sprout, thin them to 12 to 18 inches apart.
Starting Kale Seeds Indoors
Get a jumpstart on the planting season by starting kale seeds indoors either 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area for a spring crop or 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost for a fall crop. Transplant seedlings into the ground after the danger of frost has passed, hardening them off for a few days prior to planting to allow them to acclimate to the outdoors.
How To Transplant Kale Seedlings
When transplanting seedlings that you’ve started indoors or purchased from a garden center or nursery:
- Dig holes that are twice the size of the plant’s root ball.
- Space seedlings 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 18 inches apart.
- Cover the root ball with fertile soil and firmly press the soil down to secure the roots.
- Water in well.
Where To Grow Kale
Kale can be grown just about anywhere. Kale plants grow well in-ground in backyard gardens, and they perform well in pots, containers, and raised garden beds.
How To Water Kale Plants
Since kale has a relatively short growing season, plants need to be watered regularly to maintain steady growth. Mulch your garden with organic mulch to help retain moisture and ward off weeds that will compete with your plants for water and nutrients.
Nutrients Needed For Growing Kale
Kale is a rapid grower and a heavy feeder, and plants require a side-dressing of fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen for optimal growth. The addition of well-decomposed compost, worm castings, fish meal, blood meal, or bat guano will allow growing kale to thrive. You can also add an organic fertilizer to the soil before planting your crops.
Common Kale Plant Pests & Diseases
While hardier and more resistant to pests and disease than its brassica relatives, kale can attract some pests that seek to munch on your crop. Row covers, organic gardening tactics, and companion planting can help prevent some pest problems that plague brassica plants.
- Slugs – Pick slugs off by hand or create slug traps by burying a pie plate so that the plate’s rim is flush with the surface of the soil. Fill the trough with beer to trap slugs.
- Caterpillars– Keep butterflies from laying their eggs on kale plants by using butterfly netting or row covers.
- Whiteflies– Pick up some sticky whitefly traps at your local nursery or garden center. Their bright yellow hue is appealing and attractive to whiteflies, and the sticky surface stops them in their tracks. Add beneficial insects like ladybugs to the garden, which feed on whiteflies.
- Aphids– Plant nasturtium companion flowers nearby as a trap crop for aphids. You can also spray plants with a sharp spray of the hose.
How To Harvest Kale
It is vital to know how to harvest kale so you can reap the rewards of this high producer all season long. Kale can be harvested throughout the growing season on an as-needed basis once plants are established. When plants have between ten to twelve leaves, you can begin gathering a couple of leaves per plant. This can be done each day by breaking off leaves from the plant’s outer layers, allowing the innermost leaves to continue toward maturity. Continue harvesting leaves in this manner as you need them while allowing the plant to continue its growth journey.
By season’s end, with regular harvesting, kale stalks will be tall with only a few leaves at the top. You can allow them to flower to attract pollinators at this time or pull them out and add them to your compost pile. This is the perfect opportunity to tuck a succession crop in for early summer planting.
Recommended Kale Varieties to Grow
Try some of our favorite kale varieties in your garden this year for robust flavor, boosted health, and bold foliage.
- ‘Vates Blue Curled Scotch’