Kale (Brassica oleracea) is a type of cabbage that lacks the compact head associated with most cabbages. Kale (Brassica oleracea) plants are very ornamental thanks to their curly and textured leaves. Kale's (Brassica oleracea) leaves can be green, purple or more. These Kale (Brassica oleracea) plants are one of the undisputed Kings of the winter garden. Kale (Brassica oleracea) are hardy and silent, and can handle frost once ripe.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) Picture
Kale (Brassica oleracea) Info
||Kale, ornamental kale
||Annual or biennial vegetable
||1 to 2 feet tall and wide
||Full sun to part shade
||Loamy, evenly moist, well-draining
||Acidic (5.5 to 6.5)
How to Grow and Care for Kale (Brassica oleracea)
How to Grow Kale (Brassica oleracea)
Sow seed directly into the garden or into a 12 inch wide by 12 inch deep container about three months before the last average frost date in the fall. If you're planting as part of a mixed grouping in a large pot, allow this amount of space per kale plant, to allow it to spread.
Sprinkle seeds about an inch apart over organically rich soil. Do not cover them. Germination takes 7 to 10 days.
Once seedlings have one set of true leaves, thin them to a distance of 18 to 24 inches apart.
Kale is most often propagated by seed, as mentioned above. You can also start growing kale from cuttings.
For cuttings, find an extremely healthy side stem with multiple leaves, and cut it at the main stem of the plant. Trim off lower side leaves, leaving only the top leaf.
Once your side leaves are removed, examine what's left. If it's a large leaf, cut off the top half of the leaf, leaving only the bottom half attached to the stem. This reduces the size of the leaf that the stressed plant will need to care for.
Cut the base of the stem at a 45-degree angle just below one of the leaf nodes, and place into a pot of prepared, well-draining and damp potting soil. Mist the soil regularly to keep it moist, but not wet. It should develop roots within 3 weeks.
If you want to, you can dip the stem into rooting hormone before planting it, but this is purely an optional step. Some reports indicate that rooting is quicker and the plant healthier as a result.
You should be able to transplant your rooted cutting into the garden in about three months after hardening it off to the outside weather.
How to Care for Kale (Brassica oleracea)
When planting during the cool season, pick a spot that will receive abundant sunlight. 8-10 hours of sun is recommended per day.
Space the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep. Avoid using potting soil and sow the seeds in well-drained, loamy soil with pH levels between 5.6 and 6.8. It will help in avoiding clubroot, a common fungal disease in the cabbage family.
Cool-weather growing requires less water than summer tomatoes, as expected. Still, it's important to actively avoid water and heat stress in your kale plant, which will help to maintain good flavor without unpleasant bitterness.
Temperature and Humidity
Though some kale is cold-proof down to freezing, kale's leaf mass, beta carotene, and lutein all increase as air temperature rises to 68 degrees F, and decrease as the air temperature increases further, according to a study.
When planting, mix fertilizer into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil. Then, feed your kale throughout the growing season, following the instructions on your fertilizer label. Use compost or a high-nitrogen vegetable fertilizer.
Uses of Kale (Brassica oleracea)
Kale is one of the best low-calorie foods, loaded with vitamin and minerals. It is high in Vitamin K and Manganese. Kale is also a source of the carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin. Boiling kale decreases the level of glucosinolate compounds, whereas steaming, microwaving or stir-frying does not result in significant loss.
Varieties of Kale (Brassica oleracea)
There exist many types of Kale that are worth a try. Whereas the flat-leaf varieties of Kale establish faster, the curly-leaf varieties do better in cold weather.
Here's a quick run of some kale varieties you should consider.
Redbor. It has curly leaves, crisp texture, and mild flavor.
Lacinato. It boasts of very thick and hardy leaves that can even be harvested shortly after a snowfall.
Hanover Salad. Its pleasant taste makes it great for eating raw in salads. It grows fast and matures early.
Red Russian. Have smooth leaves with purple edges and veins. It has excellent resistance to slug and related pests in the garden.
Vates: This is a dwarf variety of Kale that that's bluish-green. It can withstand both cold and heat weather conditions.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) Common Pests/Diseases
There are a few critters to watch out for when growing kale. Cabbage worms, for one, are the green “inch-worm” larva of those cute white moths that flutter around and appear harmless. Don't be fooled — they will devour whole leaves before you know it. After planting kale, check daily for eggs and worms.
Harlequin bug, or Calico bug, is a shield-shaped stink bug that damages plants by sucking the sap out of stems. If brassica plants are not pulled immediately after harvest, these red and black bugs will have a field day with your kale, collards, and broccoli. They are easy to spot but quickly drop off the plant when they sense a threat. Keep weeds away from the base of your kale, so they don't have a hiding place. Knock them off the plant into a bucket of water with a bit of dish soap. The eggs of this bug look like little sushi rolls on the underside of the leaf and should be removed immediately. The University of Maryland Extension suggests floating row covers to exclude them, insecticidal soap, or using cleome as a trap crop.
Aphids are another sap-sucking pest that is partial to the kale leaves, especially the crinkly ones. If it's feasible, blast them off with a forceful spray of water daily for several days in a row. Insecticidal soap is another option. A study found that intercropping herbs such as coriander, green onion, and parsley attracted plenty of aphid predators, such as spiders, causing aphids to disperse and therefore reducing the damage to plants.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) HarvestingKale
will be ready for harvest 55 days from transplanting, 70 to 80 days from seed. Cut individual leaves for use when the plant is 8 to 10 inches high; cut the outside leaves first. If you harvest the entire plant, cut 2 inches above the soil and the plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks. Harvest kale before it gets old and tough.
Storing and Preserving Kale. Leave kale in the garden until you are ready to use it. Its flavor will be sweetened by frost. Kale will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks in a plastic bag. Kale can also be frozen, canned, or dried.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) Design Tips
Summer gardens transition beautifully to fall and winter when you clear away plants that have finished blooming, and replace them with ornamental kale rosettes.
A large ornamental Brassica oleracea
var. acephala plant with vivid purple leaves growing in a container with deep red flowers amongst green foliage fading to soft focus in the background.
Here are some creative ways to incorporate them into the landscape:
Plant a border or drift in one color scheme, or alternate colors to create eye-catching patterns.
Interplant with other cool-weather vegetation, such as pansies, petunias, sedum, or snapdragon for colorful mixed beds, borders, or containers.
Pair tall varieties with asters and ornamental grass for vertical interest at the back of a garden bed. Be sure to stake as needed.
Make the most of tall, rose-like varieties by cutting them to arrange with other seasonal flowers. Remember to snip the stems, remove wilted leaves, and change the water daily, to avoid an odor reminiscent of cabbage.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) Companion Plants
First, there are herbs
that can improve the flavor of kale and protect it from pests. Cilantro is a great kale companion plant because it attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies. Hoverflies prey on pests like aphids, which will eat your kale if left unchecked. If aphids are a problem on your kale plants, you can also grow sweet alyssum, which is a flower that will grow well and attract hoverflies that will feed on aphids.
Dill and catnip are also excellent kale companion plants because they attract pollinators that increase growth. Dill and catnip will attract beneficial insects that prey on kale pests. Strongly scented herbs like lemongrass can deter pests like tobacco cutworms that will attack kale. Mint, rosemary, and sage are also aromatic herbs that can repel pests when planted near kale.
Flowers can also be planted as companion plants for kale to provide numerous benefits, and are some of the best companion plants to have in your vegetable garden. Marigolds attract hoverflies and help them find the aphids they feed on, which will keep their populations under control. If cabbage loopers won't stop eating your kale, grow nasturtium nearby. Nasturtium is a common “trap crop” that many pests find attractive, and its leaves and blooms can be sacrificed instead of your vegetable crops. Hyssop is an excellent pollinator attractor and can attract beneficial insects which will aid in kale's growth. Strongly scented flowers can also deter pests, which makes them some of the best companion plants to grow in the garden.