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Easy to Grow Kale

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Kale is an easy-to-grow, cold-hardy leafy green that can be planted in spring or fall. Learn how to grow kale from seed to harvest, including soil preparation, planting, and maintenance tips.

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Kale is an easy-to-grow, cold-hardy leafy green that can be planted in spring or fall. Learn how to grow kale from seed to harvest, including soil preparation, planting, and maintenance tips.

Mixed kale harvest in a red colander.

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years thanks to its high nutritional value and versatility in cooking. So whether you’re a fan of kale salads, smoothies, or kale chips, growing your own kale at home can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to enjoy this superfood.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of growing kale, from selecting the right variety to harvesting your crops. So, if you’re ready to start your own kale garden, read on!

About Kale

Kale (Brassica oleracea) is a member of the cabbage family and is closely related to other leafy green brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. In fact, kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, and other leafy green vegetables all originated from the same plant centuries ago. Decades of selective breeding led to the variations in plant appearance and flavor profile, giving us a wide variety of healthy cruciferous vegetables to enjoy.

Kale has a rich history dating back to ancient times. Its origins can be traced back to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. It was a staple crop in ancient Greece and Rome and was valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties. In the Middle Ages, kale was widely grown throughout Europe and was considered a vital food source during times of famine.

Today, kale is enjoyed all over the world and is commonly used in a variety of dishes, from salads and smoothies to soups and stir-fries. One of the reasons why kale has become so popular in recent years is its high nutritional value. Kale is considered a superfood because of its high nutritional value, antioxidant content, and low caloric content. In addition, it contains vitamins A, K, B6, and C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese.

In addition to its nutritional benefits, kale has also been linked to a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and lower cholesterol levels. So it’s no wonder why kale has become a popular superfood and a staple ingredient in many healthy diets.

Kale Varieties to Consider Growing

When it comes to growing kale, there are several types to choose from, each with its unique appearance and flavor. Here are some of the most popular kale varieties to consider growing in your garden:

Curly Leaf Kale

This is the most common type of kale and is easily recognizable by its ruffled, curly leaves. It has a spicy, peppery flavor that can be quite strong, especially when eaten raw. Curly leaf kale is perfect for adding texture and flavor to salads and other dishes.

Varieties of curly-leaf kale include:

Darkibor produces dark green, densely curled leaves with an excellent flavor. This tall variety grows up to 24 to 36 inches and provides high yields of extra curly greens. One of the advantages of this variety is that it resists yellowing, and the vigorous plants can hold well into cold weather, making it suitable for overwintering production in Southern climates.

Dwarf Green Curled is a compact and bushy variety of curly-leaf kale. It has dark green, ruffled leaves that are frilly and tightly curled, giving the plant a decorative appearance. The plant is typically compact and grows to a height of around 18 inches, making it a good choice for container gardening or small garden spaces.

Redbor is a stunning variety with deep purple-red leaves and curly foliage. The leaves grow upright and have a mildly bitter taste. Redbor kale is perfect for adding color and flavor to salads and other dishes.

Dinosaur Kale

Dinosaur kale, also known as Lacinato kale or Tuscan kale, has narrow, dark green leaves that are wrinkled like dinosaur skin. It has a nutty, earthy flavor that is less bitter than other types of kale. This variety is great for making kale chips, as it crisps up nicely in the oven.

Types of dinosaur kale include:

Black Magic is a hybrid variety of Lacinato kale with dark green leaves with a slightly savoyed texture. It is known for its sweet and nutty flavor and is often used in Italian cuisine. The plant is typically medium-sized, reaching a height of 18 to 24 inches, and produces heavily.

Black Jack is another hybrid variety of Lacinato kale with very dark green, heavily puckered leaves. The leaves have a slightly curled edge and a sweet and tender flavor. The plant is typically larger than other Lacinato kale varieties, growing up to 30 inches tall.

Dazzling sapphire is a hardy Lacinato-type that produces dark green leaves with purple midribs giving the plant an eye-catching appearance. The leaf color intensifies in cool temperatures. This variety is ideal for raw kale salads, as the leaves are tender and flavorful. Its unique coloring makes it a great choice for adding visual interest to salads, smoothies, or any dish where kale is used.

Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, this variety has long, narrow, sapphire-green leaves with a wrinkled texture. It has a sweeter and more delicate flavor than curly leaf kales, and its leaves are often used in soups, stews, and salads.

Russian Kale

This kale variety has tender, flat, fringed leaves with deeply serrated edges similar in shape to oak leaves. Russian kale has a sweet, peppery flavor that is milder than other types of kale and is perfect for making soups, stews, and other cooked dishes.

Some examples of popular Russian kale varieties include:

Red Russian is a variety of Russian kale with striking, reddish-purple stems and veining on the leaves. The leaves are sapphire-green with a slightly red tinge and are deeply lobed, giving them a frilly, ruffled appearance. This variety is easy to grow and can withstand cold temperatures, making it a popular choice for gardeners in cooler climates. The beautiful purplish-red leaf color deepens in cold weather.

Siberian is a cold-tolerant variety that can withstand frost and snow, making it a good option for fall and winter gardening. Siberian kale has sapphire-green, slightly curled leaves with a tender texture and a mild, sweet flavor. The leaves of Siberian kale are often smaller and more tender than other kale varieties, making it an excellent option for salads or lightly cooked dishes.

White Russian has frilly leaves with a prominent white midrib. It is known for its tender leaves and sweet flavor, making it a popular choice for salads and stir-fries. The plant grows up to 2 to 3 feet tall and is quite hardy, tolerating frost and colder temperatures.

When selecting which kale variety to grow, consider your personal preferences and how you plan to use the kale. Some types are better suited for raw consumption in salads, while others are better suited for cooking. Regardless of the variety you choose, kale is a versatile and nutritious addition to any garden and diet.

Tips for Growing Kale

Kale is a cool-season and frost-resistant leafy green that is not picky about soil or environmental conditions. It can grow in containers on the patio, raised bed gardens, traditional in-ground gardens, and even indoors under lights or a sunny windowsill.

Growing kale is so easy, and the plants will reward you with many tasty leaves. You can plant kale from seeds started early indoors, direct sowed outside, or purchase transplants from your local garden cente.

When to Grow

Kale is a cool-season vegetable that can be planted in early spring or fall. The time to start seeds is based on your growing area’s last estimated frost date. You can find your last frost date by contacting your local extension office (search for “extension office near me”) or enter your zip code here at PlantMaps.com.

Direct sow seeds in early spring after the peril of heavy frost is past and the soil has warmed to at least 55ºF, or start kale seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date. Then transplant hardened-off seedlings to the garden after your last frost date. For fall planting, sow seeds 8 weeks before your predicted first fall frost of the season. Learn How to Develop a Seed Starting and Planting Schedule.