Growing Guide
 
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Kale

Vegetable (Cool Season) - Cabbage Family

Brassica oleracea var. acephala (Kale)
Brassicaceae Family

The tender young leaves from these fast-growing plants can be eaten raw, or cooked for soup or stir fries. Very cold hardy, harvest can continue right through snow. Many colored varieties are a fine addition to ornamental plantings as well as spectacular garnishes.

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Site Characteristics
Sunlight:
  • full sun
  • part shade
Prefers full sun in spring and fall, but can benefit from light shade during hot weather.

Soil conditions:

  • requires well-drained soil
Prefers well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter, pH 6.0 to 7.5. Can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Prefers plentiful, consistent moisture. Can tolerate drought, but quality and flavor of leaves suffer.
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual

Biennial grown as an annual.

Ease-of-care: easy

Height: 1.5 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 3 feet

Foliage color:

  • light green
  • medium green
  • dark green
  • red
  • purple

Depends on variety.

Foliage texture:

  • coarse
  • medium
  • fine

Depends on variety. Those with savoyed leaves tend toward the fine end of the spectrum. Older plants with smooth leaves can be coarse.

Shape:

  • cushion, mound or clump
  • upright

As plants mature and lower leaves are harvested, plants begin to look less like a clump and start to resemble small palm trees with a cluster of leaves at the top of a long stem.

Special Considerations
Tolerates:
  • frost - Flavor improved when plants are “kissed” by frost.
Special characteristics:
  • not native to North America - Not known in the wild. Descended from wild Mediterranean kale.
Special uses:
  • edible landscaping
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 45 F to 85 F - Will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 40 F.

Days to emergence: 4 to 7

Seed can be saved 4 years.

Maintenance and care:
Direct seed about three months before expected fall frost. Plant seeds to inch deep, 1 inch apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. Thin to 12- to 18-inch spacings. Eat or transplant thinnings.

Similar to cabbage and other cole crops, you can also set out transplants in spring 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost, 12 inches apart, rows 18 to 24 inches apart.

Doesn't seem to be as troubled by pests as most other cole crops. Use floating row covers to help protect from early insect infestations.

To help reduce disease, do not plant kale or other cole crops in the same location more than once every three or four years.

Pests:
Cutworm
Cabbage loopers
Cabbageworms
Flea beetles
Cabbage root maggots
Cabbage aphids
Slugs and snails
Nematodes

Usually not as susceptible to pest damage as other cole crops.

Diseases:
Clubroot
Black rot
Black leg
Alternaria

To help reduce disease, do not plant kale or other cole crops in the same location more than once every three or four years.

Varieties
Browse kale varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.

Look for different colors, days to harvest. Some varieties have curly or savoyed leaves resembling parsley. Colorful ornamental varieties tend to be less flavorful.

Red Russian kale is a different species, Brassica napus var. pabularia, but cultivated similarly.

Some varieties recommended for New York include:

Dwarf Green Curled
Vates Blue Curled
Winterbor
Red Russian