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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Kale

Kale is perhaps the hardiest of all edible greens. It can be harvested throughout the winter, as far north as New York City. If you can find it under the snow, chances are that kale will be alive and ready to eat. Kale also tolerates heat well, but is more prone to be attacked by insects in the summer and many feel that it develops a sweeter taste after it has been exposed to a few frosts.

Kale is a brassica, and is grown much the same as other members of the cabbage family. It should not be planted where other brassicas have just been growing, to minimize insect and disease problems. Kale is a heavy feeder, and grows best in soil that has been amended with plenty of compost. It benefits from occasional side dressing with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer such as manure tea.

Because of its popularity as a fall and winter green, kale is most often planted in late summer. (Collards are a closely related plant that are probably a better choice for spring planting and summer harvest.) Special care must be given to keep the soil moist while the kale seed is germinating. Mulching between rows can help to provide this moisture. Like all brassicas, kale has shallow roots. Weeds must be controlled, but cultivate shallowly so as not to damage the roots. Mulching is very useful to reduce the need for cultivation and to keep the top few inches of soil cool and moist. The mulch can be brought up close to the plant after it is established, and this will also help to keep the leaves clean, as it prevents rain from splashing soil up onto the plant.

Flea beetles and cabbage worms can both be a problem with kale. Covering the plants closely with floating row cover will prevent these pests from reaching the plants. Once the weather turns cold, these insects cease to be a problem. In areas with particularly cold winters, the row cover will provide a bit of extra protection from cold, drying winter winds, but kale needs this extra help only in the harshest climates.

Kale can be harvested by picking a few leaves at a time or by cutting the entire plant off at the base. The leaves can be used fresh in salads, but they are quite a bit more tough than other greens such as lettuce and spinach. Kale can be prepared as a cooked green to eliminate the coarse texture.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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