It may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but kale can be a delicious crop and it’s incredibly good for you. It’s a hardy crop that will survive the worst of winter weather, giving you fresh greens in the crucial hungry gap months from February to April.
It’s a prolific ‘cut and come again’ cropper. Kale can also be a very attractive feature in the winter veg patch, particularly the red-leafed varieties.
Sow from April to late June.
A foolproof way to grow healthy kale seedlings is to sow them in module seed trays – sow one or two seeds in each module 1.5cm deep. Thin out the weaker seedling. Kale will germinate in about a week and will be ready for planting out about 6 weeks later. Make sure to harden off early sowings carefully.
Since they are a hungry crop, add plenty of compost or manure to the soil the previous autumn. Space plants about 50 cm apart in rows about 60cm apart. Include kale in your brassica rotation – do not plant them where there have been brassicas for at least 3-4 years previously.
Hoe around young seedlings regularly to keep weeds down.
Slug damage can be a real issue at this stage, so do what you have to do to prevent it.
Water regularly in dry weather to prevent the roots from drying out.
Earthing up stems will help the plant to support itself, particularly in a windy site. Remove yellowing leaves.
Start harvesting from autumn and if you play your cards right you should be able to continue harvesting until mid-spring the following year.
Remove leaves with a sharp knife, starting at the crown.
The plant will grow side shoots which you can harvest between February and May.
Nero di Toscana
Kale is rarely bothered by the diseases that can blight other brassicas.
Water plants carefully before transplanting.
Tread on the soil around the plants every now and then which will firm up the soil and make sure the plants don’t topple over in the wind.