How to Grow Kale

How to Grow Kale

How to Grow Kale

Kale is one of those foods that we eat because it is good for us.  If you “like” kale you are either a liar, or covering it with MSG or something fabulously processed.  At least, that’s my theory, because I don’t like kale.  I eat it often.  I saute’ it.  I make salads with it.  I cream it like spinach.  I even juice it.  But, I would never put kale on a list of my favorite foods.

DH has been telling my kids since they were 3 years old:

“You eat food because it provides nourishment, not because it tastes good.  If it tastes good – that’s just a bonus.”

So eat your kale.

Another way to get your kids to eat kale is to tell them that the Romans ate it (it’s true).  My kids are fascinated by ancient history and “Eating like a Roman” may just be cool enough to get them to scarf it down.

You probably know this, but let me reiterate how healthy kale is for you:

  • 1 cup of Kale contains 2.5 grams of fiber
  • It has almost 3 grams of protein
  • It contains folate, alpha-linolenic acid (that’s omega-3, the good kind)
  • It has vitamins A, C & K
  • More good stuff in kale:  calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, lutein and zeaxanthin

All this goodness can manage your blood-sugar, keep your brain healthy and is especially good for your eyes. (source)

Growing kale is easy.

It’s basically a weed and weeds are easy to grow.  Kale can live in some pretty miserable environments.

Kale is in the cabbage family, so your only enemy will be cabbage worms.  The good news is that there is a cure to the cabbage worm problem:  DE (Diatomaceous Earth).  Go here to learn how to use it.

Kale is sweeter when it is grown in cooler weather, so spring and fall are the best times to enjoy it.  Because Kale grows like a ninja in any weather, if you planted kale in spring – you will have kale to eat all summer.  Just watch out because in hot weather kale is bitter.  To offset the strong, summer kale I mix my salads with 1/2 kale leaves – 1/2 lettuce.  Once fall shows up and the nights are cool the kale will be sweet again.

There is really no reason to buy kale “seedlings.”  

Seedlings are tiny plants sold at the store.  They come in 4 or 6 packs.  I find that kale is easy to start directly in the soil.  In less than 2 weeks you’ll have tiny kale plants coming up.

I just buy a packet of kale seeds from my local hardware store.  The hardware stores in small towns are more like “everything” stores.  I get most of my gardening goods from my local hardware store.  They have bags of seed potatoes, bushels of onion sets and giant containers of seeds to choose from.  The seeds are always fresh and I never have trouble with germination.

At the little store the seeds are purchased by the weight.  A tiny paper sack of kale seeds that could cover your entire yard will cost you $1.50.

This is less than I’ve ever paid for kale at a grocery store.

Another quite amazing thing about kale is that it can grow happily in weather as cold as 10 degrees.  Here in Kentucky, we sometimes have winters where my kale, turnips, collards and cilantro are flourishing in January.  Not always, but some years.  These plants just love the cold and even a moderate freeze won’t kill them.

You can put kale seeds in the ground in spring or fall:

  • Plant in spring 3-5 weeks before the last frost (that’s March in Kentucky)
  • Plant in August (or early September) for a fall/ winter harvest

Let’s plants some kale!

Begin by clearing your bed from any plant debris left from the last harvest.  Pull any weeds & rake the soil smooth.  Top-dress with some good soil or compost if desired.

To plant kale you have choices:

Plant in rows or seed the entire bed.

Rows look nicer but filling the entire bed makes things easier because you don’t have to weed the rows.  The kale will basically fill the entire bed, so there won’t be any soil left bare.  No bare soil means no weeds.  To learn how I garden without weeds (mostly) go here.


Use the handle of a rake to make rows and sprinkle the kale seeds into the rows.  Use the back of a metal rake to pull a little soil over the seeds.  You want them 1/4″ deep.  If you have rain in the forecast – the rain will water your seeds.  If not, you can give them a drink.


Evenly distribute the kale seeds around the bed by hand.  I just grab a handful of seeds and hold my hand about 2-3 feed over the soil & let it rain seeds.  I use a back & forth motion to ensure the entire bed is evenly coated with kale seeds.  Next, gently aggravate the soil with a metal rake or cultivator to encourage the seeds into the soil.  Water if there is no rain in the forecast.

It will take less than 2 weeks for all your kale seeds to germinate & turn into tiny kale plants.

You can thin the rows or let nature take it’s course.  I don’t usually thin my kale.  When it comes to carrots, beets, radishes, turnips and other bulbs, thinning is a must because those bulbs can’t grow underground when they are too crowded.  With leafy plants, I just let them duke it out.

To harvest kale, remove the leaves from the stems.  Leave the root and stems in the garden.  The kale plant will continue to produce new leaves until a good hard freeze takes them down.

If there is a snow storm coming you can store kale.  Harvest all the leaves.  Begin at the bottom of the plant and pick your way up the stem.  Discard any leaves that are yellow or brown.  Wash them and lay on a towel to dry.  Store in zipper top storage bags in the refrigerator.

Happy Gardening!




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