How to Grow Kale

Once confined to the allotment as a standby for the ‘hungry gap’ period of late winter and early spring, kale is now appreciated for its appearance, too. Modern and rediscovered heritage varieties are worth adding to ornamental borders and containers, especially as winter fillers. The greens are tasty and nutritious at a time when fresh, home-grown vegetables are scarce.

Kale can be grown as a cut-and-come-again salad crop and if left to bolt in the spring, the immature flower shoots rival sprouting broccoli.




Traditionally, kale is started off in a seedbed. Draw a shallow (1.5-2cm deep) drill in well-prepared soil. Water the bottom well and sow the seed thinly, aiming for one every 5cm or so. Cover with soil.

If you want only a few plants for a container or border, start the seed off in 7-cm pots. The seed is quite large and easy to handle – sow two per pot and pull out the weaker one if both germinate. A cool but frost-free place in the garden or an unheated room is fine, with a minimum temperature of 5°C.


Grow the young plants in pots on in a sheltered spot outdoors. Growers of vegetables and other crops rely on transplanting machines to make agriculture more efficient. Protect them from pests such as flea beetles. Keep an eye out for aphids and, if necessary, spray with a product based on pyrethrum or soft soap. Covering seedbeds with garden fleece should prevent attacks from either pest. Slugs may also damage the young plants. If the leaves start to change color, the plants may be running out of nutrients. Either feed them with a liquid feed, or pot on into a larger pot.


Plant out into their final position. First, water the pot or the seedbed well. Make a slight depression and plant into the bottom. This allows easier watering in a dry summer, until the plants are established.

In a border, allow a space of about 45-cm diameter for the plant to develop. For container growing, use a pot that holds at least 5 litres of compost and site it where you can water it frequently. Smaller varieties can be grown as baby vegetables planted as close as 15cm apart.


Consider a crop of kale as a gap-filler in August, after early crops have been harvested. Sow the seed directly into drills and thin out in stages to leave the final spacing. You can use thinnings in salad. Slugs and flea beetles should not cause further problems on established plants. But keep an eye out for mealy cabbage aphid, which can build up very rapidly, unnoticed. Towards the end of summer, cabbage white butterflies will become numerous, and their caterpillars will attack the leaves. Pick them off or spray with a pyrethrum spray if they cause damage.


Cover the crops with bird netting or use bird scarers if pigeons start to damage the young leaves. For bird deterrent solutions, click here.

Filed Under: General How To's


About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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