Wednesday, March 24, 2021

What is the best time of year to plant Kale?



                                        The best time to plant Kale?

If you are growing kale in pots or containers, you can plant kale any time of the year. However, when planting kale outdoors, consider the time to harvest, the likely temperature during that period, and whether you are planting seeds or transplanting plants. I will post another blog later on starting kale from seeds. If you can't wait for the article please email me your questions.

Best Temperatures for Growing Kale.

Kale is a cool-season crop, so you can direct sow in the early spring (Mid March through April for Western NC).
 I prefer to start indoors and set out larger plants when the time comes to transplant. That way, I can harvest sooner once the gardening season begins. Plant indoors 3-5 weeks before the last frost date.

Broccoli on Mar 24 - Apr 7
Cauliflower on Mar 24 - Apr 7
Collards Mar 24 - Apr 7
Kale Mar 24 - Apr 7
Mustard Mar 24 - Apr 7
spinach Mar 24 - Apr 7

As a cool-weather crop, kale grows best in the spring and fall (Aug for Western NC) and in locations where it can receive plenty of sunlight. 
Kale planted in the Fall will overwinter which means it will grow and you can harvest even in the snow right here in Western NC.
Collards growing in the snow. photo courtesy of NC State Extention  This link opens in a new window. Please return to this blog.

If you are going to plant kale for a spring harvest, direct sow the seeds in the garden about two weeks before the last frost in your area. The seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start seeds indoors a bit earlier than direct sown seeds.

I have started kale in one area and thinned the seedlings into another main growing space. This thinning will give me the opportunity to select the strongest seedlings. Then there are planted about 6 inches apart from each other in a "chicken wire" pattern. This allows the leaves to grow right next to the neighboring plant and will shade out any weeds that want to grow under them.

Some types of kale will grow year-round but most of the time you get only one season before the plants start to bolt (go to seed).

Once the plants start to bolt the leaves become bitter and you either need to pull the plants up and compost them, or allow them to continue to go into seed production. The plant that is in seed production tastes bitter because it is no longer producing a food crop and the energy is going into the seed pod, not the leaf. The seed produced will be good for planting if your original seed was heirloom open-pollinated and non-GMO seed. Otherwise, remove all plants that bolt and grow a new crop in that space.

The Scottish Kale shown below was transplanted from a seedling bed that started directly in the ground and then thinned to the garden bed. This was in the Fall of 2020. Not only dis we can up about 24 pints, but we also eat the greens through the winter, and even now March 23rd, 2021 we still are eating and canning.  

This not only has been very productive, but it has also been very nutritious for the family, too.
When seedlings are planted 6 or 7 inches apart from each other they grow tight and produce shade. This shade prevents most weed seeds to germinate and reduces your weed growth.  

The other benefit of Fall/Winter and Spring crops is the absence of the white butterfly and the pesky green worms.  They will wreak havoc on the cole family of greens.  Almost as bad as slugs if not more so. For this reason, Fall is the best time for the cole crops. 
This is a photo of collards but kale is similar. Harvest from more than one plant allows airflow and reduces disease problems.

The small holes on collard leaves are caused by slugs that come out at nigh.Protected by Copyscape

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