A tough member of the cabbage family, Kale is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and it is one of the most nutritious garden vegetables. An excellent source of Vitamins A, B, C and E and minerals - calcium, iron and phosphorus. While it is generally thought of as a cold weather crop, it is fairly resilient and can tolerate temperatures as low as -7 °C and as high as 27 °C.
Kale was originally most commonly used in Mediterranean countries, especially Portugal and Italy, often in dishes with potatoes and garlic sausage. It can be used in salads to give ‘bite' or it can also be cooked. The older leaves can be quite strong, so the young leaves and central head should be used. The side-shoots that develop in spring are full of flavor.
Before you begin to grow, choose a variety that best suits your growing climate. Kale is usually grouped by leaf shape, and although growing times vary between varieties, most kale is ready for harvest between 45 and 75 days after transplanting.
Once you know your Kale, follow the steps below on growing your own.
Kale is easy to plant. Choose a pot or a garden plot. Set plants at the depth at which they are growing in the container. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart. The leaves will grow bigger if given a lot of space, but smaller leaves tend to be the most tender. Choose an area with full sunshine if you’re planting during autumn, and an area with partial shade if you're planting in the spring.
Kale will grow in any soil, but make sure that you plant your kale in healthy soil. Sandy or clay-like soil will hurt the kale's flavor and production ability. Ideally use ground that was fertilized for a previous crop. The soil pH should be 6.5 to 6.8 to be sure about your soil pH, test the soil with a do-it-yourself kit.
If you're starting your seeds or planting indoors, plant them between five and seven weeks before the last frost. If you're going to start your kale outside, plant the seeds two to four weeks before the last frost or at least 10 weeks before the first frost.
Kale leaves are sweetest in autumn, after they’ve been touched by a light frost. Pick the oldest leaves from the lowest section of the plants, discarding those that appear yellowed or ragged. Leaves can be picked off for use in salads or allow the loose head to form.
For ideal kale growing conditions, check out our greenhouse shelving kits on our website that allows them the space they demand to grow. www.wintergardenz.co.nz.