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How to Grow and Care for Kale: A Complete Guide for Home Gardeners

Published: 09.04.2023

Looking to grow kale in your home garden? Our guide covers everything you need to know about soil, sun, pests, harvesting, storing, and growing kale in pots.

Best Soil for Growing Kale in a Home Garden

Benefits of using rich soil for kale

Kale is a nutrient-dense plant that requires a lot of nutrients to grow properly. Therefore, using rich soil for kale is essential to ensure healthy growth and maximum yield. Rich soil is high in organic matter, which helps to retain moisture, improve soil structure and provides essential nutrients to the plants. When planting kale, it is important to select a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and has well-drained soil.

The ideal soil pH for growing kale

The ideal soil pH for growing kale is between 6.0 and 7.5. Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients to the plants. If the pH is too low or too high, some essential nutrients become unavailable to the plant. Therefore, it is important to test the soil before planting and adjust the pH if necessary. To raise the pH, add lime to the soil, and to lower the pH, add sulfur or organic matter.

Best soil amendments for kale

Adding soil amendments is an excellent way to improve soil fertility and enhance plant growth. Some of the best soil amendments for growing kale include compost, aged manure, bone meal, blood meal, and fish meal. Compost is a great source of organic matter that improves soil structure and provides essential nutrients. Aged manure is high in nitrogen and adds essential nutrients to the soil. Bone meal is high in phosphorus, which promotes root growth and enhances flowering and fruiting. Blood meal is high in nitrogen, which promotes leafy growth, and fish meal is high in essential micronutrients.

How Much Sun Does Kale Need to Grow?

How Much Sunlight Does Kale Need Daily?

Kale, like most vegetables, requires sunlight to grow. In general, kale needs at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. It is important to note that the amount of sunlight needed can vary depending on the variety of kale and the climate in your area. In colder climates, kale may need more sunlight to grow properly.

Can Kale Grow in Partial Shade?

Kale can grow in partial shade, but it may not grow as quickly or produce as much yield as it would with full sunlight. If you don't have a spot in your garden with full sunlight, try to find a location that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. It's also important to remember that kale needs consistent moisture, so make sure the soil is well-drained and stays moist.

How to Protect Kale from Too Much Sun

While kale needs sunlight to grow, too much sun can actually be harmful to the plant. If your kale is getting too much direct sunlight, it can cause the leaves to wilt or turn yellow. To protect your kale from too much sun, you can use shade cloth or row covers to provide some relief from the sun's rays. You can also plant taller plants or trees nearby to provide some natural shade.

In addition to protecting your kale from too much sun, it's important to keep the soil moist and well-drained. Consistent watering and mulching can help keep the soil cool and prevent it from drying out too quickly. With proper care and attention, your kale plants should thrive and provide you with a bountiful harvest.

Organic Pest Control for Kale Plants

Common pests that affect kale

Aphids, cabbage loopers, cutworms, flea beetles, and slugs are some of the common pests that affect kale. Aphids are small insects that suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to curl and yellow. Cabbage loopers are caterpillars that chew holes in the leaves, while cutworms cut off the stems of young plants at ground level. Flea beetles create small holes in the leaves, and slugs leave slime trails and chew holes in the leaves.

Protect Your Kale: How to Identify and Treat Common Pests and Diseases

Natural ways to control pests on kale

One of the best ways to control pests on kale is to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place. This can be done by practicing good garden hygiene, such as removing plant debris and weeds that harbor pests. Introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps can also help control pest populations.

Another natural way to control pests on kale is to use companion planting. Planting garlic, onions, or chives near kale can help deter aphids and other pests. Marigolds and nasturtiums can also repel pests and attract beneficial insects.

Homemade pest repellents for kale

If you have a pest problem on your kale plants, there are several homemade pest repellents that you can use. A simple solution of water and dish soap can be sprayed on the leaves to deter aphids and other soft-bodied insects. A mixture of garlic or hot peppers can also be used as a spray or added to the soil to repel pests.

Harvesting and Storing Kale from Your Garden

When to Harvest Kale

Kale is a cool-season crop that can be harvested as soon as its leaves are big enough to eat. You can start harvesting kale when the leaves are about 2-3 inches long. It's best to harvest kale in the morning when the leaves are crisp and firm. If you wait too long, the leaves will become tough and bitter. It's also important to harvest kale before it bolts (goes to seed). If you notice the plant starting to flower, it's time to harvest the entire plant.

Beginner's Guide to Planting and Growing Kale: Tips for Success

How to Harvest Kale Leaves Without Damaging the Plant

When harvesting kale, it's important to be gentle with the plant so that you don't damage it. To harvest kale leaves, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaf at the base of the stem. Avoid pulling or twisting the leaves off the plant, as this can damage the stem and make it harder for new leaves to grow. Be sure to leave a few of the smaller leaves on the plant so that it can continue to produce new growth.

Storing Kale for Maximum Freshness

Best Ways to Store Kale After Harvesting

Kale is a great crop to have on hand because it stores well after harvesting. To store kale, first, rinse the leaves in cold water and pat them dry with a towel or paper towel. Then, wrap the leaves loosely in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag or container with a lid. Store the kale in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Yes, You Can Freeze Kale - Here's How

If you want to store kale for longer than 5 days, you can blanch and freeze it. To blanch kale, first, rinse the leaves in cold water and remove any stems or tough veins. Then, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the kale leaves. Blanch them for 2-3 minutes, then remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the leaves and pat them dry with a towel or paper towel. Place the blanched kale in a freezer-safe container or bag and freeze for up to 8 months.

Top Tips for Growing Kale in Pots or Containers

Benefits of Growing Kale in Containers

Growing kale in pots or containers has several benefits. First, it allows gardeners who have limited space to still grow their own kale. Second, it makes it easier to control the growing conditions of the kale, such as soil quality and moisture levels. Third, growing kale in containers reduces the risk of pests and diseases that can be present in the ground.

Choosing the Right Container for Kale

When choosing a container for your kale, there are a few things to keep in mind. Kale has a deep root system, so it’s important to choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep. The container should also have drainage holes to prevent water from pooling and drowning the roots. Finally, the container should be large enough to allow for adequate growth – one plant per container is recommended.

Tips for Watering and Fertilizing Kale in Containers

Proper watering and fertilizing are essential for growing healthy kale in containers. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged – aim to water when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. It’s also important to fertilize regularly, as the nutrients in potting soil will eventually become depleted. Use a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) every 4-6 weeks, following the package instructions for application rates.

In addition to regular fertilization, kale in containers may benefit from occasional foliar feeding. This involves spraying a nutrient solution directly onto the leaves of the plant. A foliar spray can help supplement any nutrients that may be lacking in the soil.

By following these tips for growing kale in containers, even beginner gardeners can successfully cultivate this nutritious vegetable. With proper care and attention, kale plants can thrive and produce an abundant harvest that will provide delicious and healthy greens throughout the growing season.

Planting Kale

When to Plant Kale

Kale is a cool-season crop that can tolerate frost and light freezes. It is best to plant kale in early spring or late summer when temperatures are between 60°F and 65°F. In warmer climates, kale can be planted in the fall for a winter harvest. When planting kale in the spring, it is important to wait until after the last frost date in your area.

How to Plant Kale Seeds

To plant kale seeds, first prepare the soil by adding compost or aged manure. Then, create rows that are 18-24 inches apart and make shallow furrows using a hoe. Sow the seeds ½ inch deep and 2-3 inches apart in the furrows. Cover the seeds with soil and water gently.

Kale seeds usually germinate within 5-10 days. Once the seedlings have grown to about 2 inches tall, thin them out so that they are spaced 8-10 inches apart. This will give them enough room to grow and develop.

Transplanting Kale Seedlings

If you prefer to start your kale indoors, you can transplant seedlings into your garden when they are 4-6 weeks old. Before transplanting, harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over a period of one week.

To transplant the seedlings, dig holes that are slightly larger than the root ball and space them 18-24 inches apart. Gently remove the seedlings from their containers and place them in the holes. Cover with soil and water gently.

Seeding Kale

Benefits of sowing kale seeds

Kale is a superfood that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Sowing kale seeds in your garden will give you access to fresh, healthy kale that you can use in a variety of dishes. By growing your own kale, you can ensure that it is free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Additionally, kale is easy to grow and requires minimal maintenance. Sowing kale seeds is an affordable way to grow your own vegetables and improve your overall health.

How to prepare soil for seeding kale

Kale grows best in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Before sowing kale seeds, it is important to prepare the soil properly. Start by removing any weeds or debris from the area where you plan to sow the seeds. Next, loosen the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches using a garden fork or tiller. Mix in compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil structure and provide nutrients for the plants. Finally, rake the soil until it is level and smooth.

Tips for sowing kale seeds

To ensure successful germination, it is important to sow kale seeds at the right time and depth. Kale can be grown from seed in both spring and fall. In the spring, sow seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. In the fall, sow seeds 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost date. Sow seeds ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Once the seedlings have emerged, thin them out so that they are spaced 12-18 inches apart. This will give them room to grow and prevent overcrowding.

To encourage healthy growth, water kale plants regularly and fertilize them every 4-6 weeks with a balanced fertilizer. Monitor for pests and diseases, and remove any damaged leaves promptly to prevent the spread of infection.

Common Pests and Diseases of Kale


Aphids are one of the most common pests that attack kale. These small, soft-bodied insects suck the sap from the leaves and cause them to curl and turn yellow. To get rid of aphids, use a strong spray of water to knock them off the leaves or apply insecticidal soap to the plants. You can also introduce natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings to your garden.


Cutworms are another common pest that can cause damage to your kale plants. These caterpillars cut through the stems of young plants, causing them to wilt and die. To prevent cutworms, create a barrier around the base of your plants with cardboard or plastic collars. You can also use a biological control like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a naturally occurring bacteria that targets caterpillars.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves of your kale plants. This disease thrives in warm, humid conditions and can be prevented by planting kale in an area with good air circulation and avoiding overhead watering. If you do notice powdery mildew on your plants, remove the affected leaves and apply a fungicide specifically formulated for powdery mildew.

Watering and Fertilizing Kale

How much water does kale need?

Kale requires a good amount of water to thrive, especially during the hot summer months. As a general rule, kale should receive around 1-1.5 inches of water per week, either through rain or irrigation. It's best to water deeply and infrequently, rather than shallowly and frequently. This encourages the roots to grow deeper, making the plant more drought-resistant in the long run. If you're not sure whether your kale needs watering, stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it's time to water.

Best fertilizers for kale

Kale is a heavy feeder and requires regular fertilization to produce large, healthy leaves. The best fertilizers for kale are those that are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen promotes leafy growth, phosphorus aids in root development and flower/fruit production, and potassium helps the plant withstand stress and disease. Good options for fertilizers include compost, fish emulsion, blood meal, and bone meal.

How to make organic fertilizer for kale

If you prefer to make your own fertilizer, there are several organic options available. One simple recipe is to mix equal parts of bone meal, blood meal, and greensand (a natural source of potassium). Another option is to create a compost tea by steeping compost in water for several days until it becomes a rich liquid fertilizer. You can also use seaweed or kelp meal as a natural source of micronutrients. Whichever method you choose, make sure to apply the fertilizer evenly around the base of the plants every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.

Companion Planting with Kale

Best companion plants for kale

Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants together for mutual benefit. When it comes to kale, there are several plants that make great companions. One of the best companion plants for kale is beans. Beans are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means they can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that can be used by other plants, such as kale. Other good companion plants for kale include beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, dill, garlic, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes.

How companion planting benefits kale

Companion planting can benefit kale in several ways. For example, planting beans with kale can help to improve the soil quality by adding nitrogen. Beets and carrots can help to break up compacted soil, making it easier for water and nutrients to reach the roots of the kale plant. Companion planting can also help to attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, which can help to control pests that may damage kale plants.

What not to plant with kale

While there are many plants that make great companions for kale, there are also some plants that should be avoided. One example is members of the Brassica family, such as broccoli and cauliflower. These plants are susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases as kale, so planting them together can increase the risk of an infestation. Other plants that should be avoided include corn and strawberries.

Top Tips for Growing Kale Successfully

Pruning Kale Plants

Pruning kale plants is essential to encourage the growth of new and healthy leaves. As the outer leaves mature, they tend to become tough and bitter, making them unsuitable for consumption. To ensure a continuous supply of fresh leaves, remove any yellow or brown leaves regularly. Also, trim off the top few inches of the plant to promote bushier growth. Avoid pruning too much as this can stunt the growth of the plant.

Mulching Kale Plants

Mulching is an excellent way to maintain moisture and suppress weeds around your kale plants. Organic mulches such as grass clippings, chopped leaves, or straw can be applied around the base of the plants. Mulching not only conserves moisture but also helps to regulate soil temperature during hot and cold seasons. It also adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes over time.

Protecting Kale from Extreme Weather

Kale is a hardy plant that can tolerate cold temperatures well. However, it can be damaged by extreme heat or cold weather conditions. During hot weather, provide shade for your plants using a shade cloth or a row cover. In cold weather, cover your plants with a frost blanket or a plastic sheeting to protect them from frost damage. Additionally, water your plants regularly during hot weather to prevent them from drying out.

Final Tips for Growing and Caring for Kale

The benefits of growing kale in a home garden

Growing kale in your home garden is a great way to incorporate fresh, nutrient-dense greens into your diet. Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium and iron. It is also high in antioxidants and can help support heart health. Plus, growing your own kale is much more cost-effective than buying it from the grocery store.

Common mistakes to avoid when growing kale

One of the most common mistakes beginner gardeners make when growing kale is overwatering. Kale prefers moist soil, but too much water can lead to root rot and other diseases. Another mistake is planting kale too close together, which can lead to overcrowding and stunted growth. It's also important to keep an eye out for pests like aphids and cabbage worms, which can damage your kale plants.

Fun ways to use kale in your kitchen

Once you've successfully grown your own kale, it's time to start experimenting with different ways to use it in the kitchen. Kale makes a great addition to smoothies, salads, and stir-fries. You can also try making kale chips by baking seasoned kale leaves in the oven until crispy. Another fun way to use kale is to make pesto by blending it with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

More structured data

Plant attribute table

Attribute Description
Scientific Name Brassica oleracea var. acephala
Common Name Kale
Plant Type Biennial vegetable
Climate Cool-season crop, prefers temperatures between 60-65°F
Soil Well-drained soil with pH between 6.0-7.5
Sunlight Full sun to partial shade
Watering Regular watering to maintain soil moisture
Fertilizer Nitrogen-rich fertilizer every 4-6 weeks
Pests Aphids, cabbage worms, flea beetles, slugs
Diseases Downy mildew, clubroot, black rot, Fusarium wilt
Harvesting Leaves can be harvested repeatedly as they grow, starting at 8-10 weeks after planting
Yield 1-2 lbs of kale per plant, depending on variety and growing conditions
Uses Fresh salads, cooked dishes, smoothies, juicing, and as a garnish
Varieties Curly kale, Lacinato kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale), Red Russian Kale, etc.

Nutrition data for 100g RAW

Calories 49
Protein 4.28g
Fat 0.93g
Carbohydrates 9.27g
Fiber 3.6g
Sugar 4.42g
Calcium 150mg
Iron 1.47mg
Magnesium 47mg
Phosphorus 92mg
Potassium 491mg
Sodium 38mg
Zinc 0.53mg
Copper 0.212mg
Manganese 0.989mg
Selenium 0.9µg
Vitamin C 93.4mg
Thiamine 0.114mg
Riboflavin 0.33mg
Niacin 1.180mg
Pantothenic acid 0.384mg
Vitamin B6 0.271mg
Folate 141µg
Vitamin A 491µg
Vitamin E 1.54mg
Vitamin K 681µg

Author: Michael Chen
Bio: I'm gardening specialist with a mission to empower people to grow their own fruits and vegetables. With my background in Plant Science from the University of California and experience working with farmers and community gardens, I'm dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture practices and helping individuals achieve bountiful harvests. Let's get growing!