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Planting Kale: A Comprehensive Guide for Home Gardeners

Published: 09.04.2023

Learn how to grow kale in containers, the best soil for planting kale, when to plant kale indoors, companion plants for kale, and tips for growing kale in raised beds.

Seeding Kale

How to Plant Kale Seeds: Step by Step

Planting kale seeds is a simple process that can be done in a variety of ways. One popular method is to start the seeds indoors in pots or trays before transplanting them outside. To start, fill your pots or trays with seed-starting mix and moisten the soil. Then, place one or two seeds in each container and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil moist and warm (around 70°F) and watch for germination in 5-10 days.

Another method is to sow the seeds directly into your garden bed. Prepare your soil by removing any debris and loosening the top layer with a rake or hoe. Then, create shallow furrows about 1/4 inch deep and 12-18 inches apart. Place the seeds about 1/2 inch apart in the furrow and cover them with soil. Water the area gently but thoroughly to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Germinating Kale Seeds

Germinating kale seeds requires a few key elements: warmth, moisture, and air circulation. To achieve these conditions, keep your newly planted seeds in a warm, humid environment with good airflow. If you're starting your seeds indoors, use a heat mat to keep the soil temperature around 70°F and cover the pots or trays with plastic wrap or a humidity dome to maintain moisture. Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the cover and move them to a location with bright light (a south-facing window or grow light works well).

Healthy and Delicious: Tips for Growing Kale in Your Own Garden

If you're planting seeds directly outside, keep the soil moist but not waterlogged and cover the area with a breathable fabric like row cover or shade cloth to protect against harsh sun or wind. Once the seedlings have emerged, remove the cover and thin them out to one plant every 12-18 inches.

Kale Seed Spacing

Proper spacing is essential for healthy kale plants. When planting seeds indoors, aim for one or two seeds per pot or tray. Once the seedlings have emerged, thin them out to the strongest plant in each container. When transplanting outside, space the plants 12-18 inches apart in rows that are at least 2 feet apart. This allows each plant to have enough room to grow and access to adequate nutrients and water.

Overall, planting kale seeds is a simple process that can yield a bountiful harvest of nutritious greens. With proper germination and spacing techniques, your kale plants will thrive and provide a tasty addition to your home garden.

Never Let Your Kale Go Bad Again

Planting Kale in Containers

Choosing the Right Container for Kale

Kale is an excellent choice for container gardening, and it is easy to grow in small spaces. However, choosing the right container is essential. The container should be at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide to accommodate the root system of the plant. It's also important to choose a pot with drainage holes at the bottom to avoid waterlogging. A lightweight container is also a great option because you can move it around quickly if needed.

Soil Mix for Container-Grown Kale

The soil mix is an essential factor when growing kale in containers. Kale requires well-draining soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. You can use a commercial potting mix for vegetables, but it’s better to add organic matter such as compost, manure, or peat moss to improve the soil's texture and fertility. Before planting, ensure that the soil mix is moist but not soggy.

Watering and Fertilizing Kale in Containers

Kale needs consistent watering to thrive, especially during hot and dry weather. The soil should remain moist but not waterlogged. You can check the soil moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If it feels dry, it's time to water the plant. Fertilizing kale is also crucial to promote healthy growth and high yields. You can use a balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14. Apply the fertilizer every three to four weeks during the growing season.

Best Soil for Planting Kale

Soil pH for Growing Kale

Kale prefers a soil pH range between 6.0 and 7.5, slightly acidic to neutral. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH level. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH level. Maintaining the proper soil pH level for growing kale is crucial because it affects nutrient availability and plant growth.

Amending Soil for Kale

Amending soil before planting kale can significantly improve plant growth and yield. Kale requires well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Adding organic matter such as compost, aged manure or leaf mold can improve soil structure and increase nutrient content. It also helps to aerate compacted soil and improve water retention. When adding organic matter, spread it evenly over the soil surface and work it into the top six inches of soil with a garden fork or tiller.

Testing Soil for Nutrient Deficiencies

Testing your soil for nutrient deficiencies is essential for growing healthy kale plants. Soil testing kits are available at garden centers and online retailers. These kits can measure essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Based on the test results, you can add specific nutrients to your soil to ensure your kale plants have everything they need to grow.

When to Plant Kale Indoors

Starting Kale Seeds Indoors

Starting kale seeds indoors is the best way to ensure that your plants have a head start and are ready to be transplanted outside when the weather warms up. To start kale seeds indoors, you will need seed trays, seed starting mix, and a warm, sunny location. Fill the seed trays with seed starting mix and plant the kale seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and place the trays in a warm, sunny location.

Transplanting Kale Seedlings

Once your kale seedlings have grown to a height of about 2 inches, they are ready to be transplanted outside. Choose a location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and has well-draining soil. Dig holes that are about twice the size of the root ball of each seedling and space them about 18 inches apart. Gently remove each seedling from its tray and place it in a hole. Fill in around the seedling with soil and gently press down around the base to ensure that it is secure.

Hardening Off Kale Seedlings

Before planting your kale seedlings outside permanently, it is important to harden them off. This means gradually exposing them to the outdoor conditions so that they can acclimate to the weather and wind. Start by placing them outside for a few hours a day in a sheltered location, gradually increasing their time outside over the course of a week or two. Be sure to bring them back inside at night if temperatures drop below 50°F.

Companion Plants for Kale

Plants That Repel Pests from Kale

Growing kale can be challenging, especially if pests invade your garden. One way to keep pests away is by planting companion plants that repel them naturally. Some of the best plants that repel pests from kale include mint, dill, and chamomile. Mint repels aphids and ants, while dill repels cabbage worms and spider mites. Chamomile, on the other hand, repels flies, mosquitoes, and other flying insects.

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

Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects for Kale

Beneficial insects are essential in any garden as they help control pests naturally. By planting companion plants that attract these insects, you'll have a better chance of keeping your kale healthy and pest-free. Some of the best plants that attract beneficial insects for kale include marigold, clover, and fennel. Marigold attracts ladybugs and lacewings, which help control aphids and caterpillars. Clover attracts ground beetles, which eat cutworms and slugs. Fennel attracts parasitic wasps, which kill cabbage worms.

Plants That Enhance Soil for Kale

Kale requires well-draining soil rich in nutrients to thrive. By planting companion plants that enhance soil fertility and structure, you'll be providing your kale with a better growing environment. Some of the best plants that enhance soil for kale include legumes like peas and beans, which add nitrogen to the soil. Comfrey is another great plant that helps improve soil structure as it has deep roots that break up hard soil and add organic matter.

Tips for Growing Kale in Raised Beds

Building and Preparing a Raised Bed for Kale

Kale is a great plant for raised beds because it needs well-drained soil and plenty of nutrients. To start, choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Then, build a raised bed that is at least 12 inches deep and fill it with a mixture of soil and compost. If you have heavy clay soil, you can add sand or perlite to improve drainage. It's also important to make sure the bed has good airflow to prevent moisture buildup.

Watering and Fertilizing Kale in Raised Beds

Kale needs consistent moisture to grow well, so make sure to water it regularly. The soil should be kept evenly moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture in the soil. Fertilize kale with a balanced fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season. You can also add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting.

Pest and Disease Management for Kale in Raised Beds

One of the most common pests that affect kale are aphids, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to your garden by planting flowers such as marigolds and daisies. Another common problem is powdery mildew, which can be prevented by ensuring good airflow around the plants and avoiding overhead watering. If you do notice any signs of disease, remove affected leaves or plants promptly to prevent it from spreading.

Final Tips for Growing Kale

Harvesting Kale Leaves

When it comes to harvesting kale, it's best to start picking the outer leaves once they reach about 6-8 inches in length. Be sure to cut the leaves at the base of the stem, leaving the central growing point untouched. This will allow for continued growth and more leaves to harvest later on. Regular harvesting will also prevent the kale from becoming too tough or bitter.

Yes, You Can Freeze Kale - Here's How

Storing and Preserving Kale

Kale is a hardy leafy green that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. It's important to keep the leaves dry, so wrapping them in a paper towel before storing them in a plastic bag is ideal. You can also blanch and freeze kale for later use. To do this, blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and store in freezer-safe containers.

Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Kale

One common problem with growing kale is pests, such as aphids and cabbage worms. To prevent these pests from infesting your kale plants, regularly inspect your plants for any signs of damage or infestation. You can also use organic pesticides such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Another issue that can arise when growing kale is nutrient deficiency. If you notice yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or poor crop yield, your plants may need more nutrients. Fertilize your kale plants with a balanced fertilizer high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

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!