Kale has been in the spotlight
recently due to the very qualities that gardeners have always praised—its
impressive nutrient value and its delicious earthy flavor. Every kale-lover has
his or her favorite variety. Some prefer the nutty taste of Toscano (also known
as Dinosaur or Lacinato) kale; others like the Siberian or Russian types; and
others, the frilly Scotch kales. The different varieties all share yet another
praiseworthy quality: they are very easy to grow from seed. Space thrifty, and
so cold hardy that you can harvest it in the snow, kale more than earns its keep
in the home vegetable garden.
1. Prepare. Loosen soil to a depth of about 12 inches using a shovel or tiller. Mix in some compost or slow-release fertilizer to provide plants with nutrients. Then rake the soil smooth, removing any large clumps and rocks.
2. Plant. Sow seeds in full sun about 3 to 4 inches apart, and ˝ inch deep. Kale germinates readily in soil as cold as 45°F (7°C).
3. Grow. Water soil to keep it moist, and pull weeds that sprout nearby. When seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin so that young plants stand about 6 inches apart, using the thinnings in salads. Thin again in a couple of weeks to a final spacing of 12 inches apart so plants have room to grow and mature to their full size. Side-dress growing plants with a well-balanced fertilizer several times during their growing season. When plants have 7 to 9 leaves, start harvesting, cutting the outer leaves. A layer of straw mulch will help control weeds and conserve soil moisture.
4. Enjoy. Separate the stalks from the leaves when preparing kale for cooking. Enjoy the chopped ribs and leaves steamed, briefly, braised, boiled, or stir-fried, or blended raw in a smoothie. Kale is a popular ingredient in soups or in stews, and young leaves are excellent in salads. Any way you prepare it, kale is loaded with Vitamins A, C, K, calcium, and many other essential nutrients.
AT A GLANCE
Exposure: Full sun
Planting time: 4 weeks before the final frost. Sow again in mid to late summer for a fall into winter crop.
Planting depth: 1/2 inch deep
Spacing in row: Sow seeds 3 t0 4 inchs apart; thin to at least 12 inches apart as plants grow larger.
Time to harvest : 60 to 80 days from seed.
Grow kale in a large container, and provide it with a compost rich soil mix. Fertilize a couple of times during the growing season.