Kale is part of the mustard or cabbage family (Brassicaceae), so it’s related to broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and canola. Collectively, they’re known as cruciferous vegetables and are well known to promote general health and wellbeing. There are a few different types you can grow, including Tuscan, Curly, Blue Curl Scotch or Russian Red. Read on to see how to grow kale.
If you live in warm temperate, cool or cold climate, plant kale in full sun. For those living in subtropical or tropical climates, plant in part-shade and this will help protect the leaves from burning or wilting.
Kale grows best in a moist, well-draining soil, enriched with plenty of organic matter like Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Food. Ideally, the soil pH should be slightly acidic, between 5.5-6.5 (see The Importance of Soil pH for more information on soil pH) for best growth. If the soil is not well-draining, improve it by adding organic matter and liquid gypsum or consider growing in pots if it is too difficult to work.
As young kale plants grow, feed well with a fertiliser high in nitrogen, like Yates Thrive Vegie & Herb Liquid Plant Food. This will encourage lush leafy green growth and promote stronger, healthier plants.
Regularly water plants to ensure the soil remains moist. Apply a layer of organic mulch like pea straw or lucerne to help reduce moisture loss.
Pests and diseases
Kale plants are particularly prone to cabbage aphids. Treat at first sight with Yates Nature’s Way Vegie & Herb Spray Concentrate. They are also susceptible to the larvae of the cabbage white moth, which chew large holes in leaves and can quickly defoliate a plant if left untreated. Spray with Yates Nature’s Way Caterpillar Killer Dipel.
Harvest and maintenance
Harvesting kale is easy. Simply break off the lower leaves as needed, but leave at least 4-5 leaves, so it can continue to grow. Kale is a biennial plant, but it is typically grown as an annual crop, especially in warm climates. When the season warms up, kale goes to flower or bolts, and once it bolts, the leaves become tough and bitter. If you notice your plant forming flowers, pick all the leaves before they become inedible.
Leaves will be darker, tender and sweeter when temperatures are cooler.
Rotate crops and plant kale in a different spot the following year – this helps reduce the potential of pests and diseases in the soil.