How to grow red kale, the variety we use most often in our nurseries is Red Russian, this is a frost hardy variety with a sweeter taste than other kale.
A wonderful addition to the winter garden, this beautiful kale has red tinged leaves that turn crimson in cooler weather.
Ideal for successive cutting it keeps on producing tender leaves for months on end.
Not only is Kale a tasty vegetable with a long cropping season but it is a very attractive vegetable as well.
Many gardeners grow them in their borders purely for their ornamental value, especially over winter. Kale is resistant to most pests and diseases and grows in almost any site and position.
Where to Grow
There is an ideal soil and site for Kale but rest assured, it will grow in almost all conditions, even part shade and sandy soils will produce a reasonable crop. For the ultimate crop, grow in a soil that was enriched with compost or manure the previous season. Full sun is best but they will grow well in part shade.
When to Grow
With the exception of rape kale, sow the seeds in a seed bed around April to May time. The timing is not crucial because kale will germinate in temperatures as low as 5°C / 42°F and as high as 35°C / 95°F. That's an enormous range for any vegetable.
Sow the kale seeds about 1.5cm (½in) deep in rows which are 22cm (9in) apart. germination will take about 10 days. When the plant is about 22cm / 9in high and four leaves have developed (about 6 weeks after sowing) transplant them to their final positions.
Seeded or transplanted kale should be spaced 6 inches between plants in the row with rows 1 foot apart.
Make a hole with a dibber or suitable stick (A piece of an old broom handle is ideal). Place the seedling plug in the hole and firm gently around the roots, water well.
They should be planted slightly deeper than they grew in the seed bed. Spacings are 45cm / 18in apart with rows the same distance apart.
Caring for your Crop
Almost no care is required because these are one of the strongest and most disease resistant of all vegetables. Remove yellowing leaves which will appear round the base of plant. Keep the weeds under control with regular hoeing.
Dwarf varieties of kale (see curly / crinkly kale to the right) will withstand winter winds especially well.
Pests and Diseases
Kale is affected by the same problems as cabbage but is usually disease and pest free.
Below are common Kale ailments,
Cabbage root fly Stunted growth especially if infected as seedlings. Discoloured leaves which wilt. Roots are black and rotten.
Club root The first signs of infection are wilting. blueish leaves and a dying plant.
Cabbage Caterpillars Holes in the leaves
Wirestem Rotting stems on seedlings
Cabbage Whitefly White larva on undersides of the leaves and distorted leaves
They provide a crop between late September to early May, although rape kale is at its best in spring.
Harvest the young leaves only which will be at the top of the plant. This will stimulate the plant to produce more young tender leaves.
Harvest kale only when you need it because it does not keep well even in the fridge.