Growing Kale: When To Plant, How Often To Water & More Advice

Growing kale can be a straightforward thing, especially because it grows well in different climates. But if you want to see your kale flourish, you must ensure that your garden meets its specific needs. So, what do you need to do to make your kale bloom to unprecedented levels?

Kale is a cool-season crop that responds best to warm soil and longer growing seasons. Plant kale in full sun and water often, but not so much as to leave it in standing water. Kale also benefits from growing alongside other greens that aren’t members of the cabbage family, like alliums and legumes.

This is fundamentally an easy plant to grow, though it does require a bit more delayed gratification than some other popular leafy greens. Let’s discuss the conditions that kale crops need to grow strong and healthy.

How to Grow Kale in Your Garden

Close-up shot of young Kale plants growing in a vegetable garden

Growing kale is pretty easy.

Kale is a cool-season crop that grows best in spring and fall. You should plant kale seeds (on Amazon) it in full sun with loose, well-drained soil. Water regularly and fertilize regularly for optimum growth, but don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up with limp green leaves instead of hearty ones.

If you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing during the winter months, consider protecting your plants with row covers or garden fabric to protect them from frost damage.

Kale is hardy enough to withstand cold temperatures, although some varieties grow better than others. So, don’t worry if you’re planting kale in an area with constant temperature fluctuation throughout the year.

What Month Should You Plant Kale?

Kale is a cool-season crop, so it should be planted only after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. In most areas of the United States, this means that you can usually plant kale from April through June. Kale plants can also handle light frosts if they haven’t yet grown too large for winter damage.

If you live in a hot climate, plant kale in the fall so you can harvest it before the first frost hits. On the other hand, if you live in cooler weather, plant kale in the spring so that it grows large enough to harvest before winter.

Additionally, you can plant it in early spring, when soil temperatures reach 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Kale can only tolerate light frosts and low temperatures as long as they don’t linger for more than a week at a time.

How Long Does It Take for a Kale Plant to Grow?

Several variables can affect the length of time it takes for a kale plant to grow, but generally, it will take about 50 days for your kale plant to mature and begin harvesting. Remember that this is an approximate time frame as environmental conditions can impact how quickly your kale grows.

The growing time for different varieties of kale also depends on whether you start with seeds or transplants. Kale seeds usually germinate within ten days when planted directly into the garden soil.

Keep in mind that transplants take longer to grow roots because they’re started indoors under lights and kept warm until the transplanting date arrives. Depending on your growing zone and the planting medium used, such as soil or containers, this can take three weeks or more.

Harvest your kale when the leaves are at least 4 inches long, which will be several weeks after planting. You can also harvest individual leaves throughout the season by cutting them off at the base; just make sure to leave some stem behind so that new growth can start from there.

To keep your garden harvesting throughout wintertime (or give yourself an early start next spring), cover plants with mulch once temperatures dip below freezing; regular watering will help keep them alive until warmer weather returns again.

How Often Do You Water Kale?

Kale loves water. However, watering kale is not the same as watering other plants. Kale should be watered regularly, but it shouldn’t sit in any standing water. So, if you want your kale to grow nice and healthy, you’ve got to ensure you get the water right.

As with any vegetable that grows in the ground, there are different ways you can water your kale depending on what works best for you and where you live. For instance, you can use drip irrigation or sprinklers.

Generally, kales require about 1-1 1/2 inches of rainwater or equivalent every week. So, water your garden regularly but ensure the soil is not soggy.

What Is the Best Fertilizer for Kale?

The best kale fertilizer is that which perfectly supplies the proper nutrients to the soil and your crop. Therefore, a soil test is crucial before settling on any fertilizer.

Nevertheless, you will want to use a balanced fertilizer. You should look for one high in phosphorus and potassium, magnesium and calcium, nitrogen, sulfur, and boron.

Most organic vegetable gardens should use an organic fertilizer high in these nutrients and other trace elements essential to plant growth.

Kale Planting Tips

To recap, kale is a cool-season vegetable that requires moderate temperatures and lots of moisture. Here are kale planting tips worth noting.

Raised beds

Planting kale in raised beds may help keep moisture in the soil throughout the summer, when extra watering is necessary for healthy growth. But even without this step, you’ll find that the plant’s deep taproot helps it survive even dry spells and makes it less susceptible to root rot.

Starting kale seeds

Kale seeds need light for germination. Sow them ¼ inches deep into moist soil once all danger of frost has passed and temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 C). Some varieties may take as long as 10 days or more before germinating, depending on soil temperature and moisture levels.

Mixed cropping

Kale belongs to the cabbage family, which means it’s not compatible with other members of that group. Therefore, you should not plant kale with broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and Brussels sprouts because they all need similar growing conditions.

Otherwise, kale grows well with other greens. Interplanting them will help provide shade for your kales during hot days without competing for nutrients or water resources. Just keep an eye on things so that everything gets enough room.

What Can I Plant With Kale?

Here’s a quick roundup of the perfect companion crops:

  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat is an ideal soil cover and also attracts beneficial insects. This means it prevents moisture loss, increases your soil’s nitrogen levels, and smothers weeds, thus providing perfect conditions for your plants.
  • Marigolds: Marigolds are magnets for hoverflies that feed on aphids, thus preventing your kales from these sap-sucking insects.
  • Catnip: Catnips attract beneficial insects that feed on sap-sucking insects, thus helping your kale grow vigorously and healthily.
  • Legumes: Legumes, like green peas, are known nitrogen fixers; a nutrient your kale will happily enjoy uninterrupted.
  • Alliums: Alliums and all their cousins, like onions and garlic, repel insects when grown together with kales.
  • Dill: Dill is known for attracting pollinating insects, thus ensuring your kales get past this stage perfectly.
  • Cilantro: Planting cilantro with your kales is crucial as the kales are protected against harmful insects. This is because cilantro attracts aphid-feeding insects.

The soil

When growing any type of the cabbage family vegetables in the ground, add lots of compost at planting time to help loosen compacted soil and provide nutrients needed by newly-planted seedlings.

These include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), along with microorganisms that aid in nutrient absorption by plants like legumes. Additionally, the pH should be between 6.0 – 6.8. You can add some lime to your soils for about three weeks before planting for better results.

It’s important to note that kale can grow in various soil types, though it prefers loamy, well-drained soil. If you have heavy clay or poorly drained soils, work some compost into the top few inches of the soil before planting. Kale also needs full sun and prefers cool temperatures.

In addition to being a hardy plant, kale is adaptable enough that it can be grown in a variety of climates. Some areas with cooler summers may see their last frost date pass by before kale is ready for harvest.

Disease and pest protection

Crop rotation is the best prevention of diseases and pests. You should frequently scout your crops for eye moths, insects, and disease.

Does Kale Need Full Sun?

Kales do best in full sun, but the weather should not be too hot to scotch it dry. It can tolerate partial or complete shade, but it will produce more leaves if it has as much direct sunlight as possible.

What Temperature Does Kale Grow Best In?

While kale can grow in warmer temperatures, it thrives in cooler weather and a longer growing season. Kale likes to stay between 50- and 85-degrees F. Soil temperature is also crucial for optimal growth. The soil must be at least 50 degrees F for the seedlings to germinate.

If you live in an area with hot summers that can reach temperatures of above 100 degrees F, consider planting your kale later in the summer so that it doesn’t struggle to survive those hot days.

Covering your plants with frost cloth should do the trick if you live somewhere where winter temperatures regularly drop below freezing.

How Much Space Do You Need to Grow Kale?

If you’re looking for the best yield from your garden space, consider spacing your plants about 18 – 24 inches apart and 30 – 36 inches between rows. This allows light between plants and room for them to spread out as they grow taller and broader over time.

It is also advisable to leave more space if you plan to harvest leaves rather than heading up; plants will grow out rather than up.

Ensure you space kale plants in this way, whether you plant them directly in the ground, in raised beds, containers, or even inside a cold frame or greenhouse.

How Do You Winterize Kale?

Young kale growing in the vegetable garden

Kale is a hardy crop that can withstand cold temperatures, but its leaves can become bitter, signaling an end to that production season. So, how can you winterize it for a second and new crop?

Once the season ends, especially during winter, cut the crop and leave about 3 inches of stalk. This allows it to grow all over again as a new plant.

Additionally, if you’re growing kale in a container and the weather gets cold, sink the entire container into an area of ground that tends to stay above freezing. You could also cover the plant with mulch and water it throughout the winter.

If you’re growing kale in raised beds or on your patio, you may want to protect your plants from freezing temperatures by placing them inside for the winter. This will give them access to sunlight and warmth until spring arrives again, although they’ll still need water.

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