By Sommer Cartier.
If there was a king of the winter garden, it would be the mighty kale. It’s nutritious, incredibly hardy and produces a crop throughout the entire year in San Diego. Even the novice gardener can easily find success with this green. And, with only 3 - 4 plants, this high yielding veggie can supply a family of four with a weekly harvest. Have I convinced you to grow kale? If yes, here is what you’ll need to know.
· "Lacinato" also known as Tuscany/dinosaur kale, has thick large leaves great for soups, is incredibly hardy, and can grow as tall as a one story building.
· "Redbor" stunning magenta leaves with curly edges and mild, crisp flavor and texture.
· "Red Russian" smooth, tender leaves with purple veins and edges. Has a sweeter, more tender flavor, making it great for salads.
· "Common Curly Kale" what you commonly find in grocery stores. Known for its tightly curled leaves and slightly bitter, peppery taste.
Preparing beds and planting crop:
In San Diego, kale is considered a hardy biennial - it take two years to flower and complete its life-cycle. It can grow year-round and tolerate a wide range of temperatures however, it tastes best when grown in temperatures under 80F degrees. If planting kale during the warm season, select a location with partial shade to help keep it cool. Plant kale in loamy, well-drained, moist soil of average fertility
Plant seeds in loose soil about ½ an inch deep and inch apart. Once the seeds emerge, thin them so they’re 8 to 12 inches apart.
If planting seedlings, plant them the depth of the root ball and 12-18 inches apart. They will thrive it given plenty of space to open and bloom outward.
Caring for plants:
Keep the soil moist and cool to help preserve the sweep crisp flavor of the leaves. Side dress with compost every 4-6 weeks to protect the plant, keep the roots cool, and nourish it.
Aphids, cabbage loopers and cabbageworms enjoy feasting on kale, but kale is relatively good at resisting disease. Pick off the worms and dispense as you please. With aphids, rub them off with your fingers or spray them off with a hose. And remember, giving your plants the nutrients they need and removing weathered leaves will help reduce insect infestations.
Harvesting your plants:
Kale is usually ready for harvest 70-95 days from seed and 55-75 days from transplanting, depending on the variety. Refer to seed packet for specifics. Harvest leaves from the outer edges of the plant to keep new leaves coming in for future harvests. Also remember to harvest greens young, before they become old, tough and bitter.
Follow these helpful tips and you will surely benefit from a staple crop of these “superfood” greens throughout the entire year. Enjoy!