Kale, a hardy leafy green, is not only a superfood but also a super producer. This cool-weather vegetable tolerates frost with ease and produces tender and succulent upright leaves well into fall. Plant kale in early spring in a traditional garden or a container to enjoy its leaves for five months or more. Kale thrives in full sun but grows well in part shade. From a balcony garden to a suburban raised bed, kale will grow nearly anywhere.
Kale Companion Plants
Plant kale alongside salad greens, onions, carrots, and other produce in the vegetable garden. You can also enjoy its texture-rich foliage in a perennial garden where it is as pretty as it is productive. When watered and harvested regularly, kale looks good from early spring until late fall. To prevent pest problems, plant kale where you haven't grown related crops—cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, turnip, and rutabaga—in at least 4 years.
Kale grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Although kale leaves acquire their best flavor after autumn's first frost, this plant can also be grown in early spring. Start it from seed indoors about eight weeks before the last average frost date. Those seedlings—or transplants from the garden center—can be planted in the garden a couple of weeks after all danger of frost is past.
In cold climates, sow seeds outside as soon as the soil reaches 45 degrees F and the ground can be worked. Sow seeds 2 inches apart in rows 2 to 18 inches apart. Plant seeds ½ inch deep and keep soil evenly moist to ensure good germination. In warm climates, harvest a fall drop by planting seeds inside by early July, then transplanting the seedlings outside in the garden by mid-August. Water the plants well, as moist soil helps keep the leaves sweet and crisp instead of bitter.
Care for crops planted in late summer by mulching around plants to delay the ground from freezing around roots. Pull and discard plants as soon as they begin to flower; those leaves are tough and bitter.
Seed companies have recently introduced blends multiple varieties of colors, textures, and flavors in one multiseed pellet.
Types of Kale
'Chidori Red' kale
Brassica oleracea 'Chidori Red' bears frilly leaves that provide brilliant color and sweet flavor. Dark outer leaves surround purplish-red central foliage.
'Dwarf Blue Curled Vates' kale
This variety offers finely curled bluish-green leaves on low-growing, compact plants. It's a highly ornamental addition to the vegetable garden.
Brassica oleracea 'Redbor' features attractive frilly burgundy leaves that intensify in color as the weather gets colder.
'Red Russian' kale
This cultivar has purple stems and purple-veined flat leaves that are more tender than those of frilly kale varieties.
'Red Russian' kale
'Red Russian' kale bears long, thin dark green puckered leaves that stand upright. The plant tolerates heat and cold well.