Kohlrabi is a nutritious vegetable that’s often overlooked in edible gardens. That’s too bad because this plant offers a delicious taste and interesting appearance, and it’s a cinch to grow. This cabbage relative develops a swollen, bulblike stem from which its textural gray-green leaves sprout. Its interesting look and easy-to-grow nature make this vegetable good for a garden tended by children to help develop the next generation’s love of fresh food and gardening.
Kohlrabi is a cool-season plant you can enjoy in spring or fall. Enjoy its stem fresh from the garden or diced in soups and stews.
One of the smaller vegetables you can grow, kohlrabi is easy to tuck in just about any sunny corner of your yard. Because it thrives in cool weather and declines once summer heat sets in, it's ideal for getting a jump start on the season. Make more of your space by succession planting—get kohlrabi in the ground right away in spring while it's still too cold to plant tomatoes, eggplants, and other heat-lovers. Then after harvest, remove the kohlrabi plants to plant your summer crops.
Plant kohlrabi in a sunny spot that gets half-day or all-day sun and moist but well-drained soil in early spring or autumn. It's usually planted from seed, but you may be able to find young plants started and ready to go at your local garden center. It tolerates frost, so you can plant it a couple of weeks before your area's last expected frost date in spring. Transplant fall crops of kohlrabi outdoors in the ground in mid- to late August.
Water kohlrabi regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet and soggy. If your yard has clay soil, grow kohlrabi in containers or raised beds to offer the conditions it needs to thrive. If your soil is poor and low in nutrients, kohlrabi benefits from compost or a slow-release fertilizer incorporated into the planting hole when you add it to your garden.
Extend kohlrabi's growth season by spreading a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch around the plant. This will help keep the soil cool as days get hot. (Kohlrabi begins to decline once temperatures rise above 80˚F or so.) Plus, a layer of mulch helps the soil stay moist in dry weather and prevents weeds from growing.
Good Neighbors for Kohlrabi
Carrots have delicate, ferny foliage that contrasts kohlrabi's larger blue-green leaves. Pansy plants dress up your kohlrabi in containers with cheerful, colorful flowers. Plus, pansy's edible blooms make a lovely garnish with freshly sliced kohlrabi stems.
Make the most of your space by planting kohlrabi around your tomatoes. By the time tomatoes start to grow large and need extra space, it's time to take aging kohlrabi plants out of the garden.
Even though it's an under-appreciated vegetable for home gardens, there's a surprising choice of kohlrabi varieties available. Newer selections tend to offer better heat- and disease-resistant varieties than older types.
More Varieties of Kohlrabi
'Grand Duke' kohlrabi
Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes 'Grand Duke' is a hybrid that grows larger than standard varieties (to 4 inches in diameter) in 50 days without becoming woody. It has green skin and white flesh.
'Early White Vienna' kohlrabi
This variety bears 2-inch greenish-white bulbs 55 days from seeding. It is slow to bolt in cold weather.
Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes 'Kohlibri' is a colorful selection that has purple skin and fiberless white flesh. Bulbs are ready just 45 days after planting.