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Featured Plant: Kale - How to plant, grow, and cook it!

Every year, after my summer crops have been harvested, I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to start planting my cool-season crops! One of my top choices for planting is kale! It’s super easy to grow and I love to plant LOTS because I not only use it in my cooking but I share it as well!!!

3 Pictures of Kale - September's Feature Plant
KGE September Featured Plant: KALE!


Common Types of Kale

Pictures of different types of kale plants
Common Types of Kale

Curly Kale

Curly Kale, known for its curly and serrated leaves, can be found in vibrant shades of green and purple. This versatile kale is perfect for making chips and suits a variety of general cooking needs.

Red/Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale features green or gray-green leaves with purple stems, resembling arugula in shape. It is prized for its mild and sweet flavor, making it an excellent choice for smoothies, juicing, and salads.

Redbor Kale

Redbor Kale stands out with its deep red and maroon leaves and striking deep purple stems. Its frilly and curled leaf structure makes it a visually appealing choice, and it's particularly well-suited for use in soups and sautéed dishes.

Dinosaur or Lacinato Kale

Dinosaur or Lacinato Kale boasts a distinctive blue-green leaf color with white stems and large, crisp leaves measuring about 2-3 inches wide. This variety is a staple in Italian cuisine and pairs excellently with legumes, grains, and sweet potatoes, making it ideal for enhancing flavors in dishes like lentil soup.


How to Plant and Grow Kale

A shovel in the dirt next to some chives.
Shovel and Dirt photo by Laura Christine

1. Details to know FIRST!

  • Growing Zone Temperatures

  • First Frost Date (if appropriate)

  • Count how many days to first frost date

  • Kale Plant Maturity Day

2. Choose a Variety of Kale

Select a kale variety that is appropriate for your climate and what you like.

3. Prepare the Soil

Amend your soil with compost or organic matter which will improve the nutrient content and texture. Kale thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH level between 6.0pH and 7.0pH.

Picture of a hand planting seeds in the soil.
Planting Seeds

4. Planting

Kale can be grown from seeds or transplants. If using seeds, sow them directly in the garden. If you are growing transplants, start them indoors and transplant later. Directly sow seeds to about 1/4 inch deep and space them 12-18 inches apart. For transplants, space them similarly.

5. Watering

Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply to encourage deep root growth. Aim to provide about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, depending on the weather.

6. Sunlight

Kale loves to soak up the sun, but it also does well in partial shade! Just make sure it gets around 6 hours of sunlight each day for best results.

7. Fertilization

Kale is a leafy green that benefits from regular feeding.

Apply a balanced fertilizer or compost throughout the growing season.

Aphid with a red circle and line through it
Just Say No to Aphids!

8. Pest and Disease Management:

Keep an eye out for common pests like aphids and cabbage worms. Use organic methods or pesticides as needed. Protect young plants with row covers if necessary.

Organic Methods


Here's how to use neem oil to control aphids on your kale plants.

Materials Needed

  • Neem oil concentrate

  • Water

  • A spray bottle or garden sprayer

  • A small amount of mild liquid soap (optional)

  • Protective clothing, such as gloves and eye protection (optional)


Preparation: If you are using a concentrated neem oil product, mix it with water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Typically, you'll use about 1-2 teaspoons of neem oil per quart of water. To have the mixture adhere to the plant leaves, you can add a few drops of mild liquid soap (like dish soap) and mix well.

Testing: Before applying the neem oil mixture to your entire kale crop, do a spot test on a small section of a plant to ensure there are no adverse effects. Wait 24 hours to see how the plant reacts.

Application/Spraying: Fill a spray bottle or garden sprayer with the diluted neem oil solution. Make sure the kale leaves are dry before spraying, as moisture can dilute the effectiveness of the solution. Thoroughly spray the affected kale plants, ensuring that the neem oil solution covers both sides of the leaves, including the undersides where aphids typically hang out.

Repeat as Needed: Monitor your kale plants regularly. If aphid infestations persist, reapply the neem oil solution every 7-14 days or as indicated on the product label. Neem oil works by disrupting the aphids' feeding and reproductive cycles, so repeated applications may be necessary.

Rinse if Desired: If you're concerned about neem oil residue on your kale, you can rinse the leaves with water after a few hours to remove any remaining oil.

Storage: Store any leftover neem oil solution in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.


Kale plant being sprayed with an organic spray
Spray Them Aphids!

Insecticidal Soap RECIPE

Materials Needed

  • Liquid Dish Soap (without bleach or degreasers)

  • Spray bottle or garden sprayer

  • Water

  • Protective clothing, such as gloves and eye protection (optional)


Preparation: Make sure your kale plants are dry, as applying the soap on wet leaves may dilute its effectiveness.

Dilution: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap per gallon of water. Ensure the soap is well-dissolved in the water.

Testing: Before applying the solution to all of your kale, do a test application on a small section of the plant to ensure it doesn't have any adverse reactions. Wait 24 hours to observe the plant's response.

Spraying: Fill a spray bottle or garden sprayer with the diluted insecticidal soap solution. Ensure you have good coverage by spraying both sides of the kale leaves, including the undersides where aphids tend to hide.

Repeat as Needed: Monitor your kale plants regularly, and if aphid infestations persist, reapply the insecticidal soap solution as necessary.

Rinse if Desired: If you're concerned about soap residue on your kale, you can rinse the leaves with water after a few hours to remove any remaining soap.

Beneficial Insects: Encourage natural predators of aphids, such as ladybugs and lacewings, to inhabit your garden. Planting companion flowers like marigolds can attract these beneficial insects.

Other Organic Pest/Disease Management

Water Pressure: Blast aphids off the kale leaves with a strong stream of water from a hose. This physical method can help reduce their numbers.

Inspection: Regularly inspect your kale plants and combine these organic methods as needed to effectively control aphids while maintaining the health of your kale crop.


How to Plant and Grow Kale . . . Continued

9. Harvesting Kale

Kale can be harvested when the leaves are young and tender, or you can let the plant mature for a more robust type of flavor! To harvest kale, cut individual leaves or the whole plant. Regular harvesting can encourage more growth.

10. Seasonal Considerations

Kale is a cool-season crop that can tolerate frost. It often tastes sweeter after a light frost. In hot climates, plant kale in the fall for a winter harvest.

11. Storage

Store harvested kale in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also blanch and freeze kale for longer storage.


Kale Nutrition = Superfood!

Chart that lists info about vitamins A, C, K
The Kale Superfood Vitamins


Superfood: a term that is used to describe certain foods that are packed with a lot of healthy stuff your body needs, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These foods are thought to be especially good for your health and can help you stay well and feel your best.


What sets kale apart from other foods and makes it a superfood or a nutritional powerhouse is its abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Let's take a closer look at

some of the key nutrients present in one-cup serving of raw kale:

Vitamin A

Kale is packed with Vitamin A, providing a huge 206% of the Recommended Daily Value (DV)! This essential vitamin is derived from the beta carotene present in kale, serving as a potent antioxidant that helps combat harmful oxidation processes in the body, which can lead to cellular damage. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in supporting eye, brain, and respiratory health, benefiting pregnancy, skin, and immune function. Moreover, it contributes to reducing the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Vitamin C

Kale is a great source of Vitamin C providing 134% of what you need on a daily basis! Vitamin C supports your immune system and helps you fight off viruses and bacteria. It also helps with hormones, your heart, and keeps your skin, bones, and teeth strong. Some studies even suggest it can make you feel less stressed, remember things better, and might even lower the risk of cancer.

Vitamin K

Kale is a vitamin K powerhouse, offering 684% of your daily needs in just one serving!!! Vitamin K is essential for things like blood clotting, keeping your heart and bones healthy, and reducing the risk of cancer. It also provides protection against diabetes and helps prevent issues like calcification and internal bleeding. In short, it's a super nutrient for your overall well-being!

*one cup of raw kale (Source: Healthline - 6/29/18 article by Kris Gunnars BSc)


Garden-to-table: Fresh Kale Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle

One Pot Zuppa Toscana

Soup in a square bowl
Zuppa Toscana


4 Strips Bacon (nitrate free), diced

1 Lb. Sweet Fennel Italian Sausage

1 Lb. potatoes

2 Stalks Celery

6 Cloves Garlic

2 Big handfuls of Kale

1 Onion, medium

3 Sprigs Thyme, fresh

4 Cups Chicken broth

1 Tablespoon All-purpose flour, heaped

1 Pinch Red pepper flakes

1 Salt and pepper

1 cup Heavy cream

1 cup Water


Cook sausage, bacon, and onion in a soup pot. Drain the grease.

Add garlic, pepper, water, chicken broth, and potatoes and bring to a boil.

Cook until potatoes are done. Add kale and let wilt a little.

Add cream just before serving.

If prepared ahead of time, add kale and cream before serving. It will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. 


Crunchy Kale Salad


Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips

Kale Chips on a Baking Sheet
Kale Chips


3/4 cup cashews

1 bunch kale, washed and dried

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

1/3 cup nutritional yeast (not to be confused with brewer's yeast)

1 lemon, juiced


  • Cover the cashews with water in a small bowl and let them soak for at least one hour before proceeding.

  • Preheat oven to the lowest heat setting (mine is 180°F). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Drain cashews and set aside. Trim stems from each kale leaf and cut each leaf into chip-sized pieces.

  • Combine the cashews, garlic, soy sauce, oil, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

  • In a large bowl, combine kale a and cashew paste, stir until all pieces of kale are evenly coated. Place kale pieces on baking sheet, allowing space between each piece so they do not touch or overlap.

  • If you have leftover kale that doesn't quite fit on the baking sheets, cover it and refrigerate until first batch has finished baking and then bake a second batch.

  • Bake the kale until crisp and completely dry, between 2 and 3 hours. Check after the first hour and turn leaves over. Check kale periodically.

  • Chips will be ready when crunchy and stiff and topping is dry and doesn't feel chewy or moist.

  • Kale chips will keep in an airtight container for one week.

Thank you for joining me today!

Until next time, have a fantastic gardening day!!!

#kale #growyourown #kalesalad #soup #chips #garden #gardentotable #gardentotablegourmet #kitchengardenexpert #howto #superfood #nutrition #organic

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