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Kale for Late Season Harvests

Purple Kale. Photo courtesy of West Coast Seeds

Purple Kale. Photo courtesy of West Coast Seeds

Courtesy of West Coast Seeds

Late season planting is often a finicky affair. With choices limited, it takes careful consideration in picking the right seeds to keep your harvests arriving weekly even late into the season.

Kale (Family: Brassicacea, Latin Brassica oleracea var. acephala) is that savory, sweet leafy vegetable that is the go-to “superfood” in many celebrity diets. Top athletes also swear by kale as their veggie of choice because it’s rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains the highest levels of beta-carotene among green vegetables, though collards are not far behind.

All varieties of kale are quite easy to grow. It is cold-tolerant, vigorous, nutritious and easy to harvest and prepare. And the greens get even sweeter after frost. It’s great for juicing and blending nutrient packed smoothies and stores well.

Follow along with this handy How to Grow Kale and Collards from Seeds Guide and grow healthful food!

Kale is easy to grow!

Recommended: Lacinato is a summertime favorite. While it is less cold-hardy than many of its cousins, it forms tall, almost architectural rosettes of substantial leaves. Packed with flavor and nutrients, its a great variety for the beginner kale farmer.

For urban gardeners: Dwarf Green Curled varieties stay smaller and more compact and grows perfectly well in containers or raised beds. Its also cold-hardy, so well suited to winter harvesting.

Season: Cool season (but will generally grow all summer in northern climates)

Exposure: Full sun

Zone: Winter hardy to zone 6.

Timing: Direct sow March to mid-July for summer to winter harvests. Optimal soil temperature: 10-30°C (50-85°F). Seeds should germinate in 7 to 10 days.

Starting: Sow 3-4 seeds 5mm (¼”) deep in each spot you want a plant to grow. Thin to the strongest plant. Space 45-60cm (18-24″) apart in rows 75 to 90cm (30 to 36″) apart.

Growing: Ideal pH: 6.0 to 6.8. Add lime to the bed three weeks prior to sowing. Kale likes well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter. This plant prefers plentiful, consistent moisture. Drought is tolerable, but quality and flavor of leaves can suffer. Mix ¼ cup of complete organic fertilizer into the soil beneath each transplant, or use one cup beneath every 3m (10 feet) of seed furrow.

Harvest: Kale and collards can both be grown as a cut and come again crop for salad mixes by direct-seeding and cutting when plants are 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3″) tall. They will re-grow. Or pick leaves from the bottom up on mature plants as you need them. In spring, the surviving plants start to flower, so eat the delicious flowering steps and buds.

Diseases and pests: Protect from cabbage moths and other insect pests with floating row cover. Prevent disease with a strict 4-year crop rotation, avoiding planting Brassicas in the same spot more than once every four years.

Companion planting: All Brassicas benefit from chamomile, dill, mint, rosemary, and sage. Avoid planting near eggplants, peppers, potatoes, or tomatoes. Plant collards near tomatoes, which repel the flea beetles that so often look for collard leaves to eat.

Fall planting: Heres a list of seeds to start in August for fall and winter harvests. These fast-growing seeds are cold-hardy and will thrive as the nights get cooler in late August and September.

Arugula, beets, carrots, cauliflower (start indoors, transplant first week September for fall harvest), chervil, chives (after the 15th), cilantro, columbine, corn salad (after the 15th), garlic, kale and collards, kohlrabi, lettuce, mescluns, mustards, pac choi, parsley, peas (before the 15th), radishes (after the 15th), scallions, spinach, sweet peas, Swiss chard.

* More on companion planting and other organic gardening questions as well as recipes can be found at

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