Kale Growing Guide

The tender young leaves from these fast-growing plants can be eaten raw or cooked for soup or stir fries. Very cold hardy, harvest can continue right through snow. Many colored varieties are a fine addition to ornamental plantings as well as spectacular garnishes.

Site Characteristics

 Full sun
 Part shade; prefers full sun in spring and fall but can benefit from
light shade during hot weather.
Soil conditions:
 Requires well-drained soil. Prefers well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter, pH 6.0 to
7.5. Can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Prefers plentiful, consistent moisture. Can tolerate
drought but quality and flavor of leaves suffer.

Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual; biennial grown as an annual
Ease-of-care: easy
Height: 1.5 to 3 feet
Spread: 1 to 3 feet
Foliage color: Light green, medium green, dark green, red, purple—depends on variety
Foliage texture:
 coarse
 medium
 fine—depends on variety. Those with savoyed leaves tend toward the fine end of the spectrum. Older plants with smooth leaves can be coarse.
 cushion, mound or clump
 upright

As plants mature and lower leaves are harvested, plants begin to look less like a clump and start to resemble small palm trees with a cluster of leaves at the top of a long stem.

Growing Information

How to plant:
 Propagate by seed
 Germination temperature: 45 F to 85 F—will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 40 F.
 Days to emergence: 4 to 7
 Seed can be saved 4 years

Maintenance and care

 Direct seed about three months before expected fall frost. Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, 1-inch apart in rows 18-30 inches apart. Thin to 12– to 18-inch spacings. Eat or transplant
 Similar to cabbage and other cole crops, you can also set out transplants in spring 4 to 6
weeks before average last frost, 12 inches apart, rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
 Doesn’t seem to be as troubled by pests as most other cole crops. Use floating row covers to help protect from early insect infestations.
 To help reduce disease, do not plant kale or other cole crops in the same locations more than once every three or four years.


Cabbage loopers
Flea beetles
Cabbage root maggots
Cabbage aphids
Slugs and snails

Usually not as susceptible to pest damage as other cole crops


Black rot
Black leg

To help reduce disease, do not plant kale or other cole crops in the same location more than
once every three or four years.


Look for different colors, days to harvest. Some varieties have curly or savoyed leaves resembling parsley. Colorful ornamental varieties tend to be less flavorful.
Red Russian kale is a different species, Brassica nupus var. Brassica napus var pabulariea,
but cultivated similarly.