Don't bother checking your flip phones or worrying that you missed last night's episode of Gossip Girl. It's not suddenly 2008. I'm aware that kale is not breaking news, and it may well be at the point of "SRSLY???" Nevertheless, I persist with my late-to-the-party and not-cool-anymore love of kale.
I know, you're not new. You know that kale is a superfood. You know it's packed with all sorts of good stuff, including Vitamins A, K, C, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and folate. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and is my favorite smoothie ingredient. But did you know it's kind of pretty, and comes in different textures and colors? Kale is my new experiment in edible decorative gardening.
Last year, I replaced a flower border with rows of red and yellow stemmed swiss chard. The result was that I saved money on buying flats of flowers, and I was able to eat my decorations. The downside was the inevitable, "What's for dinner? Oh yeah. Swiss chard. Again." (Insert deep sigh of resignation.)
Not that we don't love swiss chard, but it was a little bit of a one trick pony in our house. I have higher hopes for the kale, which can be eaten as cooked greens, raw in salads, and baked into crispy chips, as well as the aforementioned smoothie ingredient. This may fail as well, and you can ask me in August how much I still love kale. But it's only April, and right now, I'm fully on board with the kale saturation plan.
To keep things decorative and interesting, I'm mixing it up this year with a few different varieties:
Start kale indoors in flats, or direct sow seeds in early spring. Kale is a cool weather crop and likes moist rich soil and a sunny spot. Although it might get a little leggy and strange looking during the summer, it will still keep producing. It does prefer the gentler temperatures of spring and fall, and will even tolerate frost. I overwintered kale fairly easily last year with a light floating row cover and a mulch of leaves.
Kale is a heavy feeder, so use an organic granular fertilizer when preparing your planting bed, and additional applications of a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer (like a fish emulsion) throughout the growing season. Keep mulched to preserve moisture, and weeded to kale's shallow roots don't have to compete.
Pests, Diseases, and the Like:
As a member of the Brassica family, kale is plagued by flea beetles, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers. You can read my opinion of (and attack plan for) those little fiends here. Flea beetles eat tiny holes in the leaves but the mature kale can usually withstand the munching. They can be deterred with floating row covers, homemade garlic hot pepper sprays, or just blasted off with a hose.
I don't have trouble with kale diseases, mostly because the caterpillars get them first, but it's possible to experience fungus problems and black rot in damp environments where disease stays in the soil. Use soaker hoses instead of sprinklers to water the base of the plants, mulch to protect infected dirt from splashing onto leaves, and practice crop rotation to escape last year's kale diseases that might be harbored in the ground.
So far, I've got about 50 kale plants in the ground and more seedlings started. I will be the envy of vegans everywhere! See you next time and thanks for playing!
I am Laura; lover of plants, fan of words, drinker of wine, practitioner of yoga, planner of schemes, and conductor of the family crazy train, Check here for gardening fun, harvest recipes, yoga philosophy, and whatever else I love to write about.