If there’s one vegetable that’s been enjoying being the darling of the internet for years, it would be kale. Admit it. You’ve seen this superfood in various health blogs and I’m pretty sure you’ve scanned a recipe or two featuring kale just to know what the buzz is all about.
Well, you’re not alone. Long before all the influencers have been raving about it, kale has been a mainstay in the kitchen for many families. It has a mild taste to it — just the right amount of sweet that I’m sure you’ll love.
Not to mention this superfood that is high in essential vitamins like A, K & C is also an excellent source of antioxidants like Quercetin and Kaempferol. Plus it lowers cholesterol reducing the risk of heart disease.
It’s healthy and tasty—what’s not to love?
So if you’re planning to grow one in your home garden, I have good news for you.
Growing kale is easy. Even beginner gardeners won’t be having too much problem growing this one. For starters, they only require little care! I promise you, this low-maintenance crop can even reward you with leafy greens all season long.
Even if you don’t have any background in gardening, you’ll be having a pleasant time growing kale in your backyard. No need to be intimidated. I got you covered. Just continue reading for more helpful tips and tricks about growing kale at home!
How Long Does It Take To Grow Kale?
Besides being a wonderful addition to any cool-weather garden, kale is also known as one of the easiest and fastest growing vegetable from seed. When grown from seed, it only takes 25 – 65 days for a kale plant to grow successfully from planting to harvest.
That’s right for as fast as 25 days, you can start harvesting baby kale leaves perfect for wraps, sandwiches, and salads. But for fully mature leaves, it takes most kale varieties about 50 – 65 days.
But be sure to check the estimated growing days of the kale variety you’ve chosen to grow. Not all kale plants follow the same growing days. You should also consider the growing conditions of your plants as it greatly affects how long it will take for your plants to fully mature.
When it comes to growing kale, hot temperatures can greatly hinder your plant’s growth.
One of my favorite kale varieties to grow is Red Russian. When grown from seed, it will take about 50 days for Red Russian kale plants to reach the optimum height for harvest.
At this point, expect this plant to have grown to about 2 ft tall. You can also harvest earlier in just 20-30 days after seeding for baby greens.
Does Kale Come Back Every Year?
Kale (Brassica oleracea) is a biennial plant that is grown as an annual leaf vegetable. This cold hardy plant is a member of the cabbage family that can thrive for months until the weather gets too warm.
It’s a popular vegetable to grow at home due to its easy plant care and to its relatively fast growing days. But to understand more about its growth cycle, let’s break down some of the gardening terms you might not be that familiar with.
When talking about a plant’s growth cycle, we’re looking at the entirety of its life—meaning from seed to flower to seed. There are three main categories you should know about—Annual, Perennial, and Biennial.
An annual plant is able to complete its growth cycle in one growing season. A perennial plant, on the other hand, lives for more than one season. Often times, this type of plant can live many seasons.
Kale is a special case. Technically it’s a biennial plant but it’s grown as an annual. A biennial is a short-lived perennial. Being biennial means that it takes two growing seasons for Kale to complete its life cycle in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10.
During its first growing season, the kale plant produces the tasty leaves you all love. Later that year or the following growing season, the temperature will rise causing the kale plant to bolt and produce seeds—finally completing its life cycle.
Since the leaves are produced during its first growing season, kale is grown as an annual plant.
What Month Do You Plant Kale?
I know you’re excited to start planting your kale but first, you need to know when is the best time to do it. Every plant has the perfect time for it to thrive. The climate and weather conditions during that time frame will create the best environment for each plant to grow successfully.
In the case of kale, it’s best to start planting this crop in early spring. Check your local frost date.
You should plant 4 weeks before your last frost date. Or if you want to start ahead, sow seeds indoors approximately 6 weeks before the last frost. This is the set-up for a summer harvest.
You have another chance to plant kale in fall. Start planting kale six weeks before your first frost date this season. This will give you autumn to early winter harvest.
If you’re aiming for a spring crop, start sowing seeds from February to April.
Basically, if you live in an area with a relatively cool summer, plant kale in early spring. This will result in an early summer harvest. If you are located in a warm to hot summer region, plant kale in late summer for fall to winter harvest.
So, why is this the best time to plant kale?
Simple. Kale is a very cold-hardy crop. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F. The cool temperature during these months works for kale because it helps in making it sweeter.
If you planted in early spring, you’ll have a summer harvest ready before temperatures go up more than 80°F. Kale doesn’t like heat so this works for you.
Generally, temperatures between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit is preferred by kale plants. All varieties are also sweetened by a light frost because, again, they like cool temperatures.
If you’re in USDA Zones 8 through 10, you’ll have no problem growing kale in your area.
How Long Can A Kale Plant Live?
One good thing about growing kale plants at home — besides being beginner-friendly and nutrition-packed — is how long it can last. Generally speaking, you can enjoy your kale plants until the weather gets warmer, by that time the plant will eventually bolt and go to seed, as the seeds mature, the plant dies.
That’s why it is important to time your planting correctly. You need to make use of the cold weather available in your area before it gets too warm for the kale plants to thrive.
As a cold-hardy plant, kale will actually benefit from a series of frosts. This helps in breaking its starch content into sugars, making the kale leaves tender and mildly sweet.
In order to prolong the harvesting period, you should opt for a cut-and-come-back method instead of cutting the whole kale head in one sitting. Start from the lower leaves from the base of the plants first. Cut the leaves as needed.
Or once you see the outside leaves are big enough to eat, it’s time for picking. Remember to always pick the outer leaves first. The inner leaves should be left alone so it can continue to grow.
Regular cutting will encourage leaf growth insuring a longer harvest. You can enjoy this in about two months from planting your kale seeds.
Though kale doesn’t easily wilt since it’s so hardy, you should still store them properly. There are several options to do this.
You can store a bunch of kales in the vegetable crisper after you’ve wrapped them in paper towels and placed them in a plastic bag. They will keep fresh for a week.
If you think you won’t be able to use your harvested kale in a week, here’s something you can do. Blanch the kale and freeze them. Stored kale like this one is perfect for smoothies!
Can You Harvest Kale More Than Once?
Absolutely! And It’s pretty simple too. In just a few short steps, you’ll be making all sorts of kale-everything.
Most kale varieties are ready to harvest in just 55 to 70 days.
Once you see the outside leaves are big enough to eat, it’s time for picking. Remember to always pick the outer leaves first. The inner leaves should be left alone so it can continue to grow.
As long as the weather stays cool, you can continue harvesting kale. I find that this plant will produce new tender leaves for several months if you continue giving it the proper water conditions. Regular harvesting also encourages leaf growth!
Now that you know when’s the best time to harvest, it’s time to cut the leaves out. It’s pretty simple really. Grab a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and cut the leaf one by one. What I do is I just cut the leaves that I need for the day and come back next time.
In no time, new leaves will grow at the center of the head. Speaking of head, you can harvest the whole kale head if you want. Wash the kale leaves that you’ve harvested with water. Be sure to remove any dirt present.