Posts Tagged ‘kale’

Growing Kale from Sowing to Harvest

May 30th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments


Growing Kale from Sowing to Harvest

There’s one undisputed king of the winter vegetable garden – kale! It’s packed with goodness, is remarkably hardy, will carry on cropping throughout most of the winter – and it isn’t half good looking! If you’re looking to grow this hard-working beauty now’s the time to get started. Read on or watch the video for our sowing-to-harvest guide to kale.

Types of Kale

Kale is a stunning vegetable with varieties that offer a choice of frothy, frilled leaves, crinkled leaves, and flatter leaves suitable for both cooking and salads. And then there’s the opportunity to grow red or purple kale, which we reckon wouldn’t look out of place in any ornamental border.

Kale is best sown from late spring to early summer, which makes it the perfect choice to follow on from earlier crops such as garlic, broad beans or early salads.

Where to Grow Kale

Hardy kale is the most reliable crop of the cabbage familyHardy kale is the most reliable crop of the cabbage family. It stands up to frosts with ease and thrives in just about any well-drained, fertile soil. Give it a sunny position in order to encourage stronger growth during the dark winter months.

Like cabbage, kale grows best when well fed. Add plenty of compost to the ground before planting and if your soil isn’t especially rich, top up its fertility by applying a balanced organic fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets a week or two before planting.

How to Sow Kale

Kale needs plenty of room to develop properly. To make the most of the space you have it’s almost always better to start plants off in plug trays or pots. This way you can get seedlings growing while other crops are still in the ground. Once you’ve harvested the previous crop, your sturdy young kale seedlings will be ready to plant.

Fill plug trays or small pots with multipurpose potting soil. Firm it in with your fingertips then make holes about half an inch (1cm) deep. Sow two seeds per plug or pot, cover, and water. Should two seedlings grow remove the weaker of the two.

Depending on how soon you plan on planting your kale, you may need to pot your seedlings on into larger containers. Then, about a week before planting, start moving plants outside so they can acclimatise. Leave them out for gradually longer periods until they’re staying out all day and night.

Transplanting Kale

Space the young plants about 18in (45cm) apart. Dig a hole, pop the plant in and backfill with soil. Kale needs to be well anchored, so be sure to properly firm the plants into position so that the rootballs are in good contact with the soil. Thoroughly water once you’re done.

Kale that will be harvested for smaller salad leaves can be planted closer to leave about 10in (25cm) between plants.

Caring for Kale

Butterfly netting stops butterflies from laying their eggs on your kale plants so that caterpillars won’t get a chance to damage cropsKeep plants well watered and weeded, especially during the summer as they settle in and establish. Remove damaged or yellowing leaves as they appear.

Kale tends to be less prone to the catalog of pests and diseases that afflict other cabbage family crops. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking a few precautions against possible attack.

Slugs sometimes prove a nuisance in wetter climates, but they are easily picked off by hand and you can always set slug traps to limit their numbers. If you find that pigeons are tearing at the leaves then set up bird deterrent tape or install barriers of netting supported on, for example, canes with upturned bottles on the ends. Make sure the netting is properly secured at the ground. Butterfly netting also stops butterflies from laying their eggs on your plants so that caterpillars won’t get a chance to decimate your crop.

Whitefly can occasionally turn up. They are easily identified as tiny white triangles that readily take to the air when disturbed. Fuzzy gray cabbage aphids are another common problem. Insect mesh or row covers are a simple way to protect plants. Most pests die off after the first frosts, leaving plants clear and blemish-free once more.

How to Harvest Kale

Harvesting usually begins in the autumn. Pull or twist leaves down and away from the plant, or use a knife to cut the leaves off.

Harvest every few days by taking one or two leaves from each plant so that the central inner rosette of leaves remains untouched. By the end of the following spring kale plants will have grown quite tall as a result of this regular harvesting. When they stretch to flower they can be removed to the compost heap or left as an extra source of nectar for pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Kale is one of those crops that just keeps on giving, making it a worthy addition to any vegetable garden. Are you growing kale this season? What variety are you growing, and how do you make the most of it in the kitchen? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Fascinating Facts: Kale

February 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. Sabellica

Origins: Both the ancient Greeks and Romans ate leafy greens believed to be ancestors of the Kale varieties we eat today, consuming them as medicine as well as food. By the middle ages, Kale had widely spread through Europe and Asia.

First cultivated: Kale has been cultivated for over 2000 years.

Types: There are numerous varieties of Kale, popular ones include: Cavolo Nero, Curly Scarlet, Redbor Kale and Red Russian

Skill level:  Easy/Intermediate

Preferred location and conditions: Kale tolerates most conditions but requires nitrogen-rich, free-draining soil.

Good for containers: Yes

Harvest time: September to May

Planting and growing: Sow seeds from March to June, ensuring the soil remains moist. Flat leaved kales should be sown in situ but you can start off curly varieties in modules. Plant out from May to July at spacings of at least 45cm, ‘puddling’ the plants with plenty of water.

Possible problems:   Birds can be a problem, so it’s advisable to net the plants.

Did you know?

Kale is an excellent addition to any vegetable garden. Hardy and disease-resistant, it can adapt to most conditions and is one of the easiest brassicas to grow. It is also one of the most nutrient-rich. Hailed as a superfood, a serving of Kale contains more absorbable calcium than a small carton of milk. It’s low in calories, high in fibre and packed full of antioxidants. It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K and rich in folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium. It’s beneficial for the brain, heart, bones, skin, eyes and hair and has been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

In much of Europe, Kale was once the most widely-eaten green vegetable. It thrived in cold climates because of its resistance to frost (which makes it taste sweeter), and was so commonly eaten in Scotland, that ‘kail’ became the generic word for dinner and all kitchens featured a ‘kail-pot’ for cooking. ‘Kailyard’ was a Scottish colloquialism for vegetable garden, and the term lent itself to the Kailyard School of Literature, a critically reviled group of Scottish writers (including Peter Pan author, J. M. Barrie) who revelled in sentimental descriptions of life in rural Scotland in the late 19th century.

Kale slipped out of fashion after the Middle Ages, when cabbage became more popular. Despite a brief renaissance during the Dig for Victory campaign of World War II, people stopped eating kale, and it was more commonly used in cattle feed. At the start of the 21st century, kale started to regain popularity, and after being named a ‘superfood’ in 2008, and with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, interest in the vegetable skyrocketed.

Kale remains one of the trendiest vegetables available, adapting itself to smoothies, salads, juices, stews, bakes and even cocktails (kalejito, anyone?) However, the British haven’t gone quite as cuckoo for kale as the Americans, who have not only devoted a national day to this highly-esteemed leaf (4th October 2018), but launched the first ever world kale-eating contest in 2016. Gideon Oji holds the current record, consuming 25 bowls of the vegetable in just eight minutes. And the obsession doesn’t end there; according to America’s Social Security Administration, 262 babies were named Kale in 2013.

Even if you’re not a fan of the vegetable on your dinner plate, there are ornamental varieties of Kale available, with showy leaves in shades of pink and purple, which can add a welcome blush of colour to winter borders.



To browse all our varieties of kale seeds just follow this link to the kale seeds section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website February 2018. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own kale.

Fascinating Facts and Figures about Kale

October 1st, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

facts about kaleIt may come as something of a surprise, but nowadays kale is a fashionable vegetable, often even eaten as ‘baby leaves’ and a regular ingredient in healthy ‘smoothies’. Most gardeners grow curly or Scots kale, which often used to be listed in seedsmen’s lists as borecole. This word comes from the Dutch boerenkool, which means ‘farmer’s cabbage’. Kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the classic Irish dish colcannon.

Kale is also sometimes known as leaf cabbage because it makes no heart or head. Years ago hungry gap or rape kales were more widely grown than they are today. These are smoother-leaved and the term ‘hungry gap’ refers to them being ready to harvest when little else was available from the garden. Pentland Brig is the most readily available of these flatter-leaved cultivars. Many people believe kale tastes sweeter after a few frosts. It is certainly the hardiest of brassicas, capable of withstanding temperatures down to -15ºC.

Black leaved kale or cavolo nero from Italy has become particularly popular in the last few years. This very dark, wrinkle-leaved strain is frequently an ingredient in the famous Tuscan ‘leftovers’ soup ribollita. There is also the Jersey kale, sometimes known as tree cabbage, which grows tall and was once turned into novelty walking sticks. Despite its name, it is now seldom grown on Jersey.

Kale is a biennial, but usually grown as an annual. The species is probably a native of the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Both curly- and flat-leaved types were being grown in 4th century Greece. It was widely grown across much of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages.

One of the most nutritious of vegetables, kale is a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate and manganese; it is also a good source of several other vitamins. While it may seem strange to think of brassicas and fat together, kale is also a good source of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain health and boosting heart health.

Kale does best in rich, well cultivated soil, and benefits from a top-dressing with a high-nitrogen fertiliser to encourage growth of new shoots.

To browse all the kale varieties we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow this link to the kale seed section of our website

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website September 2016. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own kale


Is Kale the next big thing?

February 17th, 2014 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Vegetables, it seems, are equally subject to the vagaries of fashion as are ornamental plants – and a brassica traditionally noted more for its outstanding  hardiness rather than its superb flavour looks set to be the ‘next big thing’ according to a prediction from Mr Fothergill’s.Kale Bolshoi F1

“We monitor many areas of the press and have noticed in recent months an increasing number of food and cookery writers are singing the praises of the once-humble kale,” reports product manager David Turner.  “This is particularly true in the glossy lifestyle and women’s interest publications”.

David decided to check whether Mr Fothergill’s retail seed sales reflected this growing trend and says sales of its variety Dwarf Green Curled have risen by 20 per cent against the same period last year.  “This has been about for many years, but we feel the real interest will come for recently bred new kales, which are much more versatile than older strains,” continues David.

“For example, our new Bolshoi F1 is ultra-hardy, has great flexibility of harvest and is capable of providing tasty crops all year round.  The mild sweet leaves are highly nutritious (and may even appeal to children!).   Bolshoi F1 is great for stir fries, light steaming and can even be eaten raw in salads and coleslaw.  It can also be picked as ‘baby leaves’ just four weeks from sowing”.

A packet of 250 seeds of Mr Fothergill’s Kale Bolshoi F1 costs £2.05.

What do you say to the ‘Great Kale Revival’?