Growing and Saving the Seed Of Kale
Kale is a member of the brassica family and a cold-tolerant, easy-to-grow, highly nutritious green.
Kale is believed to be more similar to the original wild cabbage ancestor than more refined brassicas like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It hails from the eastern Mediterranean, as well as Asia Minor. The ancient Romans were responsible for dispersing kale and collards to Europe where they were quickly embraced as a cold-loving crop perfectly suited to the Northern European climate.
- Many culinary uses
- In the spring, sow seeds 8-10 weeks before last frost.
- For fall harvest, sow seeds directly from July-September for a late fall crop that will taste super sweet after a bit of frost exposure.
- Kale requires good moisture and full sun.
- Set plants out or thin to 12- 18 inches apart.
- Plant seeds ¼ deep.
- Ideal germination temperature is 45-85 F.
- Germinates in 6-9 days.
- Kale is a perfect beginner gardener’s crop, and it requires very little care to thrive.
- Kale can tolerate an impressive amount of cool weather. In mild climates, it can be grown year round, perhaps with a lull in the punishing heat of summer.
- In cooler climates, kale is considered one of the best crops for season extension. With a bit of protection, it can be grown late into the fall.
- In some areas, cabbage worms will wreak havoc on all cabbage relatives. Try a homemade garlic and hot pepper spray to discourage these pests from munching your plants.
- Like all cabbage family members, kale is biennial.
- Kale is insect pollinated and will cross with some closely related cabbage family members, so it is wise to isolate varieties at least a mile apart to ensure pure seed. Other techniques such as alternate day caging can be used if isolation is not possible.
- You will need to overwinter plants to harvest seeds. Mulch plants heavily with straw or cover with row cover and greenhouse plastic in an attempt to nurse plants through the winter. You can also dig up plants and store them inside to replant in spring.
- When the flower spikes emerge in the second year, let the seed pods dry to brown and cut off the entire flower spike.
- Hang flower stalks upside down indoors over a tarp, allowing the seeds to drop onto the tarp.
- Seeds will remain viable for up to 4 years.