It’s the Queen of the Greens and yet most people aren’t eating it.
How many foods can you say are Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Anti Cancer and has Vitamins A, C and K, Iron, potassium, calcium, folic acid and plenty of fibre.
Kale is related to Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts as part of the Brassicaceae family. The main difference though is it doesn’t produce a ‘head’ like its fellow siblings.
It’s easy to grow and you can keep picking leaves off all through the season which will encourage it to sprout new ones. It’s also tolerant of frosts and in fact cold weather actually sweetens the leaves. Now is the time to be growing Kale right through the cooler months.
Watch Brian and Kaylene showing how they grow Kale organically in their Veggie Patch
You’ll need a sunny spot although we have successfully grown it in part shade as well. For readers in the warmer parts of Australia, Subtropical and Tropical zones, definitely choose a part shaded spot or use shade cloth to protect the leaves from burning.
The most commonly grown is Curly Kale
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Having lots of leaves, they love Nitrogen in the soil so that means adding manure and compost to your Kale bed.
They prefer a slightly acidic soil so that means a pH of 5.5-6.5. You can measure your soils pH using a pH meter. Dig over the soil so it is soft and wet it with the hose. Then insert the 2 prongs into the soil down a full 12cm. Leave it there for a minute and then check the reading. If it shows above 6.5 it would be a good idea to add additional compost to the soil before planting.
This clever device doesn't need any batteries and will give you readings on the pH level of your garden beds as well as the moisture content. Simply insert the two prongs into predug soil and look at the meter reading in the top.
Brian and Kaylene show how to use this product in the Veggie Classes episode 4. To sign up to the FREE veggie classes, head to aussiegardener.com.au/veg
Please note: We now have our own Branded model which has better information on the pack and works very well. The photo shown currently is the old Ryset model.
Keep an eye on the plants as they can wilt pretty fast on warm days. They do like to be regularly watered. Adding a nice mulch to the surface will also help and to get them really firing feed with a liquid fertiliser. We recommend Nitrosol as it gives Kale exactly what it needs to thrive.
If you are buying seedlings you will find there are a few varieties available. They vary considerably in how they look. Some of the Kale varieties are sweeter and taste great raw. We add them to our smoothies for a good iron kick.
Tuscan Cale has a very lumpy looking leaf.
You could of course buy harvested Kale at the shops, but you might want to know this alarming fact. Kale is known to have the highest traces of residual pesticides used in commercial farming. So it is far better to be growing it at home without the sprays.
Why do the farmers spray it with insecticide?
Mainly because it has one major pest like all Brassicas- the dreaded White Cabbage Moth.
Don’t be fooled. This elegant looking white butterfly has ulterior motives
These dainty looking moths look pretty flittering around the veggie patch but they are the bane of a gardeners life. They lay eggs on anything in the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choi) and some other plants too. The caterpillars hatch and camouflage very well with the leaves making them very hard to spot. In a single night they can eat big chunks of the leaves and make a bit of a mess.
For mass produced farming this means spraying insecticides or otherwise their crop is so damaged, no one would buy it.
There is however a better solution for home gardeners that doesn’t involve any chemicals and that is using Veggie Net.
We build these simple frames over our beds each Winter to stop White Cabbage Moth.
Brassicas are not a fruiting vegetable so don’t need bees or other insects to pollinate them so you can leave the netting on the whole time they are growing. If you’d like to know how to build the frames, watch episode 3 of our Free Veggie Classes.
Galvanised Tube frame with Veggie Net available from the Aussie Gardener Store.
If you have Kale that is already infested with caterpillars, use organic spray Dipel to get rid of them before adding a veggie net otherwise you will still have caterpillars inside the net.
There is also another smaller pest - Cabbage Aphids. These can also be greatly reduced by using the veggie netting when you first plant them and then being diligent to close it up straight after harvesting.
They will grow best in full sun if you are in temperate and cool zones and part shade in the tropics and subtropics. Plant right through the cooler months of the year - Autumn and Winter. Space them about 30cm apart as they will easily fill that space and need good airflow around them.
These are pretty fast growers so you will be harvesting your first leaves about 8 weeks from sowing seeds. No need to pull the whole plant out, Just keep picking the outer leaves and let the others continue growing.
When the weather warms up, Kale starts producing flowers or bolts and once this happens the leaves become tough and pretty bitter. If you see flowers forming, pick all the leaves whilst you still can.
I found that placing a bunch of Kale in a vase of water was not a great way to store them. They turn yellow pretty quickly. Far more effective was to store them in a sealed plastic container in the fridge. It doubles their life and keeps them looking fresh.
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