Light requirements: Full sun is ideal, but plants yield in part shade. Protect plants from strong afternoon sun in warmest regions.
Planting: Space 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.)
Soil requirements: These greens need moist, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with 4 to 6 inches of compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.5 to 6.8.
Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Aim for 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week through rainfall or irrigation. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation and keep leaves clean from splashing soil.
Frost-fighting plan: Established plants tolerate hard frosts (temperatures below 28º F) and produce new leaves all winter long in zones 7 to 10. Frost-kissed leaves boast sweeter flavor. Protect newly planted seedlings from late spring or early fall frosts by covering plants with a frost blanket.
Common issues: Watch out for cabbageworms, harlequin bugs, slugs, grasshoppers, and cabbage aphids. Kale is a cole crop, so clubroot can attack plants. Kale can be slow to take off in the garden. Spring plantings may linger until soil warms; fall crops can stall a bit with warm air.
Harvesting: Harvest leaves when they are up to 10 inches long. Younger, shorter leaves have the mildest flavor. Pick lower leaves first, and the plant will continue to produce new upper leaves.
Storage: Refrigerate unwashed leaves in a lightly damp paper towel slipped into a very loosely closed plastic bag and store up to 5 days.
For more information, visit the Kale page in our How to Grow section.
- Calories: 36
- Carbohydrates: 7g
- Dietary fiber: 3g
- Protein: 2g
- Vitamin A: 354% DV
- Vitamin C: 89%
- Vitamin K: 1,328%
- Vitamin B6: 9%
- Manganese: 27%
- Copper: 10%
- Calcium: 9%
- Potassium: 8%
Kale is a member of the cabbage family, and its leafy greens are at their best eaten young, before the fibers become tough. Like all fresh greens, kale is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K. One cup of cooked kale will give you over 1,000 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, a nutrient established to be important in bone formation. Manganese, which promotes bone density, is also high in kale. And like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is high in sulfur-containing phytonutrients that have been found to prevent cancer.