Kale is a much underrated vegetable to grow all year in Lower Mainland gardens. It contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K, as well as minerals and “indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells”. Common kale is a member of the Brassica family and has been a favourite to grow for years providing fresh leaves for juice and salad or cooked like spinach. It is tastier after the first frost and survives a winter snowfall or two. This highly nutritious vegetable is another easy to grow plant to be included in your vegetable garden and on your dinner plate and not just to use as a garnish.
Grow Kale for the Birds & Bees
Kale has been in our garden for many years after purchasing two “unknown” (later identified as Russian) kale at a farmers market. Over the years some of the plants have been left to seed and there are always new plants to transplant during the spring, summer and before the first killing frost in fall.
In the early spring, kale which has wintered over blooms with bright yellow flowers attracting bees to the vegetable garden and later in the summer the dry seeds offer a tasty dish for birds. There is always lots of seed to keep but many seeds fall to the ground to grow and are transplanted continuously.
- There are many varieties to choose from; flat, curly, red, plain.
- The Russian variety appears to be a very winter hardy variety and is so easy to grow from seed.
- Seed is small like broccoli and can be planted as soon as ground thaws in the spring and can be worked.
- Seeds should be covered with 1/4″ fine soil and pressed down.
- You can plant this hardy vegetable from spring up to 6 weeks before the first killing frost.
- Kale requires a several feet of growing room and sometimes staking as we have had self-sown kale 6 and 7 feet tall.
- Follow instructions on your seed package.
To Grow Well Kale Likes …
- Organic compost or well composted manure in the soil
- Mulching – in spring with compost and in fall with straw or leaves to help plants winter over
- Both compost and mulch help keep kale’s shallow roots moist
Kale is such a nutrition packed, easy and fast growing vegetable, beneficial to bees, birds and humans ~ a wonderful addition to your garden. It is an abundant producer and a rewarding vegetable to include in your garden plot. There is still lots of time to plant before winter.
- Kale can be seeded indoors and transplanted to pots in spring or overwinter in a greenhouse
- When I run out of compost I fertilize monthly with fish fertilizer or a compost tea (from organic chicken manure)
- Kale does not seem to have a lot diseases in our garden although in early spring the slugs will eat the lower leaves.
- Later in the summer – white “cabbage” butterflies can be a pest
- Kale should not be grown in the same garden space each year
- Older kale leaves (at the base of the plant) can be stronger flavoured and tough. Fresh smaller leaves are best for salad
- New leaves form at the centre top of the plant
- Kale evidently freezes well for later use
- Research is being conducted into indole 3 carbinol to prevent and fight cancer especially breast and prostate
- To avoid overuse and interactions Indole 3 carbinol is best obtained from vegetables such as kale, and not a supplement
- For the most health benefits kale and other Brassica (cabbage, cauliflower, cabbage) should be eaten daily.
Links & References
- Indole 3 carbinol and cancer research
- Here is a site with information on canning kale
- Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale, 1959
- West Coast Organic Seeds is a good place to buy seeds in the Lower Mainland