How To Grow Kale

Plant Type: Annual
Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea Acephala
Light: Full sun
Soil Type: Loamy soil – good drainage
Soil Temperature: 40°+
ph Range: 6 – 7
Watering: Consistent moisture
Plant (Payson): April – May / Aug – September
Planting Method: Seed or Transplant
Germination (days): 4 – 7 days
Transplant: Recommended
Maturity: at lease 8″ tall
Common Pests: Cabbage worm, loopers, aphids
Common Diseases: Downey mildew, head rot


Kale is a member of the Brassica, cool season, vegetable family. Kale is a dark looking leafy green veggie, rich in Vitamins A and C, high in potassium, calcium and iron, and is a good source of fiber. Kale is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. While kale is generally thought of as a cold weather crop, it is fairly resilient and can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 °F (−7 °C) and as high as 80 °F (27 °C). Several varieties are available with different maturity times and heat tolerance so you can harvest Kale at different times of the year.  

Curly Kale/Dwarf Blue Curly Kale is sweet and mild and is one of the most commonly found Kale varieties. It is characterized by its curly, wrinkled leaves. The curly leaf variety is particularly temperature tolerant—both cold and hot.

Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale also has a wrinkled texture, tall, skinny leaves and flavor that is not as sweet and mild as the curly varieties. It has a long tradition in Italian cooking particularly in the Tuscany region.

Premier Kale is known for its cold hardiness and its ability to grow quickly. It is a slow bolting variety that prefers sun but can tolerate some shade. It can be recognized by its dark green color and smooth leaves with scalloped edges.

Siberian Kale is the hardiest variety that (as the name suggests) can withstand harsh cold temperatures and easily resist pests.

Red Russian Kale has impressive red twisting leaves. It is similar in its resilience to Siberian kale.

Redbor Kale is a dramatic deep purple and red kale, perfect for adding color to any dish. It has frilly curled leaves that can be distinguished from other varieties just by its deep maroon or red color. Try long simmering for a special treat.

Walking Stick Kale has a thick stalk that can grow up to six feet tall. The stalk can be used as a walking stick, thus the name.

Always choose a variety suited to our area. Check with you local nursery for selection and availability.

kale growing

Kale prefers a loamy soil with good drainage. Avoid areas where water may pool or flood. Till the soil to a depth of 10 inches and add manure or compost. Kale prefers soil with a pH between 6 and 7. To improve nutrient availability and prevent soil borne diseases do not plant kale in the same area of your garden that you have grown other cabbage related plants in the last two years.



When using starter plants transplant them into the garden as soon as the soil is workable. Transplant them 6 inches apart in rows spaced 6 to 12 inches apart. Wait until the kale plants are 6 inches tall before you begin to mulch to prevent getting moisture on the lower leaves and having them mold. Once the plants are well established you may mulch as needed both to keep the soil cool and retain moisture.

If planting in the fall choose an area that receives full sun for at least 6 hours a day. If planting in the spring or summer choose an area with partial sun. Spring and summer kale will do well in the shadow of taller plants.

Companion planting includes bush beans, beets, celery, cucumber, lettuce, onions and potatoes.


If you’re starting your seeds indoors plant them 5 to 7 weeks before the last frost. When sowing seeds directly into the soil, sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. For kale seeds to germinate, the soil temperature has to be at least 40 °F (4 °C). Mature kale plants will need 6 square inches per plant so thin seedlings accordingly—seedlings can be transplanted to other areas in your garden.                      .

kale planted in rows
kale seedling
kale seed
2013 13 July - Joe watering his elevated garden
kale weed


Careful mulching will help in maintain moisture content in the soil. Grass clippings and compost work well as mulch.

Kale prefers consistent moist soil that is not water logged or flooded.

If you amend your soil before planting, you may not have to add fertilizer unless your soil is nutrient-deficient. Kale particularly likes fish emulsion and compost tea. Fertilize every 6-8 weeks during the growing season.

Weed as necessary and mulch to prevent weeds from recurring.

Diseases include head rot and downy mildew.  Maintaining a soil pH of 6.8 or higher will discourage fungal and bacteria disease. Good air circulation and avoiding high humidity will help prevent downy mildew. Treat as soon as infestation becomes obvious and remove the plant if treatment is not successful. Do not compost diseased plants, place in dumpster for disposal. Remove and discard any discolored leaves to prevent attracting insects.

Cabbage worms and loopers (white and yellow butterflies), root maggots, aphids and Diamondback moths.


The plant should be at least eight inches tall before you begin to harvest the leaves. Remove outside leaves first from the bottom up—do not remove the center of the plant—this will disrupt its growth. If harvesting the entire plant cut the stem about two inches above the soil, this will allow the plant to continue to produce leaves. Don’t leave the leaves on the plant after they are ready for harvest or they will become tough, stringy and bitter. Be aware that each variety will mature at different rates.  


Kale can be steamed, braised, boiled, sautéed, baked, dehydrated, made in to kale chips for a healthy snack and is great in salads. Kale can be stored in the refrigerated for up to three weeks. Kale maintains its flavor best when frozen–freeze kale in air-tight freezer bags or containers.

Helpful Links

To aid in your gardening success, here are some useful, trusted links for more information on kale.

How To Mulch Your Garden | Types of Mulch - The Almanac

What Is Mulch | How To Use 8 Types in Your Garden - The Spruce

How To Mulch Your Garden In The Fall - The Spruce

Please remember Payson Community Garden is an organic garden. Some of these sites may contain recommendations for non-organic products. Please see this website or Plant Fair Nursery website for a list of recommended products
that meet the organic standards of Payson Community Garden.

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