Kale (Brassica oleracea).

No photos. Coming soon in the kale growing posts, I hope.

It seems that kale has reached cult status these days. I’m way out of touch with all the ways to ingest massive amounts of kale. I believe in moderation. However, I am interested in figuring out how to grow it and to use it in cooking.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog says fertile, well-drained soil with high organic content. Ideal pH 6.0 to 7.5. In Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman suggests incorporating leaf mold into the soil in the fall. As I mentioned in the post Carrots, he recommends leaf mold for carrots as well. I’m already too late for that this year. I will make a note for this fall to figure out which raised beds will be used for carrots and kale next year and add leaves or leaf mold accordingly. Johnny’s recommends consistent moisture, so planting kale close to the carrots will facilitate daily watering of both.

For me, the biggest problem with kale is keeping those fluttery little cabbage butterflies away from the plants. Otherwise, cabbageworms or loopers ruin my appetite for kale in a big way. For this, I plan to use bed covers over the kale starting the minute I plant it.

So, I will direct seed in early spring, sometime in April, depending on the weather, and use bed covers. Keep moist. Plant again in July for a fall crop. Coleman insists that kale is wonderful for wintering over, even without protection in Maine. That’s impressive. I may not have the best varieties this season for wintering over. First of all, I want to solve the cabbageworm problem. Then, I’ll decide about the winter harvest. That’s my kale plan.

I have 2 varieties of kale, each chosen for looks and edibility more than extended harvests. Both organic seeds.

I don’t much like curly kale–my main reason for the kale choices this year.

Toscano. Italian heirloom kale. Also called dinosaur kale. Extra-dark green savoyed leaves. Tender, softer-textured leaves. Tolerant of hot and cold weather. All this according to Johnny’s catalog. Use Toscano for early spring and July plantings. 30 days from direct seeding to baby leaves. 65 days from direct seeding to mature leaves.

Red Russian (Brassica napus pabularia). Flat, toothed, dark-green leaves with purple stems and veins. Tender leaves. Use Red Russian for spring planting only. 25 days from direct seeding to baby leaves. 50 days from direct seeding to mature leaves.

I will take particular care this season to keep the kale covered at all times and to water consistently. This fall, I will choose a kale site for next year and treat it to a liberal helping of leaves or leaf mold, whichever I have on hand. That’s the plan.

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