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Kale......Cold Weather Gardening

Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think gardens, but perhaps it should be!

Brassica oleraca, as it is formally called, is generally considered to be an annual, and is a valuable addition to your diet. It is high in fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

The young leaves are a great addition to salads, while the older ones are good cooked as greens, like spinach. It can also be dried and added to dishes such as soups or stews. When you harvest, cut away the larger, out leaves, and allow the inner leaves will continue to grow, so you have a longer harvest period…

Another benefit of this plant is it blooms early in the spring and, if not exposed to heavy frost or snow, has a long seasons. In fact, in mild winters It just might make it through the winter. The hardiness zone are officially zones 7 through 9. The plant is originally from southern and western Europe.

When growing Kale, you can either grow it in the garden, or in container,, as long as the pot has a 12 inch or greater diameter, and is filled with a well-draining potting mix…the other option is a raised garden that allows for good drainage.

If you wish to start it indoors, you should start your seeds about 6 weeks before the last frost…in Rhode Island that is about May 15th, give or take 2 weeks. You want to put the seeds about ½ inch below the surface, and keep them moist. They should germinate in about 5 to 8 days. You can then transplant after danger of frost is passed.

If direct seeding, you can plant them as soon as soil temperatures reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are in a warm climate, you can plant them every 2 to 3 weeks for succession planting (starting inside or out), and into the late summer and fall.

When planting, you want to allow 16 inches between plants.

Keep your soil evenly moist, and mix compost or high nitrogen vegetable fertilizer into the 3 to 4 inches of soil. A seaweed emulsion is a great way to boost growth as well.

Companion plants are celery, cucumbers, herbs, onions, spinach, chard, and potatoes. Do not plant with beans, strawberries, or tomatoes.

You can expect to be harvesting about 55 days after direct seeding, and 30 to 40 days after transplanting.

The leaves and can be refrigerated for about 1 to 2 weeks if keep moist (but not in a sealed container). In hotter weather the leaves will be more bitter, but after a frost they will be sweetened.

Kale, like other members of the cabbage family, is susceptible to rot diseases such as black rot and club root. Aphids, cabbage loopes, cabbage worms, cutworms, flea beetles, slugs….are all possibilities, so allow ample space between plants.

There are a several options for kale, and those with Curly leaves will usually last longer into winter, while those with flat leaves will tend to get established faster…. Keep this in mind when selecting your seeds, and consider planting different varieties..

What a great way to step up your returns.

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