Pender Gardener: Versatile kale an easy-to-grow vegetable

Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 01:14 PM.

There are two different methods of growing kale depending on how you plan to use the leaves. If you want young baby leaves for salads or juicing you will need to sow a new batch of seed every two to four weeks and harvest when the plants reach four to six inches tall. You can grow kale for baby leaves all year round, but you will notice a distinct difference in the taste of plants grown in warm weather versus those grown in cool weather. This is because frost changes the flavor of kale by increasing the sugar content of the leaves, making their flavor sweeter and richer.

Baby kale can be grown in the garden or in containers of potting soil. Depending on how much of a neat freak you are, you can either carefully sow seed every half inch in shallow furrows spaced three to four inches apart, or simply scatter them across the bed or container and cover them lightly with soil. Check the soil every day to make sure the seed bed is kept moist but there is no need to fertilize until the plants come up. Kale started in the summer months will greatly benefit from afternoon shade.

To grow kale plants for your winter garden, sow seed in early to mid August the same as you would for baby leaves. When seedlings reach two to three inches in height, transplant them into small containers of potting soil. Set young plants out in the garden in early September and begin harvesting leaves after the first frost.

Learn more at free workshop!

Other vegetable seeds that can be started in August for a fall garden include broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, spinach, parsley, cilantro and lettuce. Learn how to grow fall vegetables from seed and get hands on experience sowing seed and transplanting seedlings at a free workshop offered by Pender County Cooperative Extension and sponsored by the Pender County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association. The workshop will be held Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Pender Extension office in Burgaw and again Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to noon at Wesleyan Chapel United Methodist Church in Hampstead. Registration is required by Aug. 12. Call 910-259-1235 to register, or visit to register online.

  Charlotte Glen is the horticulture agent with the Pender County Cooperative Extension of N.C. State University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached by e-mail at

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