It seems inevitable that I do a post or two about Kale in our Urban Potager each growing season. I remember about ten years ago going to the local Farmer Market on a weekly basis to purchase Kale. I needed to get there bright and early just as the market opened, for only a few vendors sold Kale. Once people started eating more Kale due to its popularity, Kale began flying off the vendors tables. Once you have had freshly grown Kale, you never want to purchase that stuff from the grocery store since it is always limp and tasteless. It usually comes from California, to be sold locally in our Midwestern stores. If you read about nutrition once you pick vegetables, their nutrient density declines the longer it travels or sits on the grocery shelf.
After coming home empty-handed several weekends, I looked out my door and thought; I can grow Kale, why don’t I? That was about ten years ago, and I am forever grateful that it took that experience to push me into growing my own Kale. I started adding Kale to my garden beds with flowers and herbs. I found it one of the easiest plants to grow and to this day don’t understand why more people don’t grow Kale outside their doors in containers, or garden beds. It is one plant everyone should be growing. There is a Kale for everyone, short, tall, red, curled, and too easy to grow that no one has an excuse not to grow their own Kale.
I only plant my Kale once a year in our Urban Potager. I start my plants in January around the time I start my pansies for I love to mix these two plants together in spring garden beds or containers. I have tried starting kale later in the season but due to our climate they never get large enough to provide for summer/fall/winter eating.
I have to enclose our Kale in the spring for our garden critters love to nibble the small plants to the ground. When I first started putting our Kale out in the backyard in the spring if I did not put fencing up, I would find an entire row eaten to the ground the next morning. I hate using chicken wire in the spring, but it seems like the best way to protect my seedlings from the little teeth of our resident critters.
I decided a few years ago to go with chicken wire instead of black nylon netting after some accidents happened in my garden. I admit it was getting to the point that I had to do something, so I had read that nylon netting would do the trick.I do get annoyed when the critters eat my seedlings, but I realize they are just doing what comes naturally to them; eating my food. I have learned over the years we have to share spaces with nature for one day, I found a poor chipmunk caught in one of my nettings. I unwrapped him, yep, I did and let him loose. He was the 3rd one I found that week, so I decided that I needed to find another solution. I tried the Chicken wire, and no one gets my food or loses their life!
I use to grow other brassica plants but found it easier just to grow the brassica plants that worked best in our mixed containers or garden beds. Kale has such lovely textured leaves with colors that range from purple to dusty green. I love how they look standing tall with cottage garden flowers and herbs. They just look so natural out there in the backyard (front yard if you don’t have deer in the city like we do) beds. If someone does not know that is a vegetable; they would just think it is a lovely plant. Who needs Hostas, when you can grow Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale. It has all the elements to create contrast in a flower bed.
I love Russian baby leaves in my early spring salads which means I may directly seed Russian kale in containers, for baby greens in my salads. What I love best about Kale is you can grow it in pots and your garden, but you have to make sure you select the proper height for your growing location. Some Kale can get quite large and last winter; I had some as tall as I am. They provided kale for us well into January but around late January, they start looking a bit ragged out there in the garden beds.
In late spring, I harvest some of my Kale and put it away from winter eating around this time of year. I just put it in a bit of boiling water for about 2 minutes then put it in a bowl of ice-cold water. I pack them up and place them in the freezer. In the fall, I harvest some more and freeze it for late winter or early spring eating. I have found Kale will handle our late fall crisp weather and early winter. Usually, you can harvest kale in the snow and just bring it inside to thaw out, and it works just fine.
I sure hope you stop purchasing kale and grow some of you own for there is no reason not to grow your Kale!