Growing Kale: a Tower Gardener Favorite
Kale may be the latest darling of the health food world. But it’s actually been around awhile. Like, a pretty long while. In fact, the ancient Greeks reportedly cultivated the crop, which they “boiled and ate as a cure for drunkenness”—no comment on efficacy there.
But we will attest that kale is quite good for you, offering more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk and more potassium than a banana. And it’s pretty delicious. No wonder it’s a popular crop among Tower Gardeners!
Here’s our advice for growing your own kale.
Choosing a Variety
You have several varieties of kale to choose from, including these three:
- Curly kale is what you’re most likely to see at the supermarket. This blue-green variety has—go figure—curly leaves. The bigger these leaves grow, they more pungent and bitter they become.
- Lacinato kale, also known as Toscano or dinosaur kale, produces long, narrow, wrinkled leaves that are sweeter than those of curly kale.
- Red Russian kale has flat, reddish, oak tree-shaped leaves. This variety is one of the sweetest you can grow.
Growing Kale with Tower Garden
Like most members of the Brassica family, kale grows best as a cool season crop. In fact, light frosts enhance the vegetable’s flavor, transforming starches into natural sugar. It’s also a great choice if you’re growing an indoor garden.
To start growing kale, plant about 4 seeds per rock wool cube. (Need to buy seeds? Here are a few excellent providers.) Seeds should germinate within 1–2 weeks. And a couple of weeks later, your kale seedlings should be ready to transplant.
Tower Tip: For step-by-step instructions on starting seeds and transplanting seedlings, reference page 7 of the Tower Garden Growing Guide.
Preventing Pests and Diseases
Tower Garden reduces the risk of pests and plant diseases, and kale is naturally more resistant to them than most plants. So you’re unlikely to encounter problems. But you should still check for the following problems periodically:
- Aphids are small insects that typically feed on young plant growth, causing it to appear puckered or deformed.
- Cabbage loopers are green caterpillars that often feed on the underside of lower leaves.
- Flea beetles are small and vary in color from black to bronze to metallic gray. They feed on leaves, creating small, irregular holes. Excessive feeding can cause leaves to wilt.
- Downy mildew looks like fine white cotton or frosting and often infects lower plant leaves first. It can spread rapidly and kill plants in cool conditions.
Harvesting and Eating Kale
Depending on the variety and growing conditions, your kale may be ready to harvest in as little as one month’s time. When harvesting your kale, pick the bottommost leaves first, allowing at least 3–4 leaves to remain and keep growing. You should harvest often, as this will encourage continued growth (which ultimately means greater yields). Prune dead or diseased leaves as needed.
You can use kale much like you would spinach or another green. Smaller tender leaves are perfect for quick salads. But bigger leaves are best when cooked. Grab your free copy of the Tower Gardener Cookbook for more recipe inspiration!
What’s your favorite way to eat kale? Let us know in the comments below.
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