Friday, March 1, 2013

Weekend Gardening: Kale

   Grown year round here on my little home farm, kale is nutrient dense and wonderfully versatile. This member of the 'wild cabbage' family has frilly leaves we harvest from the bottom up to keep the leaves producing as long as possible. When intense summer heat makes them tough and less sweet, plantings are made in the shade or window box for baby green or micro green harvesting.
    In my garden, kale is direct seeded in long rows strategically located where taller summer crops such as tomato will later provide it with a bit of relief from the sun. I never bother with 'spacing' the plants the suggested eighteen inches since cuttings are taken the minute leaves are the size of a silver dollar. The constant picking keeps plants producing tender, young leaves without the plant getting over sized. Sauteed, in soup or blended in a smoothie kale provides a hearty source of nutrients and a great source of natural energy.

The bare facts:

     Direct seed in well drained soil between January 1 and March 1. (Temps ranging from 40 to 70)
     Small plot succession planting recommended.
     Common Southern Varieties:
     Red Russian
     Nero di Toscana
     Dwarf Blue curled

 My personal seed resource favorites are Producer's Co-op, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

 If you intend to save seed, be sure to plant open pollinated/heirloom varieties allowing the strong plants to develop their flower head. Once ripe seed pots are present, gather them in paper bags crushing gently to release the seed. Store seeds in a cool dry place for up to a year. Often kale or collards will direct reseed themselves right in the garden.

 Now, let's get growing!

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