Family: Brassicaceae

Countries: England, Europe, France, Scotland, Spain, United Kingdom, Wales

Kale (also known by the botanical name Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) is an absolutely wonderful vegetable to grow and eat!  This is a decorative, and I think, a very beautiful plant; there are a wide range of kale varieties that gardeners can grow from seeds.  Not all kales are the same; we can sow seeds that will develop into kale plants that display a range of leaf shapes and textures, produce a selection of contrasting, yet attractively coloured leaves, as well as plants that deliver subtle differences in flavour.

There isn’t usually as wide a selection to choose from when it comes to buying vegetable plants, but gardeners may have the chance to purchase young kale plants from local nurseries, garden centres, and allotments.

This is a productive vegetable with a long harvest period.  In the UK, we generally sow kale seeds from the beginning of March until the start of June (early spring until early summer); although some varieties of kale can be sown from March until August (early spring until late summer) – it all depends on the variety, the time of year, and the growing conditions you’re offering, so check your seed packet or ask your supplier for details.

Kale thrives in sunny and partially shaded positions, in moist but well drained soils.  I find that kale is a particularly useful vegetable that enhances a wide range of dishes.  I usually harvest my first kale in August or September; however, kale has an incredibly long harvest period and plants can be productive for a surprisingly long time; cropping from the start of autumn until mid spring, and beyond!  This is a hardy vegetable, whose flavour improves after frosty nights and periods of cold weather.

Like other vegetables, kale thrives when grown in garden soil and peat-free composts.

Kale can be troubled by a variety of pests, including: pigeons, cabbage root fly, and caterpillars.  These pests doesn’t need to be a problem though, simply cover your kale with a sturdy and resilient netting with small enough holes that will prevent the cabbage white butterflies from getting to your plants.  When protecting your kale plants, do remember that cabbage white butterflies are very resourceful and if your net is actually close to touching your plant’s leaves, then a cabbage white butterfly will happily rest on your netting and lay its eggs through the openings.

For best results, build a simple reusable frame that can sit over and above your plants.  If you can secure the netting, so that it’s held tight to your framework, then you’ll avoid problems with birds getting caught in the net, which can sometimes happen when a net is draped over a plant.

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