Vegetable Overview: Kale


Discover how to grow Kale with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.

Kale Stats at a Glance

Soil Type: Well-drained
Sun Exposure: Full sun/partial shade
Soil pH: 6.0-7.5

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Kale from Seed?

Kale performs well when directly seeded into the garden.

To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 70-75°F.  Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature.  Keep the soil moist.  When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a sunny location.


When to Start Seeds: >5-6 weeks prior to planting
Time to Germination: 4-7 days
Optimal Temp. for Germination: 68-86°F


When Do I Plant Kale?

Time your planting so that kale is planted in the cool weather and harvested before the warm weather hits.  Kale takes an average of 55 days to mature.

Seeds can be sown directly into the garden in early spring or late fall as long as the soil temperature is at least 40°F.

The quality of kale benefits from a light frost.  Late summer plantings for a late fall harvest are usually the most successful.

Transplants can be set out 4-6 weeks prior to last frost.

Soil Temperature: 40-85°F


Where Do I Plant Kale?

Kale plants perform best in loamy, well-drained soil high in organic matter but will grow in nearly any good garden soil that receives full sun and is well-drained with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. Incorporating several inches of organic matter into the soil when preparing the bed will improve growth and development.

Kale prefers cool weather. Requires full sun during cool weather but benefits from partial shade in high temperatures.

Soil Type: Well-drained
Sun Exposure: Full sun/partial shade
Soil pH: 6.0-7.5


How Far Apart Do I Plant Kale?

Plant seeds ¼” deep a few inches apart in rows that are 2 feet apart.  When seedlings emerge and have 4-5 sets of leaves, thin to 12-18” apart.

Transplants should be planted 12-18” apart in rows that are at least 2 feet apart.

Kale Plant Care and Maintenance

How Often Should I Water Kale?

The key to watering Kale is to maintain a consistent moisture level.  This is especially important during development. The soil should be moist to a depth of 6”.

Water the soil around the plant. Overhead watering will encourage disease.  Drip irrigation is best.

Mulch around the plant will help to lock in moisture.


Should I Fertilize Kale?

Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained, Kale generally performs well with a 10-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil prior to planting.  Fertilize again with a nitrogen fertilizer four weeks after thinning or transplanting.

Fertilize the soil around the plant at least 6” from the plant base. Irrigate into the soil.


Additional Care Instructions

Hand pull weeds that development in the garden as more aggressive cultivation could harm the plant roots.

At the end of the season, remove all spent plants from the garden to discourage mildew.

Kale Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include alternaria, black leg, black rot, and clubroot.

Kale Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage root maggots, cutworms, flea beetles, nematodes, and slugs and snails.

Harvesting and Storing Kale

When Do I Harvest Kale?

Kale should be harvested when small and tender about 5-6” tall.


How Do I Harvest Kale?

Harvest the oldest, outermost leaves first by cutting the leave all the way to the bottom of the stalk.


How Do I Store Kale?

Stored at 32°F with 95% humidity, kale will last several weeks.


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