Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Kale

Kale (Brassica oleracea) photo credit
Kale is a member of the cabbage or mustard family (Brassicaceae) like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens & brussel sprouts.  This family is commonly called the 'coles' by many gardeners (as in 'cole'slaw).  Amazingly all of these plants were derived from a species of wild cabbage.  Kale & collards are the most similar and thought to be the closest to the wild cabbage of all the domesticated varieties.

photo credit
Kale is grown both as an ornamental and as a vegetable.  It comes in shades of reds and greens and 'white'.  Many of the ornamental varieties combine the colors in one plant giving it a bi-or even tri- colored effect that is very eye catching.  Most ornamental varieties do not have very good flavor, but other varieties are grown for their culinary and nutritive value.  In fact, when it comes to nutrition, kale is a "powerhouse"!  It is packed with many of the basic vitamins and mineral required for a balanced diet.

Both ornamental and culinary kale are very cold tolerant and can be planted a couple of weeks before the last average spring frost and maintained late into the fall or early winter.  In fact, the National Gardening Association says "a few frosts will even improve (the) flavor" of culinary kale.  This tolerance provides for early and late season color in flower beds and garden produce in the kitchen and on the table.

Kale can be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the average last spring frost or directly seeded into the garden once the soil is warm.  Plant in a full to partly sunny location giving each plant 12-18 inches of space.  Mulch around the plant to maintain soil moisture.  Be sure the plants are watered with an equivalent to 1 inch of rain per week along with the rest of the garden.  Harvest individual leaves as soon as they are big enough to eat.  Keep in mind that the leaves will be the most tender in the spring and fall since the summer heat tends to toughen the leaves.

Happy Gardening! :)

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