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Kale is one of the easiest vegetable crops to grow, providing a continuous supply of leafy greens during the cooler months with minimal effort. Known for its resilience and ability to grow in various climates, kale has many health benefits and is a fantastic addition to any garden.

As a cool-season crop, kale planted in the spring can be harvested from fall all the way through the following spring. With proper preparation and care, you can enjoy fresh, home-grown kale year-round.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing kale successfully, from seed selection to harvesting.

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Seed Selection

It’s best to select kale varieties based on your local climate and taste preferences for the best results. Popular varieties include:

  • Curly Kale (Dwarf Blue Curled): Hardy and versatile, great for salads and smoothies.
  • Lacinato Kale (Dinosaur Kale): Known for its bumpy, dark green leaves and slightly sweeter taste.
  • Red Russian Kale: Features purple stems and flat, serrated leaves with a tender texture.

Where to Grow Kale

huge cabbage in a raised bed box garden in the backyard with kale and peppers at daytime sunlight
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Kale is an outdoor vegetable crop that is highly tolerant of cold temperatures. It can be grown directly in the ground, in garden raised beds, or in large containers. In cooler climates, it is best grown in full sun, while in hotter areas, it benefits from some shade to prevent premature bolting.

Kale has a long growing season and, once planted out, will not cope well with being moved. Its extensive root system enables it to access water and nutrients deep in the soil.

If possible, avoid growing kale where other brassica crops, such as cabbages, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, were grown the previous season. Brassicas are susceptible to soil-borne diseases. These pathogens can persist in the soil after the crop is harvested and infect subsequent brassica plantings. Rotating to a non-brassica crop helps break the disease cycle.

In addition, high humidity levels can cause fungal and bacterial diseases in kale, so ensure your chosen growing spot is well-ventilated.

Related: 16 Common Tomato Plant Diseases That Can Wreak Havoc On Your Crop

Sowing Kale Seeds

Kale seeds can be started indoors in early spring or directly sown outdoors in late spring when soil temperatures are warm enough. The seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 40F (4C), but warmer temperatures result in faster sprouting and higher germination rates.

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To sow kale seeds indoors, use pots or containers with good drainage. Sow seeds about 1/4 inch deep in a good-quality organic seed-starting mix.

Maintain a temperature range of 60-70F (15-21C) and moderate humidity levels until germination occurs, then move the seedlings to a sunny window that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. When seedlings have 3-4 true leaves and are about 4-6 inches tall, harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions before transplanting them into larger pots or the garden.


When directly sowing kale seeds outdoors, prepare a well-draining seed bed rich in organic matter. Choose a location with full sun to partial shade, and use row covers to stop birds and insects from eating the seeds.

Sow kale seeds 1/4 inch deep, spacing them 6 inches apart in rows spaced 18-24 inches apart.

Once the seedlings are 3 inches tall, thin them to the recommended 12-18 inches spacing by removing the weaker plants.


During dry periods, kale plants should be watered regularly to moisten the soil but not waterlogged. Generally, this means watering 1-2 times per week, depending on weather conditions.

Always water kale at the base of the plants to avoid wetting the leaves, which can lead to fungal diseases. A thick layer of compost mulch around the plants can help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and boost essential nutrients.

How to Water Your Garden The Right Way

How to Harvest Kale

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The joy of kale is that the leaves can be harvested as and when required, providing you with a steady supply of leafy greens for several months. You can begin to harvest kale as soon as the outer leaves are large enough to eat, leaving the smaller leaves behind to continue growing.

Most kale plants grow on a single stem, although you may also get multi-stemmed varieties. On each stem, the lowest leaves will be the largest, and these are the ones you should pick. If they’ve become oversized, they can be quite tough, so aim to harvest the leaves when they are no larger than the size of your hand.

To harvest kale, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the larger leaves away from the main stem. Take care not to damage the delicate new growth – this should be left to form your next harvest. Oversized leaves can be removed and composted.

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