Kale is much more accommodating than other brassicas like cabbages, cauliflowers, and Brussels sprouts, and it will grow in nearly all soils provided the drainage is adequate. Pick a reasonably sunny spot, and use an area which has recently been vacated by peas, early potatoes or other early summer crops. There’s no need to dig – just consolidate the ground by walking on it, removing weeds and raking in a general fertiliser. The ground should not be loose or spongy at planting time.
May (plant out in June/July)
Hoe regularly and tread firmly around the stems to prevent them from rocking in the wind, and water young plants in dry weather. Pick off yellowing leaves. As autumn approaches, earth up around the stems to protect the roots from frost and wind rock. If your garden is exposed, staking tall varieties is also a good idea. Kale plants look very sorry for themselves in winter, but they’ll recover in early spring, and put on a fresh crop of side shoots. Feed with a liquid fertiliser in March to encourage growth.
There’s actually more skill involved in harvesting kale than growing it. You can harvest your crop from the beginning of November, starting at the crown of each plant, removing just a few young leaves every time you pick. Use a sharp knife or sharp downward tug, and don’t gather mature or yellowing leaves for kitchen use. Stripping the crown of the plant will stimulate the development of succulent side shoots. Harvest these between February and May from all varieties, breaking them off or using a sharp knife when they’re about 4-5” long.