Kale is a much undervalued crop, with high nutritional value and robust nature. It is also a biennial, so will live long in the garden (I’ve had it growing as a perennial though after a few years production drops so it’s worthwhile planting new stock). A member of the brassica family that includes collard, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, turnip, swede, cauliflower, kholrabi and chinese greens (tat soi, bok choi, etc) it grows well in Newstead and can stand a decent frost. The larger varieties take up a fair bit of garden space but they all have ornamental value as well, especially for borders and bedding displays.
True kales – scotch, sea, russian – have dark leaves with heavily fringed edges. Collards are generally lighter in color, have smoother leaves and milder to taste, they also can withstand the heat a bit better.
Autumn – Sow or plant as seeds or seedlings (into well dug soil which has been composted amnd limed) in early autumn for winter and spring crop. Thin to eventually have 30-40cm between plants. Feed with worm juice every few weeks. Weed.
Winter – Harvest. Regular harvesting encourages continued production of young leaves. Use a sharp knife and cut at the base of the stalk; harvest from several plants at a time.
Spring – Sow or plant as seeds or seedlings in spring for cropping through to autumn and winter. Thin to eventually have 30-40cm between plants. Water well and feed with seaweed or worm juice every few weeks. Weed and mulch.
Summer – Continue weeding and watering. Mulch well as they don’t like very hot conditions.
Generally – Consider the large number of brassicas and plan crop rotations accordingly. Like all the brassicas, kale can suffer from a host of pest and disease problems, though they seem more resistant to cabbage moth butterfly attack. Slugs, snails, aphids are all feeders. Consider garlic or soap sprays, baiting, copper tape, planting strongly aromatic herbs or companions of onions, spuds, beetroot. Avoid straw mulch in autumn and winter. If saving seed make sure there are no other brassicas flowering at the same time, or exclude plants to be saved and introduce pollinators.
Eating – Younger leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, even the older leaves sliced thinly or shredded taste lovely and give a lovely ‘bite’. Apparently the colder the winter the better the taste (like brussel sprouts they taste better for being frosted) Cook and use as per spinach or silverbeet for a nice change. Stir fired with garlic.