Kale and Collards …. leafy winter greens

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.

2 thoughts on “Kale and Collards …. leafy winter greens

  1. Megan says:

    Hello there
    Any idea what the little yellow pupae are in the underside of brassicas? I’m afraid they will grow up and munch my poor little seedlings! Some signs of munching. I’m new to this brassica pest problem. I have no baits down yet. If you have time, I’d love your thoughts .. …Megan

    • janet barker says:

      Hi Megan
      The cabbage moth butterfly (there’s a native ‘cabbage moth’ that is more greyer than white and a ‘cabbage white moth’ that is whiter, according to Penny Woodward – I reckon they’re both voracious whatever the appearance!)lays brightish dark green eggs on the underside of brassicas and then bright green caterpillars emerge, I’m not sure about yellow ones. I would try a spray of soapy water to start with and see if that works, or try some oil which might suffocate them (just use cheap cooking oil). The other thing we we have run out of, is to try diotomaceous earth which is actually tiny, sharp, bodies of fossilised diatoms (algae) that cut the soft bodies of the emerging pupae) A last resort would be pyrethrum probably? I wonder whether Bowerbird website would be able to ID them?

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