By Laura Miller
Greater sea kale (Crambe cordifolia) is an attractive, yet edible, landscaping plant. So exactly what is greater sea kale and does it come from the ocean, as the name would suggest? Click on the following article to learn more about this plant.
By Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Sea kale isn't anything like kelp or seaweed and you don't need to live near the seashore to grow sea kale. In fact, you can grow sea kale plants even if your region is completely landlocked. Read this article to learn more. Click here.
As soon as seedlings have sprouted at least 3 to 4 leaves, transplant them to their target location. Protect the cabbage seedlings if you need to plant before the month of May.
There are various types of pests that will attack your cabbages at all stages of life. Young ones are particularly vulnerable to snails and slugs. Older ones attract females of the large white, a butterfly that lays eggs on leaves for its caterpillars to feed on.
If you don’t have the space to grow kale in the garden, or you want to save yourself the hassle, you can grow it in a pot or other soil-appropriate container. The pot or container must have at least six square inches of space for the plant to grow in. Plant your seeds or starts in the center of the pot, following the same fertilization and depth suggested for garden planting (a good layer of compost, with seeds planted ½ inch deep). Make sure to move kale grown in containers into a partially shaded area when summer arrives.
Stage One: Finding the right spot and time to plant
Kale is a hardy biennial (it take two years to go to flower and complete its life-cycle), but it is usually grown as an annual.
1. If you’re planting during the cool season, find a spot where your kale will receive full sunshine. If you are planting during the warm season, or in a warmer climate, plant kale in partial shade. Kale enjoys companion plants such as beets, celery, herbs, onions and potatoes, but does not enjoy being planted near beans, strawberries or tomatoes.
2. Kale also prefers loamy, well-drained, moist (but not soggy) soil of average fertility. Surprisingly, it isn’t a fan of soil that is too rich in nitrogen, so it will do best with a pH between 5.5 to 6.8. If your soil is too acid, try adding some wood ash to sweeten it. Light, sandy soils and very heavy clay soils will “negatively”* affect the flavor of kale, but it still has the potential to grow in these environments.
3. Seeds will germinate in cool soil, but they sprout best when the soil temperature is around 70 degrees. If you’re starting them inside, then do so 5-7 weeks before the last expected frost. If you’re direct sowing the seeds outside, do so 2-4 weeks before the last frost and/or anytime at least 10 weeks before the first frost of the next season. No matter when you plant, the soil temperature must be at least 40 degrees or higher for good germination.
*The hotter the weather, the more bitter and tough the kale, but even bitter and tough kale is nutritious and can be made into delicious dishes.
Stage Two: Starting your seeds (Skip to stage 3 if you’re planting from pre-grown starts.)
Sow seeds in small pots filled with a mix of soil and veganic fertilizers/compost Place the seed at least ½ inch deep. Keep the soil around the seedling evenly moist throughout its growth, but allow the top layer of soil to dry between watering.
You can directly sow seeds in the garden starting 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date or as soon as the ground can be worked in the springtime.
A note on quantity: If you’re going to be using kale on a regular basis (and why wouldn’t you be?) you’ll want to have at least 3-4 plants per household member. It is also always a good idea to plant more seeds or buy more starts than you think you’ll need in case some of them don’t make it.
Stage 3: Preparing the bed and planting
Before planting, distribute a good amount* of vegan organic fertilizer over the area you will be using and work it into the soil. Depending on the potency of the fertilizer you are using, you may want to fertilize then cover the bed and allow it to weather for one to two weeks before planting. If you are using seasoned compost to fertilize, you should be able to simply fertilize then plant the next day. If you’re using a mulch to fertilize you can simply place it around the plants after they are in the ground.
If you are planting from starts (that you started 4-6 weeks ago or purchased), put them in the ground 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost date. But only do this if the starts are big enough to survive the weather (they will have at least four true leaves**and the next two leaves will be beginning to form. The plant will usually be approximately 3-4 inches high by this point.)
The recommended space for planting seedlings is 12 to 15 inches apart in rows 18 inches to 24 inches apart. The space for direct sowing is much closer (if you are direct sowing your kale seeds, plant them ½ inch deep and approximately 3 inches apart and then thin plants to 12 inches apart when they are 4 to 5 inches tall.)
No matter the shape of the stem, set the transplants perpendicular to the ground so they will grow straight up, and place them deep enough to support the plant, but no further than the base of their first leaves. I often plant my kale 12 to 15 inches apart and then stagger the rows or plant on a diagonal so I can shrink the space between rows. Experiment with what works best in your garden.
*A good amount of fertilizer depends on the type of fertilizer you are using. Follow the directions on the box if you’re using a veganic fertilizer mix. With compost and mulches, you usually want to go a couple of inches deep, while other amendments like seaweed powder or rock dust only require a good sprinkle.
**When a seed first emerges from the soil it has a set of two leaves called cotyledons. These are part of the seed and are its first food source. As the seedling grows, it forms two more leaves which look very different from the cotyledons. These are the first “true leaves” which look more like the plant’s adult leaves, but obviously smaller. Once the true leaves emerge, the cotyledons become unnecessary and eventually wither and fall off.
Stage 4: Care and harvesting
– Keep your plants well watered. Along with cool temperatures, kale also enjoys moist soil. Keeping the soil most will also help keep the leaves sweet and crisp.
– Side dressing (fertilizing along the rows) with compost throughout the growing season will help keep your kale producing. You can do this approximately every 6-8 weeks.
– If you’re having issues with dirt sticking to and rotting your kale leaves, you can put mulch (such as straw or grass) around the kale once it is at least six inches high.
Cutworms, cabbage loopers and cabbageworms enjoy munching on kale, but kale is relatively good at resisting disease. Giving your plants the nutrients they need and picking off any weathered leaves will help reduce insects found in your garden.
Kale is usually ready for harvest 70-95 days from seed and 55-75 days from transplanting, depending on the variety you are planting. Check the seed packet for specific times.
– You can begin to cut individual leaves off the kale when the plant is approximately 8 to 10 inches high, starting with the outside leaves first.
– If you decide to harvest the entire plant, cut the stock two inches above the soil and the plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks.
– Make sure to harvest kale leaves before they become too old and tough. If you can’t eat the kale leaves fast enough and they begin to turn brown, pull the old leaves off, and compost them, to free the plants of insect attractants and unnecessary energy drains.
– You can also pick kale regularly and store it in the fridge for up to a week. If you choose to do so, keep it lightly moist and place it in a bag, but unsealed, in the crisper bin.
Look out for my new post on the health benefits of kale and simple delicious ways to enjoy it everyday, coming soon!
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Seakale long predates Victorian times and was once very popular, however doesn't seem to be so widely available now. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental vegetable but is edible.
The blanched shoots, young flower heads and very young leaves can be eaten raw or the leaf midribs cooked and eaten like Asparagus forced Seakale is also a real delicacy.
It is best if picked and eaten, rather than stored.
As the name implies, these are often found growing near the sea on beaches, cliffs and rocks and are tolerant of both salt air and drought.
If you have an exposed area of the garden where little else will grow consider Seakale as it will happily colonise it and turn non-productive ground into productive ground.