How to Grow Kale from Seed to Harvest
You consider growing kale at home? Great! It is quite a lot of fun and also fairly simple if you follow all the steps outlined in this article.
In fact, I show you in detail how to grow kale from seed to harvest in a step-by-step approach.
Moreover, I also provide you with some important general information at the end of this article.
I also included some videos from other gardeners to make this article even more comprehensive for you. Enough talk, let’s get right into it! 😉
Table of Contents
Kale Plant Profile
|Size||Around 2 feet tall and 1 – 2 feet wide.|
|Climate||Kale prefers rather cool climatic zones with an optimal temperature between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Sun Exposure||Even though kale likes cool climatic conditions, it still likes the sun and you should provide your kale plants with as much direct sunlight as possible.|
|Soil Requirements||Kale grows best with rather neutral soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.|
|Country of Origin||Greece.|
|Growing Difficulty||Easy – Intermediate. Growing kale is not that difficult. Yet, you should still read all the tips and tricks in this grower’s guide to grow your kale plants in the best possible manner and to maximize your yield.|
|Perennial?||While some kale varieties are perennial, most kale plants are harvested within the first growing year.|
|When should you start?||You should start growing kale indoors around one month before you expect the last frost of spring. If you want to start outdoors, you should wait until 1 – 2 weeks before you expect the last spring freeze.|
|Expected Yield & Harvest||You can harvest one kale head per plant and it will take 2 to 3 months to grow kale from seed to harvest.|
|What to do with it?||You can use kale for many different salads or also for stews and soups.|
What Types and Varieties of Kale can you grow?
There are many different kale varieties you can grow at home. I listed the most popular ones for you below:
- Scarlett kale
- Tronchuda kale
- Lacinato kale
- Abundance kale
- Red Russian kale
- Walking Stick kale
- Winter Red kale
- Siberian kale
While I like growing Scarlett kale most due to its impressive color, the decent yields and the good taste, I often grow a few different kale varieties.
It is generally much more interesting to grow more than one variety since you will be able to grow kale in many different shapes and colors.
Especially if you have never grown kale before, I would suggest you also pick a few different kale varieties so that you can decide for yourself which ones you like best.
Once you figured this out, you can grow your favorite kale varieties in future years and can stop growing kale varieties you don’t like at all.
When should you start to grow Kale?
The best time to start growing kale at home is usually between mid of March and mid of May.
However, this also greatly depends on whether you want to grow kale seedlings inside your home or if you want to plant your kale seeds straight into your garden.
If you want to start indoors, you can start earlier in the year than outdoors since your plants will not be exposed to the cold.
I personally prefer to grow kale seedlings indoors before planting them outside since it gives me an opportunity to start earlier with my kale growing project and makes it more likely that more kale seedlings survive.
When you can start with growing kale also depends on your climatic zone.
In general, you should start with your kale growing project around one month before the last freeze is expected in your region.
While you could also grow kale in later summer to autumn, I personally prefer to start growing it in spring.
How long does it take to grow Kale from Seed to Harvest?
It will take between 60 and 80 days to grow kale from seed to harvest. If you started from seedlings, it would only take you between 40 to 50 days.
Please note that this is just a rough estimate. In fact, there are many factors influencing the growing time for kale.
For instance, if you provide optimal growing conditions and are also an experienced gardener, your chances will be much better to grow kale in a rather short period of time compared to someone who just starts out and hasn’t grown kale before.
Thus, if you are still a beginner in gardening, don’t expect too much in your first year. Just enjoy the ride and don’t worry about if it takes you a little bit longer.
In fact, for me, it doesn’t matter if it takes one week more or less to grow kale from seed to harvest.
Just love every day of your growing project and you will be just fine.
What is the best Climate to grow Kale?
Kale grows best in moderate to cool climatic zones. In fact, kale doesn’t like the heat and that is also the reason why you should start your kale growing project pretty early in the year.
Hot weather can even turn kale bitter and if you don’t want to have this bitter taste, make sure to start growing it in early spring so that it will be ready until the hot summer days arrive.
What Temperatures does Kale like?
The optimal temperature to grow kale is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
The optimal nighttime temperature for growing kale is between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, please note that we are talking about optimal conditions here.
We all know that life is not perfect and if you can’t provide those optimal conditions, you will still be able to grow kale as long as you don’t live in too extreme climatic conditions.
It might just take you a little bit longer to do so and your yields might be slightly smaller.
What do you need to grow Kale?
Although growing kale at home is not difficult, there are still some things you need to make your growing experience as enjoyable as possible. This includes
- Growing bed (to grow your kale seedlings, only necessary if you don’t grow your kale directly outside)
- Flower pots (only necessary if you don’t have a garden to grow your kale)
- Kale seeds
- Fertilizer (you can also make your own organic fertilizer for which I give you the instructions below)
- Potting soil
- Slug fence
- Watering can
- Garden shovel
- Garden lime (optional)
- Compost (optional)
- Passion and patience for growing kale 😉
What Yield can you expect when you grow Kale?
You can only expect one kale head per plant. However, this is not a problem at all since kale heads can get quite big and often contain a high number of leaves.
Hence, even though you will only be able to harvest one kale head per plant, the weight of your yield will still be significant. This is especially true if you grow many kale plants in a big garden.
What Plants should you grow next to Kale?
If you want to learn more about what plants to grow with kale, make sure to check out my article regarding the best and worst kale companion plants.
Why should you grow your own Kale?
While it will be more work and probably also more expensive to grow kale at home instead of just getting it from your local store, there are still many advantages to growing your own kale.
I personally just love the growing experience. For me, growing kale and other plants is just a really nice hobby and I enjoy it quite a lot.
There would be something missing in my life without growing plants at home.
Moreover, growing my own plants is not just a hobby for me, it also gives me a feeling of peace and it can slow down our hectic world quite a lot.
In fact, if you are currently stressed from your daily life and just need a break, growing kale and other vegetables in your garden can be a great way to reduce your stress level, which in turn could greatly improve your overall quality of life.
Growing your own kale can also reconnect you with nature.
It was quite normal for our ancestors to grow their own kale and other vegetables and fruits at home.
Yet, in our modern society, we completely unlearned to do so.
By growing kale in your garden or on your balcony, you can get back to the roots.
Additionally, chances are that you will also value your food much more if you have grown it by yourself.
In fact, if you just get kale from the store for a rather cheap price, chances are that you will not value it too much.
However, if you have put in all the work that is required to produce your own kale at home, chances are that you will value it much more and that you will become more aware of reducing your food waste.
Finally, growing kale at home can also have positive effects on your health.
While kale from the store is often contaminated with harmful substances from pesticides and herbicides, you can grow your kale at home in a fully organic manner, which will be quite beneficial for your health in the long run.
As you can see, there are numerous advantages from growing your own kale, even though it might be more effort and may also not make too much sense from a financial perspective.
Growing Kale: Step-by-Step
1. Select a Site for your Kale
Before you can start your actual kale growing project, you first have to do some planning.
The first important thing you have to figure out is the optimal site for your kale plants in your garden or on your balcony.
Does Kale like Sun or Shade?
While kale grows best in full sun, it will also grow in a decent manner in half-shady environments.
Always remember that we are talking about optimal conditions here.
Many of us will not have the opportunity to provide our kale plants will full sun all day long.
Hence, just do the best you can and plant your kale in the sunniest spot at your home and you are good to go.
What are the Soil Requirements of Kale?
Kale grows best in environments with a soil pH of 6.5 to 7. This means that the soil should be slightly acidic.
If you are not sure whether the soil in your garden meets those conditions, you can use a pH test kit for it.
However, I don’t recommend that you take this effort.
Instead, I just recommend you buy some potting soil from your local garden center, mix it with the soil from your garden and add some compost or also some garden lime.
Even if you are a little bit off from the optimal soil pH range, your kale plants will still grow in a decent manner and you should not worry too much about it.
Moreover, your soil should be well-drained to avoid water pooling, which could cause your kale roots to rot.
How much Space do Kale Plants need?
You should plan around 2 square feet of space for each kale plant.
Kale is planted best in rows and I suggest you plan around 1 foot of space between each plant in the same row and around 2 feet of space between each row so that your kale plants can grow in an optimal manner and don’t have to compete for sunlight and nutrients with each other.
Of course, if you have more than enough space in your garden, you can also provide your kale with more space. In fact, the more space your kale plants get, the better they will grow.
Should you plant Kale in a Pot or in your Garden?
While both options are possible, I recommend you grow kale in your garden instead of using pots.
It is simply much easier to plant kale in rows in your garden and to use the space as efficiently as possible.
Moreover, your kale plants will also have more soil and will also grow under more natural conditions.
However, if you just don’t have a garden, you have no other choice than to grow kale on your balcony in pots.
Just make sure that the pots you use are big enough so that your kale plants will have sufficient soil and space to develop in a healthy manner.
2. Plant Kale Seeds
Now that you know where you want to grow your kale, it is time to get into the seeding process.
Should you buy Kale Seeds or Seedlings?
While you could just buy kale seedlings from your garden center or from an internet vendor, I would not recommend you to do so.
Instead, I suggest you grow your own seedlings instead of just buying them from a store.
The reason for this is that only if you grow your own seedlings, you will get the full kale growing experience.
Especially if you have never grown kale from seed to harvest, it is crucial that you take all steps so that you really understand how the growth process of plants really works.
Hence, I am a firm believer in growing your own seedlings since only then will your growing experience be complete. And growing kale seedlings is not difficult at all.
In fact, I show you how to do it step-by-step in the following chapters.
Should you buy Kale Seeds or produce Seeds by yourself?
Since you can’t save kale seeds from the crop from the store like it would be possible for tomatoes and other plants, you will simply have no choice other than just to get your kale seeds from a seed company or from your garden center.
Of course, during your kale growing project, you will be able to save kale seeds and to use them for many years to come.
However, if you have never grown kale before, just get seeds from a seed company and you are good to go.
How to plant Kale Seeds
After getting your kale seeds from the store, you are now ready for the actual kale seeding process.
If you want to grow your kale seedlings indoors before transplanting them outdoors later on in the year as I would recommend you to do, just fill your kale growing bed with potting soil from the store and place the kale seeds onto the soil.
Make sure to leave at least 3 feet of space between each seed so that your kale seedlings will have sufficient space to grow in a healthy manner.
Also make sure that you plant more seeds than you want to get seedlings. In fact, for kale, I recommend you to plant 2 seeds for every seedling you want to get.
Since some seeds will just not germinate, it is a good idea to have some backups so that you will likely reach your goal to produce a certain number of kale seedlings.
After you placed all your seeds onto the soil in your growing bed, it is time to cover those seeds with a soil layer of around 1 inch in height.
Place your growing bed in a bright spot inside your home. Finally, water your growing bed and wait until you will see the first results.
Alternatively, you could also plant your kale seeds straight outdoors into your garden.
If you want to do so, you don’t need to grow your seedlings in the growing bed and can skip this step.
However, before planting your seedlings directly outdoors, make sure that there will be no freeze anymore so that your seedlings will not die off due to the cold.
How long does it take to see the first Kale Seedlings?
It will take between one and two weeks until you will see the first kale seedlings reaching the soil surface.
Please note that this doesn’t mean that all kale seedlings will become visible to you after just two weeks.
In fact, it can take several weeks or even up to one month until you should no longer expect any new seedlings reaching the soil surface.
Hence, just be patient and wait until one month is over. Now that you waited long enough, you should have produced enough kale seedlings.
If not, you might want to plant more kale seeds.
How to protect your Kale Seedlings indoors
As long as your kale seedlings stay indoors in your growing bed, you will not need to protect them at all.
In fact, snails and other animals will not have any access to your kale seedlings inside your four walls and your kale seedlings will be pretty safe there.
However, if you have pets, make sure that you place your growing bed at a spot in your home where your pets will not be able to reach it.
When should you transplant your Kale Seedlings?
After a certain period of time, your kale seedlings should have gotten bigger and stronger. Sooner or later, it will be time to transplant them outdoors. But when is the right time to do so?
I have two main criteria that have to be met before I decide to transplant my kale seedlings outdoors. The first criterion refers to the outside temperatures.
I wait with transplanting my kale until outside temperatures no longer drop below the freezing mark since kale seedlings are rather sensitive to the cold and if you transplant them outside too early, they may simply die off due to freeze.
If the temperature criterion is met, you should also make sure that your kale seedlings have a minimum size before transplanting them outdoors.
In fact, I would not transplant my seedlings outdoors until they reach a height of at least 5 inches.
If both criteria are met, it’s time to prepare your growing site.
I advise you to plant kale in rows. For that, just dig one hole for each kale plant into your garden.
Make sure that each hole is around one square foot in size, one foot deep and that each row has around 2 feet space to the next row one so that your kale plants can grow in an optimal manner.
After digging those holes, just fill them with a mix of potting soil, the soil from your garden and you may also want to add some compost and garden lime.
After filling those holes with the soil mix, just transplant each kale seedling onto one spot. Water your kale seedlings and you are done.
Alternatively, if you want to grow kale in pots, fill your pots with potting soil, add some garden lime and transplant your seedlings there.
What kind of Protection do Kale Seedlings need outdoor?
Since your kale seedlings are no longer protected from snails and other animals like they were inside your four walls, it is time to provide your kale seedlings with additional protective measures.
While you could just use some chemical substances to keep away snails, those substances will often not work for other animals and your kale seedlings would not be protected in a proper manner.
Moreover, those chemical substances are quite harmful to our environment and can also damage your soil in the long run.
Hence, instead of using chemical measures to protect your kale, make sure that you rely on slug fences instead.
Slug fences are much eco-friendlier and also work better since they will not only deter slugs, but will often also deter other animals who will try to feed on your kale seedlings.
3. The Kale Growth Process
After you transplanted your kale seedlings outdoors, you already made it through the hardest part of your growing experience. If you got to this point, congratulations!
From now on, your seedlings will become stronger every day and you will not have to do too much manual work anymore.
However, there are still some things to consider for the remaining growth period which I discuss in the following.
Should you prune your Kale?
No, there is no need for pruning your kale. In fact, you will harvest the plant material itself and if you prune your kale, you will just lower your overall yield.
Hence, pruning does not make any sense when it comes to growing kale.
Do you have to pollinate your Kale Plants by Hand?
No, you also don’t have to pollinate your kale plants by hand. In fact, you just have to let them grow and let nature do its work.
Should you stake your Kale?
Since kale will stay rather compact and small, there is no actual need to stake your kale plants.
You will also not need to take additional stabilization measures for your kale plants since they will anchor their roots deep into the ground and will be able to protect against heavy winds due to that.
Hence, no manual action is required from you in this regard.
4. The Kale Harvest
I hope you closely followed all of the steps and tips I provided you in the past chapters.
If so, you should be able to get quite decent kale yields when harvesting time has finally come.
When should you harvest your Kale?
It will take around 60 to 80 days until your kale will be ready to be harvested if you grow it from seed to harvest.
Another indication that your kale is ready to harvest is when the kale leaves are about the size of your hands.
Make sure that you don’t harvest the whole kale plant at once, but that you rather harvest the outer leaves of your kale.
By doing so, the kale plant will continue to produce leaves with you can harvest later on when they are big enough.
How to store your Kale?
Once you harvested the leaves of your kale, you should not store them for too long since they will usually get bad pretty soon.
If you really want to store your kale, make sure that you do it in a dark, dry and cool spot inside your home.
However, as mentioned before, make sure that you eat your kale in time since it will contain the most nutrients right after the harvest and will also taste best at this point in time.
What should you do with your Kale?
There are many different things you can do with your kale. You can either use it to make kale stew or just use it for a salad.
Opportunities are endless and you can even create your own dishes out of your kale.
Just be a little bit creative and I am sure you will figure out what to do with your kale.
After all, you produced it and should decide how to use your kale in the best possible manner. 😉
Kale Plant Care Tips
While I have already given you most of the information that is needed to grow kale step-by-step in the best possible manner, there is still some general information missing which I want to provide you in the following.
How often should you irrigate Kale?
You should irrigate your kale on a regular basis. While your kale plants will not need too much water when they are still small, their water demand will increase significantly once they get bigger and once it gets warmer outside.
However, there is no definitive answer regarding when exactly you should water your kale.
I personally don’t like to rely on a fixed watering schedule. Instead, I adjust my watering behavior to outside temperatures and also to the stage my kale plants currently are.
If you have grown kale for a while, you will get a pretty good intuition regarding when it is time to water your plants.
However, if you are still a beginner, you can use the following trick. Just dig a small hole with your finger into the soil next to your kale plant.
If soil sticks to your finger once you pull it out, this is an indication that your kale doesn’t need water right now.
However, if no soil sticks to your finger, it is time to water your kale plants.
At what Time of the Day should you water your Kale Plants?
While it is common sense that the best time to water your kale plants is in the early morning, I personally haven’t seen too much difference between watering kale in the morning and watering them in the evening.
I suggest you just do what fits best with your schedule and you will be good to go.
How often should you fertilize your Kale Plants?
This greatly depends on how much soil you have provided for your plants earlier on in the growing process and if you already added some compost to the soil.
If you have provided enough soil for your kale, chances are that you will not need to fertilize it later on in the year.
However, if you really want to maximize your yield, it can make sense to add some additional fertilizer on a constant basis.
What kind of Fertilizer should you use for your Kale Plants?
If you decide that you want to use additional fertilizer for your kale plants, make sure that you use natural fertilizer instead of using chemical alternatives.
By doing so, you can not only protect our environment and our local flora and fauna, you can also make your growing experience more natural.
You can either get organic fertilizer from your local garden center or you can also buy it online. Alternatively, you could even produce your own natural fertilizer.
If you want to do so, just get some stinging nettles from your local forest and put them into a bucket with cold water.
Leave your stinging nettles in the water for a few days and remove them after that period of time.
You just created a perfectly natural fertilizer that you can use for a variety of different plants in your garden.
Just add some of it to the water in your watering can and you are good to go.
Should you use Pesticides or Herbicides for Growing Kale?
I would not recommend you use any chemical pesticides or herbicides for growing kale in your garden or in a pot.
In fact, those substances can be extremely harmful to our environment and you should therefore rely on natural alternatives instead.
You can just use the stinging nettle liquid mentioned before and spray it onto the leaves of your kale.
Stinging nettle liquid is not only a pretty good fertilizer, it is also a reasonable pesticide since most pests don’t like the taste of stinging nettles at all.
Moreover, instead of using herbicides, just remove weeds by hand and you are good to go.
If you want to know more about pest prevention, you should also have a look at my article on how to control kale pests and diseases.
What’s left to say?
Thanks for reading this extensive kale grower’s guide. I know it was pretty long but I wanted to give you all the information that is necessary to grow kale from seed to harvest at home in the best possible manner.
I hope you got some value out of it. If you like my article, make sure to share it!
Also feel free to check out my growing kale FAQ section to get even more information about growing kale at home!
About the author
My name is Andreas and I’m really passionate about our environment and also about growing plants. In fact, I have grown several different plants over many years. I love to see my own plants grow and always try new things.
In my blog posts, I want to share my experiences with you so that you can become successful in growing various different plants, even if you are still a beginner right now.