Kale is one of those lovely leafy green vegetables that every person should be growing. It’s incredibly hardy and easy to grow, but many people don’t have access to an outdoor garden. So, can kale be grown completely indoors?
It is possible to grow kale indoors. Because the growth of the plant is restricted by the size of the pot, the kale leaves may be smaller. This could be seen as a benefit because the smaller leaves are often sweeter and more tender. You can grow either on a sunny window sill or under a grow light.
Apart from growing kale as an indoor vegetable, it also makes quite an attractive houseplant. So, let’s look at the different ways you can grow kale at home, whether completely indoors, on a sunny balcony, or partly indoors and partly out in the garden.
How to Grow Kale Completely Indoors
To ensure that your kale grows well indoors, you need to make sure that it gets plenty of light. Kale needs around 6-8 hours of bright light on a daily basis. If your home is fairly bright, you can easily achieve this by putting your kale in a south-facing window.
One of the added benefits of growing kale indoors is that you won’t have as many pest problems such as aphids and those pesky white cabbage moths that lay their eggs in your kale. These eggs then hatch into green caterpillars that can decimate a single plant in just one day.
Another thing you want to consider when growing kale indoors is the variety that you want to grow. Although it’s possible to grow most varieties of kale indoors, some can get quite large. Therefore, have a look at some of the dwarf varieties that are better suited to growing in a pot indoors.
Use a Grow Light
If you find that your home is quite dark, especially on those cold and dreary days in winter, then you might want to invest in a grow light or artificial light setup. Dedicated grow lights come with bulbs that produce ultraviolet light that is very similar to natural sunlight.
The light itself should be placed around 6 inches (15 cm) above the plant to ensure that it doesn’t get scorched. Keep an eye on your kale for a few days and if you notice some browning of the leaves, raise the light an inch or two further above the plant.
But, don’t be tempted to keep the light on 24 hours a day in the false belief that your plant will grow faster. Most plants, including kale, do benefit from a period of darkness, even when grown indoors. In other words, you want to imitate the natural outdoor growing conditions as much as possible.
Therefore, consider turning the light on in the morning and then turning it off again once the sun goes down or just before nightfall. Some grow light setups even come with a timer. This eliminates the worry of having to remember to turn the light on and off manually.
Ensure the Temperature Is Right
As we know, kale is considered a winter vegetable and benefits from being exposed to some light frosts when grown outdoors. However, when we grow kale indoors, this is not possible.
The main consideration is not to keep your kale in a room that is constantly heated throughout the winter. The ideal daytime temperatures for kale are between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius). On the other hand, nighttime temperatures should be somewhere around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
One of the best ways to ensure that your kale doesn’t get too hot is to grow it on a windowsill because the glass of the window will keep the temperature down. Another thing you could consider is growing your kale in the basement under a grow light.
Alternatively, choose a room in your home that isn’t constantly heated, like the laundry, for instance.
Select the Correct Pot and Potting Mix
In order to give your kale exactly what it needs, make sure that you select a pot that is large enough to accommodate the growth of the plant and use a potting mix that is specially designed for growing vegetables.
These types of mixes often incorporate a fair bit of organic matter and will often have some slow-release fertilizer added to them. Plus, the mix will be fairly open and free-draining.
The pot that you select should, of course, have adequate drainage holes because kale doesn’t enjoy having its roots sitting in water. You can place a saucer under the pot to contain any excess water that drains out of the soil when you water the plant.
Even when grown indoors, you want to ensure that your kale gets plenty of water. In fact, the soil should not be allowed to dry out completely. In addition, add some liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or liquid seaweed to the water at least once a month.
This will also ensure that your kale is well-fed and is getting all the nutrients that it needs to continue to grow strongly.
How to Grow Kale on Your Balcony
If you have a nice, sunny balcony, you can grow your kale in a large pot in almost the same way that you would grow kale in the garden.
You want to choose a nice large pot and the sunniest part of your balcony to locate your kale. If your balcony doesn’t receive any direct sunlight, just choose the brightest spot that still gets plenty of light.
Unlike growing kale indoors, when you grow your kale on a balcony, you don’t have to worry about regulating the temperature, as kale will be fine even during winter as long as you don’t get any snow.
In the summertime, however, you might want to move your kale to a shadier spot as it doesn’t like to be exposed to the searing sun. Also, ensure that you give your plant plenty of water because the soil will dry out quickly during the warmer weather, and kale is quite a thirsty plant.
How to Grow Kale Partially Indoors and Partially out in the Garden
For people who live in really cold climates, it’s not ideal to grow kale outdoors all year round. Although this leafy green vegetable does appreciate being exposed to some light frost, it won’t cope too well with being buried under a heap of snow.
For this reason, you can start your kale outdoors in a large pot during the warmer weather, give it some exposure to a couple of light frosts, and then bring it indoors before the really cold weather starts.
This even gives you the option to give your kale a spell outdoors during the colder months if the weather is going to be fine and you’re likely to get some sunshine.
Kale is such a versatile plant that there’s really no reason why you can’t move it around to suit whatever the weather conditions throw at you.
To achieve maximum success, choose a large pot that’s not going to be too heavy to move around easily. Alternatively, you can grow one of the dwarf varieties in a smaller pot that’s going to be easier to relocate when necessary. Even with the dwarf varieties of kale, you’re still going to need a pot that’s at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter.
Start Your Kale Outdoors And Bring It Indoors for Protection
Start off with planting your kale using seeds or seedlings in mid to late summer into whichever container you’ve chosen and place it in a spot that gets plenty of morning sunlight but is protected from the harsh afternoon sun.
Make sure that you keep your plant well-watered as the soil in the pot is likely to dry out quite quickly. As the weather starts to cool down in the fall, you can move your plant to get more sunlight as the afternoon sun won’t be as harsh.
Then, it’s just a case of keeping an eye on the weather forecast. Remember that you want to expose your kale to a couple of light frosts before bringing it inside.
In late fall or early winter, depending on where you live, you might be able to leave your plant outdoors during the day and then bring it in as the temperature plummets during the evening.
If the winter days are going to be really cold and you’re expecting a lot of snow, it’s best to keep your plant indoors both during the day and the night. If you don’t have a bright windowsill, place your kale under a grow light to ensure that it’s getting sufficient light.
For A Different Experience, Try Hydroponics
Hydroponic growing has become increasingly popular over recent years, and this can be a great way to grow kale indoors. With hydroponics, you’re growing your plants in nutrient-rich water rather than soil.
You can even purchase ready-to-go countertop hydroponic systems that make it easy to grow plenty of kale as well as other greens.