If you’ve never tried growing delicious and nutritious kale before, you might be wondering, how does kale grow?
Kale grows as a biennial plant in the cooler seasons. This means that it completes its entire life cycle over two years. After you plant it, kale will focus on producing lots of lovely, tender green leaves for you to harvest. The following spring, kale starts its reproductive cycle by producing flowers and seeds.
Here’s everything you need to know about how kale grows.
The Kale Growing Cycle
Kale can be planted from seeds or from transplants. This is normally done in mid to late summer. You want the soil to be warm in order for the seeds to germinate well.
After around 5 to 8 days, the seeds will start to germinate, and you’ll see the two seed leaves or cotyledons emerge from the soil. Next, small true leaves will begin to grow. These will continue to get larger as more new leaves emerge from the center of the plant.
The Green Growth Period
After around 60 days, your kale plant should have around ten or more leaves, and the larger outer leaves will be around the size of your hand. These larger leaves are now ready to harvest.
You should only harvest the largest outer leaves from your plant by cutting them close to the stem. Make sure that you don’t damage the growing tip of the plant and leave the inner leaves to get larger.
As the inner leaves get larger, they’ll replace the outer leaves that you’ve harvested, and new inner leaves will continue to grow. This process will continue right through the colder months. However, if you live in a really cold climate, the growth may slow down a little.
All throughout this growth period, you can continue to harvest the large outer leaves. You should do this regularly as this will encourage the plant to continue producing more inner leaves.
The Reproductive Cycle
Once the weather starts to warm up again in spring and the soil also gets warmer, your kale plant will switch into its reproductive cycle. During this stage, you’ll see long flower stalks start to form from the center of the plant.
These flower stalks will have clusters of small yellow flower buds that will eventually open. These flowers are extremely attractive to pollinators such as bees. This is a bonus when you want to attract these insects into your garden for your summer fruiting plants.
You can also pick the flowers and eat them the same way that you would use broccoli florets. During this stage, you’ll find that the leaves will start to get tougher and may even become a little bitter. These are still edible, but they’re better used in soups and stews because they’ll be too tough to use in salads.
Once the flowers have finished, long green seed pods will start to develop. These will have small black seeds in them. As time goes on, these seed pods will become brown and dry. They are then ready to pick so that you can use the seeds for your next crop.
After you’ve harvested the seeds, the plant has finished its growth cycle, and you can pull it out and put it into your compost. This way, it will break down and add goodness to the compost that you can use to feed your next crop.
How Tall Does Kale Grow?
Most kale plants will grow to a height of around 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm). There are even some varieties of kale that can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall.
You’ll also find that many kale varieties will spread to around 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter. This means that you have to ensure that there’s enough space between each plant when you’re planting kale seedlings or thinning out plants grown from seed.
Ideally, you want to give each kale plant around 18 to 24 inches (45 cm to 60 cm) free space on all sides if you want to see it grow to its full potential.
Ensuring that there’s enough space all around your plants also means that there’s plenty of airflow. This has the added benefit of limiting the spread of bacterial or fungal diseases.
Does Baby Kale Grow In The Same Way?
Baby kale is actually the same plant as normal kale. The difference is that you harvest the leaves before they reach their full potential.
Baby kale leaves are usually harvested when the plant only has around 3 to 4 leaves. At this stage, you can harvest the young leaves but be sure to leave around an inch of stem on the plant. If you do this, the plant will grow more leaves, and you’ll be able to harvest these in just a few more weeks.
Can You Grow Kale For Micro Greens?
Kale is perfect for growing as micro greens or sprouts, as they’re commonly called. To grow kale as micro greens, you’ll need to plant a lot of seeds very close together. For this reason, people usually grow micro greens or sprouts in shallow containers or seedling trays.
Remember that you’ll be harvesting the greens well before the roots would outgrow the container.
In fact, kale microgreens, like most other sprouts, are harvested as soon as the seeds have sprouted and before the true leaves have started to develop.
Does Kale Regrow After Cutting?
As we’ve already discovered, kale is a vegetable that you can harvest consistently, and it will continue to grow. As long as you only harvest the large outer leaves and leave the inner leaves on the plant, you’ll get an abundance of new leaves over the entire growing cycle.
For this reason, it’s best to only harvest the number of leaves that you need at any particular time. This will encourage the plant to grow plenty of new leaves in the center and up the stem. It’s the perfect cut and come again vegetable for home gardeners.