If you’re excited about getting ready to grow some kale, whether in your garden or in a container, you might be wondering when it will be ready to harvest.
The first kale leaves should be ready to harvest in around 60 days after you plant the seeds. The plant itself should be around 12 inches (30 cm) by that time. Baby kale leaves should be ready to harvest around 25 to 30 days after planting the seed.
After 60 days of planting kale seeds, your kale plant should have 10 or more leaves, and the larger outer leaves should be around the size of your palm.
How to Tell if your First Kale Leaves Are Ready to Harvest
There are no hard rules about when you can harvest your first kale leaves. However, as a general guideline, the plant itself should be around 12 inches (30 cm) tall, and the outer leaves should be around the same size as your hand.
In fact, if you let the outer leaves become much larger before harvesting them, they may become a little tough and not be as tender as when they’re younger. Don’t worry, though, if you’ve forgotten to harvest these leaves at their optimum time. They’re still perfectly fine to use but will just require a little more cooking to make them more tender.
You Can Wait until the First Frost to Harvest your Kale
Many gardeners know that exposing your kale to a frost or two is ideal if you want really tasty and sweet leaves. When the plant is exposed to frost, it releases more sugars, and the leaves become much sweeter.
This is why many seasoned growers wait until after the first frost or two before they start to harvest some of their kale leaves.
But, if the frosts are a little late, you don’t have to wait to harvest the first leaves. They’re still going to be perfectly fine. And this will give you the opportunity to experience the difference in the taste of the leaves after the plant has been subjected to a frost.
Does your Kale Continue to Grow after you Pick the First Leaves?
Kale will continue to grow and produce many more leaves after you’ve harvested the first ones. In fact, this is the perfect plant to grow if you’re after a continuous harvest all through the colder months.
The most important thing to remember is to only ever harvest the very outer leaves near the base of the plant. When you do this correctly, the plant will continue its growth further up the stem, and the new leaves will grow throughout the center of the plant.
These center leaves will eventually become outer leaves as they’re replaced with fresh new leaves in the center. This continuous growth of new leaves means that you can harvest your kale over and over again whenever you want some fresh green leaves for your dinner.
When harvesting the leaves, make sure that you stay away from the tip of the plant and take care not to damage any of the stem, the new growth, or the roots of the plant.
How Long Will Kale Keep Growing?
Your kale plant should continue to grow right throughout the fall and winter months and into early spring. During this time, it will continue to produce lovely fresh new leaves on a continuous basis, giving you plenty of leaves to harvest on a regular basis.
Once the weather starts to warm in mid to late spring, the plant will go into its reproductive phase and will send up some flower stalks to complete its cycle. At this time, you can continue to harvest the outer leaves but remember that they will start to become a little tougher and will eventually turn bitter.
These leaves are still fine to use in soups and stews but are not ideal for throwing into salads. You can even harvest some of the flowers as these are also edible and pretty tasty too. Use them in the same way as you would use broccoli florets.
As the flowers finish, the plant will produce its seeds that you can collect for sowing next season’s crop.
If you would like to know more about kale growing stages, I wrote an article about that.
How do you Trim Kale so that It Keeps Growing?
When harvesting the kale leaves, take only the outermost leaves and leave the inner leaves on the plant. Cut these leaves close to the main stem but make sure that you don’t damage the stem or the top growing bud of the plant.
Cutting the leaves close to the stem also means that your plant won’t end up with a lot of bare leaf bases surrounding it as it continues to grow.
Is Kale a Cut and Come Again Plant?
Kale is a plant that you can continue to harvest from fall to around mid-spring. As you do this, it will continue to grow more leaves that you can eventually harvest.
This makes it the ideal green vegetable to grow throughout the cooler months of the year when not much else is growing. In fact, you should never harvest the entire plant if you want to get the most out of it.
Can You Harvest Kale in Winter?
You can definitely harvest some kale leaves all throughout the winter. However, if you live in a region where daylight falls below 10 hours, you’ll find that your kale plants will slow down their growth.
During this time, you might want to be conservative in the number of leaves that you harvest each time so that you don’t completely defoliate the plant. Once the daylight hours start to extend again, your plants should resume their vigorous growth, and you can begin to harvest a lot more leaves.