Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group)
Common Name: kale
Type: Annual
Family: Brassicaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Leaf: Colorful

Culture

Easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained loams in full sun. Kale is a cool weather vegetable that is best grown in the cool temperatures of fall. Leaves typically acquire their best flavor after the first fall frost. It may also be grown in early spring. If grown in summer, however, plants will need some afternoon shade, perhaps to simply survive. Plants perform poorly when daytime temperatures begin to consistently exceed 80 degrees F. For spring plantings, sow seed indoors about 6-8 weeks prior to last spring frost date. In the alternative, transplants may be purchased from local nurseries. In either case, the seedlings/transplants should be planted in the garden about 1-2 weeks prior to last spring frost date. For fall plantings, sow seed indoors in early July and plant the seedlings in the garden in mid-August. Plants tolerate light frosts. Depending on temperatures, plants may survive to Thanksgiving or into December in some years. In mild winter climates, plants often survive winter and continue to produce leaves until they bolt in spring. Apply mulch around plants to protect the shallow roots, reduce weeds and retain soil moisture. Rotate crops to avoid soil borne diseases. Plants may also be grown in containers.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group), commonly called kale, is a cool weather vegetable that is grown for harvest of its edible leaves. Although very similar to cabbage, kale is distinguished by having loose, upright, wavy-edged leaves that do not form a head (acephala from Greek means headless). Cabbage forms heads. Leaves are typically light green to blue green, but ornamental kales (grown primarily for ornamental foliage) come in leaf colors ranging from purple to red to pink to white. Acephala Group also includes genetically similar spring greens and collard greens. Kale is a biennial that is grown in St. Louis as an annual. Plants will grow to 18" tall. Leaves may be harvested when they reach the approximate size of a human hand. Kale belongs to the Brassica family which includes other cool season vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name for cabbage.

Specific epithet means of the vegetable garden.

Problems

Watch for cabbageworms, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, caterpillars, thrips, slugs and aphids. Root maggots may be a problem in some areas. Potential disease problems include leaf spots, blackleg, black rot and yellows.