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Often a neglected crop, but one that is increasing in popularity due to its nutritional properties. Kale (also known as borecole) tolerates cold weather better than most other brassicas and is relatively free of pests and diseases, although it should be netted against birds. It will also tolerate a lightly shaded position. Always pick the leaves when they are young and tender.
Sow thinly 1cmm (½in) deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart from March to June.
Thin the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) apart.
Kale can also be treated as a cut-and-come-again crop. Sow the seed where you want it to grow.
Transplant the young plants to their growing position when plants have five or six true leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level.
Water well the day before moving, firm in well after transplanting and 'puddle' in the plants with plenty of water. Space 45cm (18in) between plants.
Water well in dry weather and conserve soil moisture with a mulch.
A spring feed will improve results.
Protect the plants from birds by covering with netting or fleece.
Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
More info on Birds
Start to remove young leaves from the top of the plant from October onwards.
Sideshoots are formed after the main crown is harvested and these are ready for use from February to May; pick shoots that are 10-15cm (4-6in) long and still young.
As a cut-and-come-again crop harvest when the plants are 5cm (2in) high. Further young leaves will be produced that can be cut again.
Masterchef judge Greg Wallace suggests using kale, Swiss chard, spinach or spring greens for his recipe Chilli greens.
Sow thinly 13mm (1/2in) deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart
Water well in dry weather and conserve soil moisture with a mulch
View all Kale at the RHS Plants Shop
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