Grow Your Own

Kale

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.

Curly kale

Sow

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.

 

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.

Common problems

Birds

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

Cabbage root fly

Cabbage root fly: White larvae approximately 5cm (2in) long, feed on the roots just below the soil surface, stunting growth and causing plants to wilt and die.

Remedy: Grow under insect-proof mesh or horticultural fleece. Seedlings are most vulnerable.

More info on Cabbage root fly

Caterpillars

Caterpillars: A number of caterpillars will feed on brassicas, but the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies. You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves. They will also bore into the heart of cabbages.

Remedy: In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off. Insect-proof mesh or fine netting (5-7mm mesh) can prevent egg-laying.

More info on Caterpillars

Harvesting

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.

Recipes

Masterchef judge Greg Wallace suggests using kale, Swiss chard, spinach or spring greens for his recipe Chilli greens.


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