Kale is one of the ‘superfoods’ that we all know and love. It is delicious, nutritious and can be added to many dishes. There is no reason not to love this vegetable. Better yet, kale is easy to get and readily available. But what if you want to grow kale on your own? Specifically, how to grow kale in containers?
That’s what we are going to tell you here. Not only will we tell you how to grow the amazing vegetable, but we will also tell you other related things so you can grow them easily. For example, containers care, taking care, what cultivar to choose, managing disease, and of course, harvesting. Are you ready? Without further ado, let’s start.
- 1 Starting Seeds Indoors
- 2 Container Care when You Grow Kale in Containers
- 3 How to Grow Kale in Containers
- 4 Managing Disease Kale in Containers
- 5 Harvesting Kale in Containers
- 6 Cultivar to Choose
- 7 Closing
Starting Seeds Indoors
- You can grow kale in containers by starting with sowing seeds indoors.
- You can sow kale seeds indoors between early spring and late summer. When sowing kale seeds, you should give them enough time to reach maturity before the heat of summer sets in or about six weeks before the last frost happens in the region you live in.
- If you live in a region where there are mild winters, you can sow kale seed between fall and early spring. The purpose is the same: to avoid the heat of summer. The growth of kale slows down when it is too hot and will resume to normal after the heat has passed.
Here are the steps to seed indoors before you grow kale in containers:
- Prepare the soil where you want to seed. Make sure it is light and well-drained. If possible, amend it with organic material
- Plant the seeds between 1/4 and 1/2 deep in the soil
- Water the soil until it gets moist. Don’t overdo it and make the soil wet. Moist is enough
- Place the trays on a spot where there is enough light. Alternatively, you can place the trays under artificial grow lights
- After 2 weeks, you can start thinning the seedlings
- In 4 to 6 weeks, after the kale seedlings have grown true leaves, transplant them into containers
Container Care when You Grow Kale in Containers
- Compared to kale grown in the ground, kale grown in containers need extra attention. In hot weather, containers tend to dry out fast. This is why you need to check the moisture levels of the containers daily. Put a finger on the soil and press until your finger is 1-inch deep in the soil. If dry, water the containers.
- In the ground, the roots of a kale plant can expand to find nutrients. They can’t do so inside a container. Not only that, but the nutrients may also be flushed due to regular watering. So, to meet the need of nutrients, you need to add fertilizer into the soil. For the best result, use half-strength feed every two weeks.
- Kale needs about 8 hours of light each day. Fortunately, kale doesn’t discriminate the light source so if natural light isn’t possible, you can use artificial grow light for it. If you grow kale in containers indoor, place it in a place where it can get enough light. For example, near a window sill that faces south.
- The ideal air temperatures are about 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. As such, places like a cool garage or basement can suit kale plants so long as there is enough light. Since kale has an attractive look, you can place them in other places like patios, decks, or balconies, too.
- Both too little and too much watering indoor plants are bad. So is not giving ample space between plants for air circulation. Water kale plants enough and makes sure there is enough air circulation. Why? Because doing these will prevent mold and fungi from growing and spreading. Mold and fungi cause problems, so it is best to prevent them from growing.
- How much space is needed to grow kale in containers? Keep in mind that there are species of kale that can grow to up to 2 to 3 feet high. This can be bothersome if you have small spaces for them. If you have small spaces, consider the dwarf varieties so they don’t eat too much space.
How to Grow Kale in Containers
Now that you know the preparations and containers care, it is time to tell you how to grow kale in containers. Let’s start with the containers first.
1. First, prepare the containers. How large each container should be? To grow kale in containers, you need containers with a diameter of and depth of 12 inches at minimum.
2. Next, make sure that there is enough drainage material in the containers so they have well-draining soil. One of the leading causes of plant failure in containers is root rot due to excess standing water. Avoid that.
3. Drainage material is any material placed at the bottom of the container that allows water to seep out of the container as well as prevent soil from washing away. Mesh window screening, small stones, pine cones, paper towels, coffee filters, broken pottery, and coconut coir are some examples of drainage material. Prepare these before you grow kale in containers.
- Kale likes soil that is amended organic material like manure or well-aged compost. Kale also grow best when planted on slightly alkaline soil (pH between 6.0 and 7.0)
- Although you can grow kale in containers, you still must provide enough space in-between each plant, around 4 to 10 inches apart. How small or large the space depends on the varieties and size at maturity. The seed packet should have the information regarding the kale variety and its size at maturity. Make sure to check them out before planting
- When you grow kale in containers, you need to keep the roots cool and retain moisture. To do so, mulch the base of the plant with leaf mold, straw, or compost.
- Place the containers where there is enough sunlight. Your kale plants should get 6 hours of direct sunlight daily at a minimum.
3. Watering and Fertilizing
- As said earlier, both too little and too much watering is bad. For watering, you want to water the containers so the top of the soil is moist. Remember, moist not waterlogged.
- For fertilizing, you can fertilize your kale every one or two weeks during its growing season using a tablespoon of 5-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer (alternatively, 10-10-10) mixed into a gallon of water.
Managing Disease Kale in Containers
Although you grow kale in containers, that doesn’t mean the kale is not prone to diseases. Just like kale planted in the ground, kale planted in containers may also get diseases. There are several diseases for kale. There is no need to worry, however. There are things you can do to manage diseases.
- You should check your kale regularly. Use a safe-to-use insecticidal spray if necessary.
- If there are spider mites or aphids, remove them by blasting water from the hose.
- Crawlers, such as harlequin cabbage bug, can be picked by hand.
- Snails and slugs can also be picked by hand to remove as well. To prevent slugs from getting to your plants, just add a diatomaceous earth layer in case you need prevention.
Harvesting Kale in Containers
Harvesting is easy. You can start harvesting very early when the seedlings are already established and grown their first four sets of true leaves. During this time, however, all you can harvest are baby greens. If you want something bigger, you need to wait until the plants have grown larger and mature leaves.
The followings are how you harvest kale:
- When you pick, the stems, ribs and leaves texture should be firm and crisp
- When harvesting, start by picking the lower leaves first. Then, work your way up to the stem. See that terminal bud in the center of the plant? Don’t touch it. Always leave it alone. You should leave several upper leaves as well to allow for continuous production.
- If there are any yellowing, wilted, blemished, or damaged leaves, just remove them. You can either use them as the compost pile or discard them.
Cultivar to Choose
When you decide to grow kale in containers, you might be wondering what kind of cultivar that suits you best. The best cultivar will depend on things like available space and what purpose do you want the kale to fulfill. We divide the cultivars into three categories: for food, for small indoor spaces, and for ornament.
1. For Food
Perhaps this is what you want when you decide to grow kale in containers. There are plenty of cultivars in this category. What you should know is that they might take a lot of space to grow. In case you want to grow your own kale but have small indoor spaces, skip to the next category.
In this category, the cultivars are:
- Black Magic, a Tuscan kale cultivar with savoy and narrow leaves. This cultivar can handle frost. In fact, it becomes tastier with frost. It can grow as high as 24 inches.
- Red Winter, a Russian kale cultivar with oak-like leaves that have delicious and tender flavor. It is fast-growing and productive. It can grow up to 22 to 36 inches high.
2. For Small Indoor Spaces
Not everyone has the luxury of a large backyard or available space to grow kale in containers. Some of us have to work with less space and be creative with it. Fortunately, kale comes in various sizes and shapes. That, of course, includes ‘dwarf’ kale that doesn’t take that much space too.
In this category, the cultivars are:
- Tronhcuda Beira, a kale cultivar with not only huge but savoy leaves. It is the most heat-resistant of all cultivars and can grow even in humid and hot areas while a light frost sweetens its flavor. It can grow as high as 12 to 18 inches.
- Blue Scotch Curled, a cultivar with rich flavor that can grow up to 12 to 16 inches. It performs well even in cooler climates
- Dwarf Siberian, a compact yet high-yielding kale cultivar. It is icy blue and has slightly crumpled leaves. Its yield is almost constant and it can fare quite well in spring. The leaves are sweet, among the sweetest, in fact.. It can grow to up to 16 inches.
3. For Ornament
Indeed, you can grow kale in containers to serve as ornaments for your house too. Keep in mind that while ornamental kales are edible, they are too bitter to be palatable. Still, they come in various colors and shapes and make great ornaments. That is reason enough to grow ornamental kale.
In this category, the cultivars are:
- Song Bird Red, a cultivar with purple outer leaves and creamy ribs. The contrast between the outer leaves and ribs look very gorgeous.
- Kamome, a cultivar that looks like a flower with its white or red heart surrounded by green leaves. You probably don’t know that it is a kale cultivar when you see it the first time.
- Some tips for Growing Kale in Containers
- Here are some tips for growing kale in containers you can try:
- If you live in a region where the temperature is consistently hot (over 80 degrees Fahrenheit), move the containers where the plants can get afternoon shade. You can move the containers once the temperatures are cooler
- Since you grow kale in containers, the plants tend to dry faster compared to plants grown in the ground. As such, watering them daily during dry, hot conditions may be necessary.
- When you harvest, leave the center bud of the plant in place. Pick only the lower, outer leaves. This way, your kale will keep growing even if you harvest them.
- To keep roots moist and cool, add a protective mulch
- When you grow kale in containers, you should feed your kale every two weeks. This is due to nutrient leeching happening in the containers.
Now that you know how to grow kale in containers, you can just start doing so. If you grow your kale properly, it will yield the result you want. The best thing about kale is that it can be harvested almost year-round. That means with just a few plants, you can meet your weekly kale need. Isn’t that amazing?