For those looking for a healthy, leafy snack kale is one of the best options. Commonly touted as a “super food” kale is packed full of nutrients and goes great in a variety of dishes. While many people start their kale outdoors, growing kale indoors lets you enjoy this plant year round. Today we’ll look at how to grow kale indoors, and cover all the key aspects from planting, to watering, to harvesting.
Kale Varieties to Grow
First off, it’s important to realize that there are numerous types of kale available to grow. While many have different colors and taste, from a care perspective they are all very similar. Below you’ll find a couple of popular varieties, but this is just a small handful of the variety available to you. Whichever variety you do pick, the rest of this guide will still be applicable as most follow the same basic care guidelines.
This is a slow maturing but sweeter version of kale. It develops dark reddish-purple leaves and is known to be a bit sweeter than green kale. This makes it a perfect snack for those who find traditional kale a bit too bitter to enjoy.
This variety is known for producing striking yellow flowers. Its leaves have a very rubbery texture that can be off putting when eaten raw, but make an excellent addition to a number of cooked dishes.
A slightly reddish variety of kale that does exceptionally well in the winter. While all kale is very frost tolerant, red winter kale lovers will swear that the flavor actually improves after being exposed to frost.
Lastly, we have the curled scotch kale. This is the most popular kale, and the one that is most often seen in large grocery stores. It has a bit of a bitter taste, but is still enjoyed by many all around the world.
Planting Kale Indoors – Choosing a Pot and Location
Kale is very easy to plant, and you can either start from seedlings or seeds. If you start from seeds, sow them into moist soil about ¼” deep. Move them to a spot that gets at least 6+ hours of sunlight per day, and keep the soil warm and moist. Kale will germinate quickly and you’ll see sprouts in about a week.
For seedlings, simply plant them into a wide pot with a good quality potting soil. Kale has a shallow but wide root system, so look for a pot that accommodates that. Generally one that has a 12” diameter is a good place to start, but the larger a pot the more kale it will be able to comfortably hold.
For location, it is fine to plant kale in locations that are a bit cooler. Kale is a cold loving vegetable, and most varieties will thrive in temperatures around 50-60°F with some liking even lower. This gives you a lot of freedom on where to place your plant. Areas like a cool basement or spare room are perfectly fine for kale. Even near a drafty window is likely to be fine whereas it could kill other plants.
Sunlight Needs For Kale
Kale generally needs between 6-8 hours of bright sunlight per day. A big, southern facing window is a great choice, but less sunny places work well too. As always, feel free to supplement with grow lights, especially in the winter when the sun is less intense.
One word of caution, kale’s shallow root system can make it susceptible to damage if the soil gets too warm. This is usually a problem in summer, and can easily be mitigated by adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil. The mulch will absorb some of the heat, and keep the soil and roots from overheating. You can also move to a spot that gets more in-direct light to help mitigate the heat the soil absorbs.
Watering and Feeding Kale
For watering, look to keep the soil moist at all times. You want to water before the soil completely dries out. Test the soil by gently feeling the top inch or so, if it feels dry it’s time to water your plant. Water until you see water begin to leak from your containers drainage holes. This ensures that the soil is thoroughly saturated with water.
For feeding, you can use a half strength fertilizer (diluted with water) roughly every 3-4 weeks during the summer months. During the winter the plant will likely slow down it’s growth, and therefore doesn’t need to feed as much. Most natural or organic fertilizers are a good choice here as well.
Kale is very easy to harvest. Start at the bottom of the plant and snip off a few mature leaves. It’s best to use scissors to snip them as trying to pull them off can lead to damage. Leave a number of the immature leaves untouched to make sure your plant is able to recover and keep growing. It’s a good rule of thumb to never harvest more than 1/3 of the total leaves at one time. When done properly, kale should quickly regrow leaves and allow you to harvest time and time again.
Preserving Kale Harvest
Preserving kale is also very easy. Simply wash the kale, remove the middle stalk, and then place them in an airtight bag to freeze. Kale frozen in this way can last up to a year and still be just as tasty as the day it was harvested.
Kale Pests and Disease
Fortunately, plants grown indoors usually don’t have to deal with pests. However, while it’s unlikely that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Further, many gardeners like to hybrid garden; growing outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. This leaves your plants susceptible to pests.
Many common pests have the potential to attack your kale plants. Two of the most common culprits are aphids and cabbage worms. These pests can cause lots of damage to your plants and ultimately ruin your harvest. We’ve put together a brief overview of some pests you might encounter, as well as natural and safe ways to get rid of them.
How To Grow Kale Indoors
Kale is quite the easy vegetable to grow and can add a lot of essential nutrients to your diet. Having a fresh supply of kale is a great way to add extra vegetables to your diet and live a healthier life. As always, we’d love to hear about your experiencing growing kale indoors. If you’ve grown this veggie let us know, and feel free to reach out with any questions!
Why are My Kales Plant Turning Yellow?
There are a number of reasons from pests to too much sun. Check your plants to make sure that they are pest free and healthy. If they are, make sure that the plant isn’t getting too hot. Kale likes sun but too much direct sunlight (especially in the summer) can fry the leaves and cause them to yellow.
Does Kale Grow Back After Cutting?
When cutting correctly yes. You want to start from the bottom, and look to pick off only a handful of mature leaves. Cutting immature leaves or too many at once can stunt the growth of the plant.
How Long Does It Take Kale To Produce?
Most varieties will take around 60 days from seeds or 35 from seedling. Some varieties take a bit longer to mature though so don’t get discouraged once you pass these dates.
Can Kale Survive the Winter?
It depends on the severity of the winter, but yes, kale is a cold loving plant. Kale can easily survive a frost and can actually improve in flavor afterwards. Certain varieties, like red winter kale, are also especially hardy and can survive even fairly cold and snowy winter.