Growing Kale in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens
( brassica oleracea L. Acephala group )
A sometimes overlooked member of the brassica family, Kale is making a comeback with home gardens in Florida! It’s easy care growth habit and super nutrient rich foliage makes it a home garden favorite.
Foliage, Origins, and Use of Kale / Brassica oleracea for Northeast Florida vegetable gardens:
Kale is native to the Mediterranean area and Asia Minor. It is a relative of the much more common Collard green and is considered a non heading member of the cabbage family.
Kale has highly curled edges to it’s leaves and makes a pretty garden plant.
There are ornamental selections and garden varieties, all of which are edible Most garden books will tell you that ornamental kale is unpalatable and only grown for its highly decorative foliage. That may be true, if you cook it, I have never tried it that way. Being the inquisitive creature that I am, I have, however, eaten it strait from the garden! Eaten raw with salads, ornamental kale, is delicious and adds its delicious flavor to sandwiches and salads. maybe there’s a variety out there of ornamental kale that is gross, I don’t know, I have yet to find it!
I like to add the more traditional kale variety to broth based soups 3-5 minutes before serving. Or add chopped leaves to smoothies. Garden Kale is highly nutritious and can be eaten whole in sandwiches and salads, added to soups or pan seared and served with just a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Nutritious and delicious!
Planting Season for Kale in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Kale is a cool season crop and very tolerant of Northeast Florida winters. It can be planted anytime from September to March in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area garden.
Sun Exposure for growing Kale in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Plant your Kale varieties in a full sun or partial shade location for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area.
Soil Preferences for Kale/ brassica oleracea in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Kale is a bit more tolerant of poor soil conditions than most members of the brassica’s. Still, if possible, it is best to amend your vegetable planting site generously with a good quality compost each year in fall before planting your kale plants into Northeast Florida’s native soils.
Care of Kale in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering your Kale Plants:
Newly planted kale plants will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once the kale vegetable plants are established and growing, be sure to keep the soil moist by watering once to twice per week if rainfall is scarce.
For maximum growth potential, help to keep the soil moist by mulching plants generously and amending soils with compost when planting.
Fertilizing Your Kale Vegetable Plants:
Feed every two to three weeks with an all purpose fertilizer like 6-6-6.
Or for an organic approach, try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed(kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray.
If your vegetable plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Kale Vegetable Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Kale leaves can be harvested as they grow by removing a few of the lower leaves of each plant. Be sure to leave the soft tender new leaves on the plant for it to continue growing and producing through the season.