Choose a sunny site with fertile soil
A sunny spot with fertile & moisture-retentive soil is ideal. Partial shade is ok too. Add plenty of compost or organic matter before planting.
Raised beds or a traditional veg patch
Kale is best grown in raised beds or a well dug veg patch. You could plant curly kale in pots or planters as this is a small plant, but Red Russian Kale and Cavolo Nero are better suited to growing in beds.
How far apart
Plant Curly Kale about 20-25cm apart, and Red Russian Kale and Cavolo Nero about 30-40cm apart.
Protect with a brassica collar
You can make these easily out of cardboard. Cut a 10cm diameter disc, cut into the centre and make a slit so that you can pop it around the base of the plant. This is to prevent cabbage root fly larvae from hatching by the base of the plant and burying under the soil to eat the roots.
Net against pigeons and butterflies
Pigeons love brassica plants and will easily destroy a crop of young plants in a morning. Meanwhile, cabbage white butterflies are attracted to brassicas and lay eggs on the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are quick to nibble away the leaves and strip the plant bare. To protect against both these pests, cover plants with fine mesh netting or horticultural fleece.
As weather warms up it is important to keep kale cool and to give the plants enough water. Try to keep the soil consistently moist rather than allowing it to dry out. During dry spells, water well, once or twice a week.
When to harvest
You can harvest leaves as they grow for a continuous crop throughout the season. Pull the leaves downwards at the stem to harvest. Start with the larger leaves towards the base of the plant (particularly for cavolo nero which keeps producing new leaves at the top of the plant – the others are a little more bushy so you can take your pick!) You should be able to keep the plant going through autumn and sometimes through winter too.