Lacinato kale has tender blue-green leaves. This kale is different from other types of kale plants that we see in the farmer’s market. I like to add it to my cooked dishes. You can eat it raw by sprinkling sea salt in it. Growing lacinato kale in a garden is an easy job. You can start harvesting baby kale leaves within 30 days from plating the seedlings. For mature large size, tender leaves wait for 20 days more. Read the below article to know how to grow lacinato kale in your garden and have a good harvest.
About the lacinato kale
Lacinato kale has many other names like Dinosaur kale, Italian kale, and black kale. It is a permanent member of the cabbage family. Its cousin vegetables are cauliflower and broccoli. Most of the population in the USA and CANDA love to eat kale leaves. They eat it like a salad vegetable or add it to other cooked dishes with lemon.
The maximum size of this plant is 3 feet tall only in ideal growing conditions. The fertility and nutrients in the soil affect the size and taste of the leaves. Whereas sunlight put a direct effect on its leaf color.
You can easily grow it in summer and winter. Because it is resistant to hot and cold weather. It can handle the hot waves on summer days and also the cold winds and freezing temperature in winters.
There are other varieties of kale that are more tolerant to the winter season like Red Russian kale.
Best time to plant kale seeds?
As we know this variety of kale can handle hot and cool climates. Therefore, it has two seasons of planting. One is planting the seeds or seedlings in outdoor garden 20 days before the last spring frost. Or you can plant it 40 days before the first fall frost.
For planting the seeds, the soil temperature must be above 8 degrees C. Also cover the rows of seedlings for the first 10 days of transplanting. This increases the warmth and protects seedlings from pests.
Within 10 days they become active and get well established in the soil. The same rule applies to the seeds. Cover the seed rows with a plastic cover to help them to sprout. Then after 10 days or when 50 % of the seeds sprout remove the cover.
Caution: Make sure the cover does not touch the top of the transplants or seeds.
Locate a sunny place in your garden where the Lacinato kale can get 10 hours of direct sunlight. Remember that vegetable crops need direct sunlight to grow. Only the houseplants need indirect sunlight. If you have other plants growing in sunny places then you can grow them where it can get 4 to 5 hours of bright light. But then the Lacinato kale will grow slow and only produce small size few leaves. You will also notice a slight change in the taste of raw leaves.
Lacinato Kale needs well-draining highly fertile soil. So, you need to amend the garden soil with organic compost 1 week before planting the kale seeds. Compost has all the nutrients that it needs to grow, this reduces the need of fertilizers.
Granular fertilizer is the best choice. They have a balanced amount of nutrients in the formula.
How to start seeds indoors?
Buy the seed starting tray from the market. It should have a high fertile potting mix in the tray cells. If the tray you purchased has empty cells, then you can add your home seed starting soil. After that plant 2 seeds in each cell of the tray about ¼ inch deep. Then pinch cells to close their mouth.
Move the tray to a bright place or under the grow light. At this time the seeds need 15 hours of light per day. Keep the seed starting potting mix moist all the time. Use a spray water bottle for watering.
Within few days the seeds will sprout and you will have seedlings in the tray. When the seedlings are 3 to 5 inches long then give them organic liquid fertilizer. This will boost their health and make them strong.
Then after hardening off the seedlings, you can transfer them to the outdoor garden.
Planting seeds direct in an outdoor garden
Lacinato kale is easy to directly start in the outdoor garden. But for more harvests, I choose to start it indoors and have a long harvesting season.
To sow them directly find a sunny place in the garden, then amend the soil with the organic material. Then take the healthy seeds and sow them on the ground. Plant them only quarter-inch deep. Do not show them deeply, they will not sprout.
Keep the 2 inches distance between each seed. When they develop into seedlings thin them. And plant them 12 inches apart. At this time if you have more than enough seedlings you can eat them. They taste sweet and juicy.
Caring Lacinato kale plants
Lacinato kale does not need much maintenance. But there are some practices that you can follow to keep the plant healthy. It needs two main things to grow. One is 8 hours of direct sunlight and the second is high humidity. You cannot control the outside humidity and weather. But you can water the soil to keep it moist. This will help the plant to adjust its humidity needs. Hydrated plants need less humidity.
Use mulching to keep the soil moist on hot summer days. It also protects the plants from the cold weather. In winters mulching acts like an insulator and keep the roots warm at freezing temperature.
Use liquid organic fertilizer to boost the kale health. Organic fertilizers increase leaf size.
Fish emulsion fertilizers give excellent results.
How to grow Lacinato kale in containers?
If you do not have an outdoor garden or you also do not have garden beds. Then the only option left is growing Lacinato kale in containers. Choose the container that has drainage holes. They are necessary to save your plants from dying. If you accidentally give excess water to your plant. Then that extra water comes out of the draining hole.
For growing kale in containers, you need a container with at least two or more draining holes. Do not use plastic-made containers. Because they do not allow air to pass through. And this plant needs good airflow in the root area.
Terra cotta pots have tiny pores in them. They allow the soil to absorb air from the environment. This reduces the chances of root rot.
Sow seeds in a container on the last days of spring. To protect it from pests, apply diluted neem oil all over the plant. This will kill unwanted pests and bacteria.
Common problems and pests
Slug and cabbage worms are the two enemies of Lacinato kale plants. Wear the gloves and pick the slugs with your hands and use diatomaceous earth on the container surface. There are many ways of controlling slugs. Do not go for the chemical methods they can harm the plant. In some cases, chemical products add toxins to the kale leaf.
Always use organic solutions to control the pest infestations in vegetable crops.
Cabbage worms are caterpillars. Butterflies lay eggs on plant leaves and after some time the green caterpillar takes birth. Then to live its life it needs food. Kale leaves are the favorite food of these caterpillars.
Do the following to control them
The first tip says, does not do anything and lets the beneficial insects eat the caterpillars.
Once you see the butterfly eggs remove them from the plant leaves.
Cover the plant with a mesh cloth.
Spray neem oil on the plant leaves. This will not harm the plant leaves. It only keeps the butterflies or other insects away from your plants.
When to harvest?
This is a fast-growing plant and you do not have to wait long for harvesting leaves. Lacinato kale baby leaves are ready for the harvest. Harvest the baby leaves when they are 3 to 4 inches long. These leaves are a good ingredient for common salad recipes.
Do not pull the entire baby plant. Just pinch the few leaves and let the other leaves grow long.
The second harvesting option is cutting the large leaves. Let the plant grow tall and mature then cut the matured leaves. These leaves are more nutritional than baby leaves. To cut the leaves you do not need to buy any special garden tool. Use the herb snips and pinch the leaves.
Type of Lacinato kale
Below are the delicious Lacinato kale varieties. All are easy to grow and maintain. They can handle the hot waves and cold weather on winter days.
It has dark blue leaves that look like back in bright light. This plant grows 20 inches tall and is a hybrid version of kale. Black magic kale is more resistant to cold weather and frost conditions.
This type does not have wide leaves like black magic kale. It grows 3 feet tall in ideal growing conditions. Most people grow it for its baby leaves.