Kale 101: Basic care and Harvesting tips

Howdy gardeners!

I’ve noticed three things going on regarding Kale in the garden this month (note: these do not apply to all plots!): aphids, poor care, and improper harvesting, the last of which inspired the sign pictured below.  Thus, I thought It may be helpful to go over a couple of the basics for those of you who are not familiar (or who want a refresher!).

First things first: Kale plants like to have a little space. This isn’t terribly surprising (many veggies do), but I was surprised to find recommendations of 12 to 18 inches between seeds. (Yes – a foot!) This allows Kale plants enough space for all of their leaves to receive sunlight when they eventually grow larger. This means that if you densely planted seeds and find your bed with thick rows of sprouts, your Kale will thrive best if you thin them out.
That leads me to another fact that growers new-to-kale may not realize: Kale is essentially a perennial crop, meaning it continues to grow and produce through multiple seasons, even multiple years, if you care for it correctly. An essential part of this care: harvesting.

The only way Kale will grow up big and strong to last multiple seasons is by undergoing continued, proper harvesting. So what’s the proper way?  Always harvest the older, larger leaves that are closest to the bottom of the stalk, and be sure to take each leaf stem-and-all. So long as you continue to harvest in this fashion, the plant will continue to produce new leaves from the top as it grows taller. But if you harvest the leaves from the top, they you will stunt the plants growth!
Also note: you should continuously remove yellowed leaves. If they are yellowing or have holes in them, it’s a sign that you’re not harvesting quickly enough!

Continued, proper harvesting is the number one way to fend your plants from all the insects who would like to make it their dinner instead of yours. The principle is quite simple: if you’re constantly getting your hands up in your Kale plants, you’re constantly disturbing where insects would like to set up shop. Furthermore, if you’re constantly harvesting then you’re taking the stuff they’d prefer to eat. It works out nicely, doesn’t it? Just harvest regularly and you shouldn’t have a problem.
That said, aphids are also fond of kale flowers. When a Kale plant does mature enough to begin flowering, you can make an exception to the chop-from-bottom-only rule and remove the flowers – before they attract aphids.

The bottom line is: be kind to kale, and kale will be kind to you!

Read more: How to Care for Kale | Garden Guides


  1. Kathy Johns says:

    I haven’t planted the flowering kale in many years. Last fall as I bought the pansy’s for the winter months I noticed the kale and how beautiful they were. I’ve gotten older and not able to do yard flower gardens. So I purchased 3 and put them in really large pots. They sprouted and bloomed this spring. Poor things did not see much of a cold winter. I started to cut the sprout before it bloomed but didn’t. Now the blooms have fell and there are a zillion seed pods. Should I save and plant and how do I treat the seeds? I wasn’t aware of pulling the bottom leaves off but now I will do better. If I understand what you wrote I am to pull bottom leaves off to grow tall and if I want them to stunt I should pull top leaves also?

  2. Kathy Johns says:

    One more question. Should I cut off the flowering sprout when it starts to grow?

  3. THOMAS says:

    Thankyou for a very good piece on kale. It has answered most of the questions I needed answered. And may the KALE gods be with you.

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