Dirt on Gardening

As the days shorten, many gardeners turn their thoughts to the fall garden.

Mild Ozarks winters can keep a variety of greens going in the garden that are begun in the fall.

Brassica oleracea is a plant that does best with fall plantings. There are two types of Brassica oleracea. The acephala group of Brassica oleracea is commonly known as the leafy green kale. The gongylodes group of Brassica oleracea is the crunchy bulb known as kohlrabi.

First, let’s look at kale. Kale grows best in cool climates. Seed planted in the spring in the Ozarks will succeed if leaves are harvested before warm weather makes the leaves bitter.

Otherwise, fall is a great time to plant kale. Snow will slow down the growth of kale, but it will not destroy it.

Kale seeds can be planted in the Ozarks in mid summer.

Seeds can be direct sown in well-drained soil with full sun. Plentiful moisture is required for adequate growth. Plant three seeds every eight inches one-quarter to one-half inch deep. Rows of plants should be 18 to 30 inches apart.

Thin groups of seedlings to one plant after plants germinate. Begin harvesting kale leaves about 55 days after planting.

Harvesting of leaves can be done by simply breaking or cutting off leaves as needed, leaving the rest of the plant to grow additional leaves.

Cabbage worms may chomp on kale, but the green remains relatively pest free. Row covers may discourage pests.

Kale can be used in salads or cooked lightly. Even “ornamental” kale can be eaten, although it’s most commonly used as a colorful fall planting.

Although kale is considered a leafy green, there are several red varieties of kale that are grown to eat, too.

Traditional kale leaves are a two to three foot bluish green and ruffled leaf.

“Winterbor” is a variety that is considered extra-productive with green ruffled leaves. “Toscano” is another green leafed variety, but the leaves are blistered rather than ruffled.

“Redbor” and “Red Russian” are two red-leafed kale varieties that also curl.

In my next column I will discuss the other Brassica oleracea – kholrabi.

Joleen is an University of Missouri master gardener. For questions or comments related to gardening, contact her at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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