Bringing you the best advise from the best in the field.

Gary Bachman, PhD, CPH

Certified Professional Horticulturist

How to grow kale in the winter + Kale chip recipe

We’re fully in the cool fall season and that means we can grow delicious and nutritious kale now through the spring season. Kale is one of my all-time favorites and I look forward to growing kale because there are lots of varieties from which to choose (see below). 

For the beginning gardener it’s probably easier to buy transplants for the local independent garden center. For the gardener that wants more selection, and then starting from seed is the way to grow.

Deciding where to grow your kale is the next decision, in either raised beds or containers. Always choose a location that receives at least six hours of full sun. 

Where to plant your kale?

Container planing

  • This is the easiest for beginners
  • Place at porch or patio for easy access and lots of light.
  • Using professional growing mix, commercial container mixes are engineered to have the proper water holding, porosity for optimum plant growth. 
  • Don’t add compost or other amendments as this will change the engineered properties. 

Raised Planting Bed

  • Be sure and amend the planting soil with fertilizer and lime as recommended by soil testing.
  • Space the plants about 18-inches apart to allow the full development of the leaves.
  • Transplants a few weeks before the first frost. In the warmer zones 8, 9 and 10 kale can be transplanted all through the winter season. 

Indoors (microgreens)

  • Use small countertop or window container 
  • LED lights (shop lights will work. Or you can use one of the easy indoor grow systems)

Recommended Kale Varieties 

Curly Kale

  • Scarlet Kale
  • Vates Blue Scotch
  • Redbor
  • Winterbor
  • Starbor

Flat Kale

  • Dinosaur or lacinato kale
    -Black Magic
    -Black Tuscan
  • Red Russian
  • Siberian
  • Beira

Suggested Seed Sources (not all inclusive)

Transplant Sources

  • Favorite Local Independent Garden Centers

Caring for your kale

Consistent fertilization is a must for a successful kale harvest, your choice of materials:

  • Controlled release such as Osmocote
    - Maintain nutrient available over time
  • Granular
    - Fast nutrient release
    - Multiple applications
  • Water soluble
    - fertilize with watering
  • Organic
    -Many great products available

Harvesting your kale

Now's the time to reap your reward and harvest your kale. You can harvest kale anytime after germination but depending on what kind of kale you are looking to grow, just make sure you harvest before the plant bolts. 

  • 10 to 15 days as microgreens
  • 16 to 24 days as baby
  • 25 to 35 days as mini
  • 60 days as full grown leaves

Full grown kale can be harvested and preserved via canning. Always follow good canning practices. A good resource is available from the USDA here

One of the most enjoyable ways I like to enjoy home grown kale is by making kales chips. Here is my no fail recipe that has been developed from many years of experimentation. 

Gary's kale chip recipe 

Preheat oven to 260F (You may have adjust times to get the kale chips exactly how you like them).

  • Kale of your choice, I like the fringed varieties as they get crispier
  • Trim the thick mid rib out, it will never get crispy
  • Lightly coat with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt, I like the Himalayan Pink salt
  • Put parchment on your cookie sheet and spread the kale out into a single layer
  • Put in the oven for about 20 minutes
  • Mix the kale around and put back in the oven
  • Turn the oven off and leave the kale in for another 15 minutes

Air Fryer

  • Prep as above
  • 175F
  • 15 minutes

Gary Bachman, PhD, CPH

Certified Professional Horticulturist

Gary earned his degrees at Clemson University (BS and MS) and The Ohio State University (PhD) and has 30+ years of urban horticulture experience.

Gary was named a Great American Gardener by The American Horticultural Society. Gary and his wife Katie live in Ocean Springs, MS and operate the Heritage Cottage Urban Nano Farm which is designed to be a demonstration urban farm to share tips and tricks for gardening success in small urban spaces. 

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