Do you love Kale salad or pasta? If so, do you know that you can grow this amazing vegetable in your own backyard?
Yes, you heard that right! Kale belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables, and it is so easy to grow as long as it is getting enough water, sunshine, good companion plants, and fertile soil. In just 30-40 days, you can learn how to plan, grow, and harvest kale crops in your backyard.
Keep on scrolling if you want to read about the best companion plants and growing conditions for successful kale crop production.
Why grow kale?
Kale has numerous health benefits. Adding this leafy green vegetable to your daily meals is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Why? Because it is packed with rich nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins (including Vit C and K). Also, homegrown kale tastes heavenly! Here are some great reasons why you should grow it in your garden:
- Kale is the most nutritious cruciferous vegetable. It is loaded with micronutrients and vitamins that support eye and heart health.
- If you plan to attain a healthy weight goal this season, eating kale salads or pesto can help you. Kale is a low-calorie food composed of beta-carotene that aids in weight loss.
- Calcium and phosphorous found in Kale play an important role in strengthening bones.
- You can make a variety of delicious recipes by using kale from your own backyard! Some of these include; kale salad, kale soup, or sautéed kale with a dash of nuts. You can also make kale chips!
- If you are looking for a quick but healthy breakfast fix, throw kale into the blender along with some cashews, lemons, almond milk, and your favorite fruit slices. And voila, your tasty smoothie is ready to be devoured!
- It is an excellent source of vitamin C, essential for healthy and radiant skin. Vit C boosts collagen production, reduces fine lines, and makes your skin glow.
- Along with being delicious, it comes in a variety of stunning colors. You can use bright green or purple crinkled vegetables for salad dressing. Or you can make a delicious meal using dinosaur kale. This is the beauty of having your own vegetable garden. You can use fresh foodstuffs anytime you want!
Homegrown kale tastes amazing. The taste is a hundred times better than what you get from the grocery store. This is because you rip it at the peak of freshness. And whenever you want to make something, you can simply get fresh kale from your garden. (See my full post on how to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Kale in the home garden!)
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Unlike grocery store veggies, homegrown vegetables have no added synthetic chemicals to increase shelf-life. This way, you can get first-hand all the health benefits of leafy greens.
When to plant kale?
Kale is a cool-season crop. That means spring and fall are the best seasons to grow kale in your vegetable garden, though that varies based on which zone you’re growing in.
- For Spring: Plant 4 or 5 weeks before your last frost date in spring. This is the best time for germination to occur!
- For Fall: start sowing seeds at least 8-10 weeks before the first fall frost date.
Mature kale plants can withstand hard temperatures. The following conditions are necessary for the successful growth of the crop:
- Adequate sunlight, kale can tolerate full sun but make sure they have partial shade during the hot seasons if you’re in a hot zone;
- Fertile soil for the production of juicy and tender leaves;
- Enrich and set the soil with organic compost for moisture retention before planting the seedlings;
- Good companion plants – very important!
- Feed plants once a month with a good quality organic fertilizer, especially if kale is planted along other heavy feeders that may compete with the kale for nutrients.
Best companion plants for kale
There are so many benefits of companion planting, and you can see my full article about The Best Companion Plants that link up plants and their companions. When plants grow with great companions, it boosts their growth, amplifies the flavor, and improves crop production tenfold. Below are some of the right companion plants for kale:
Sweet Alyssum is a great companion plant for kale. It is a low-growing white flower that moistens the soil and attracts beneficial predatory insects like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies. These predatory insects feed on harmful insects like aphids and protect your cruciferous crop. In essence, Sweet Alyssum also attracts vital pollinators like bees and butterflies. The sweet scent of the beautiful flower smells amazing. It also blooms all spring, summer, and fall, making your vegetable garden look so beautiful!
Lettuce benefits most vegetables that grow near it. It is among the best companion plants for kale mainly because it acts as a powerhouse pest repellent and doesn’t compete for nutrients. Growing lettuce with kale can benefit both crops in terms of flavor and nutrients.
Peas and Beans
Kale requires fertile soil enriched with organic compost to grow properly. Peas and pole beans or bush beans, all in the legume family, act as nitrogen fixers and help in retaining the fertility of the soil. This makes them ideal for kale companion planting. Also, peas deter the butterflies and confuse them to identify kale as a potential egg-laying site and beans can be grown on a trellis and may give kale partial shade during the day if grown next to one another. (See my guide for How to Grow Pole Beans.)
Like kale, Cilantro (Coriander) is also a cool-weather herb that grows quickly and is very easy to harvest. It encourages beneficial insects and pollinators to visit the crop. As with many aromatic herbs, this summer salsa ingredient also repels the pests and protects the kale.
As you can imagine, the strong scent of mature onions repels insects. They are great for kale companion planting since they are the best pest control – they protect crops from cabbage worm butterflies and flea beetles. Growing onions alongside kale increase your chances of successfully growing the cruciferous crop. Butterflies lay eggs on kale leaves, and when these eggs hatch, the caterpillars begin to eat the leaves. The strong smell of the onions prevents the butterflies from laying their eggs on kale leaves.
Radishes are good companion plants for kale crops. They protect the leaves from insect pests like flea beetles and require a small harvesting space. They will also grow below the kale plant, so this is a great trap crop for pests.
Cucumbers are also great for kale companion planting since they help cool down the soil during hot temperatures. This provides kale crops with ideal growing conditions during summer planting. They also act as weed suppressors and soil moisturizers.
I’ve a huge fan of marigolds in the vegetable garden for many reasons, but it is a wonderful and beneficial plant to have near kale. These beautiful bloomers help to keep pests at bay and have a long blooming season that extends well into late summer and fall. They are perfect in a small garden or container and add color to the garden space as well. There are many varieties to choose from, including my favorite french marigolds. (See my guide for How to Grow Marigolds!)
Plants to avoid near kale
Although kale is friendly with most of the crops in the garden, there are some plants you must avoid planting near it. Why? Because they can hinder the growth of your crop production or even fall prey to the common pests (such as cabbage loopers or cabbage moths) or diseases.(See my full post on How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms) These plants include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Black walnut trees
- Bok Choy
More Companion Planting Help
If you’d like to dive deeper than the rabbit hole that can be companion planting, be sure to check out these resources that can help you dig even deeper into this topic. Here are some great resources for you:
- Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte This book is one of the go-to’s for learning more about companion planting. Her knowledge on the subject is vast, and it’s also an easy read! Don’t worry, she goes well beyond tomato plants and focuses on many different plants and their companions.
- Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty by Lisa Ziegler This book focuses on companion planting with flowers as a great way to enrich your garden space, but also to encourage vegetable and herb plant growth. If you are looking for an abundant garden full of blooms and vegetables, then this book will definitely get you there.
- Roses Love Garlic: Companion Planting and other Secrets of Flowers by Louise Riotte. This second installment from Riotte focuses on flowers as companion plants, and as someone who has planted garlic in a rose bed, what she says is true!
- Companion Planting for Beginners by Brian Lowell A newer book all about companion planting and not just how it can help your plants to grow in a symbiotic relationships with those around them, but also how companion planting can keep gardeners from needing to use harmful chemicals in their vegetable gardens and creating an environment full of healthy plants.
Planning for Companion Plants
The most effective way to implement companion planting for kale or any other plants in your garden is through planning. Planning a garden is a simple process that can save gardeners time and money by not wasting planting space, planting crops next to those that may hinder their growth, and spending too much on plants and seeds they don’t need.
I have several helpful planners available in The Kitchen Garten shop to help you plan out a simple or extravagant garden space. For just a few dollars, you can have your entire companion planting plan down and ready to implement; it really is just that easy!
- Complete Garden Planner Printable: A printable garden planner that can be used year after year.
- The Kitchen Garden Planner: A spiral-bound 6×9 planner that easily fits into a garden apron and can lay flat on the potting bench. This also makes a great gift for any gardener in your life.
- Free Basic Kitchen Garden Planner: Printable download that is free for all The Kitchen Garten subscribers!
Follow the above tips and companion planting tricks to maximize your kale yield. For more gardening tips and delicious home-cooked recipes, visit my website to read more blogs or sign up for my newsletter!