When To Pick Kale

Last updated: 06/03/21

Kale is a highly nutritious leafy green vegetable that is usually planted in early spring or late summer. It has a sweet and nutty flavor that is great for both salads and cooking.

Kale’s mature leaves come in various colors such as red, purple, or green kale, making it a beautiful and tasty addition to any family meal.

A kale plant is also easy to grow, making it a great addition to your garden crops.

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Best Time to Pick Kale

The best time to pick kale is between 30-60 days after planting seedlings.

Kale plants belong to the Brassica family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts. Its full-size leaves, which usually look curly, blue-green leaves, taste great when they mature in cold weather. 

Kale is a garden favorite that is rich in fiber and nutrients including beta carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

It also has at least 94 milligrams of calcium per 1 cup of cooked hale.

So it’s essential to pick it at the right moment to enjoy your garden harvest’s nutritional benefits.

How to Plant kale?

Learning how to grow kale is fun and easy. With the proper care and attention, you can plant, grow, and enjoy a bountiful fresh kale harvest.

Here are some steps to get started:

  • Prepare the soil by adding a 5-10-10 fertilizer or compost
  • Plant the seeds and saw 1/2 to 1/4 in deep in well-drained light soil
  • Check the seedlings after two weeks and thin the growing seedlings to make sure there are eight to twelve inches between them
  • If you are using transplants, plant them eight to twelve inches apart
  • Make sure to water the seedlings regularly with at least 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) of water a week
  • Mulch the soil to help control the weeds and keep the kale cool. 
  • During winter use cold frames, hoop houses, and row cover to protect the plants from the freezing weather. 
picking kale harvest tips

How Long Does It Take To Harvest Baby Kale?

Baby kale is a small, young, and delicate leaves of kale. Baby kale leaves are best in fresh salads. Both the baby kale leaves and stems are edible.

It has succulent and tasty leaves that have a slightly peppery flavor similar to arugula. Harvesting baby kale is easy, and they are ready for harvest in 25-30 days after planting. 

You can harvest them by pinching their individual outer leaves at the base of the stem using your fingers. You can also use a sharp knife or scissor but be careful not to cut the central leaves to let them mature further.

When Is The Best Time To Pick Kale?

The harvest period can start around 6o days after the seeds are planted, depending on the variety. Of course, you can pick up some baby kale leaves earlier, but the full-size leaves will need more time to develop. 

Harvesting of kale usually happens in late spring or early summer. You will know if the kale leaves are ready for harvest if they are about 12 inches (30 cm) tall.

Individual leaves should be the size of your hand or bigger. Smaller ones are usually tender leaves compared to larger leaves that are older and tougher.

Make sure only to pick healthy leaves and remove yellowing kale leaves. The rule of thumb is to harvest the kale from the bottom up.

Accidentally cutting the top of the Kale plant can affect its growth. 

Does Kale Grow Back After Cutting It & How To Pick it?

Kale is easy and simple to grow and only needs a few weeks before it’s ready for harvest. If you pick only its outer leaves it can grow back even after cutting.

You just have to be careful when you harvest kale. If you harvest it properly it can continue to grow and produce its flavorful leaves.

If you pick it incorrectly it will stop growing its leaves. You don’t need to harvest the entire plant but only pick its outer mature leaves.

You should keep the inner leaves intact, so they can grow into mature leaves. 

when to pick kale plant guide

Does Kale grow back after cutting?

Kale grows its leaves from the top of the stem. When harvesting kale, you have to make sure to pick only the 2-3 oldest, lowest leaves. 

Picking the oldest kale leaf assures that it will continue growing new leaves. If you cut the baby leaves in the center, it will likely stop producing fresh leaves and will kill the plant. 

It would be best if you do not pick terminal bud found in the upper middle portion of the kale stem so it can continue to grow back after cutting. 

How to Harvest Kale 

When harvesting kale, you will need clean hands, a sharp knife, or pruning shears. You have to follow the following steps in harvesting full-sized kale leaves.  

  1. Before harvesting kale, visually inspect the entire plant and select the desirable leaves. 
  2. Using your hands, hold the kale leaves at the stem base, then slightly twist and pull until the leaves are detached.
  3. Alternatively, you can cut the full-sized leaves at the base of the stem with a clean pruning shear.
  4. Cut additional leaves but make sure not to cut all the leaves and leave the smaller leaves in the center.
  5.  After cutting a fistful of leaves, place them in a clean bucket or container. 
  6. Remove damaged leaves and wash the remaining freshly cut leaves.
  7. Prepare the Kale for eating or mix them with your favorite vegetables for a delicious meal

How to Grow Kale in the Cold

Kale is a cool-season vegetable garden crop that can stand up to cold conditions and frost with ease. You have to make sure it’s placed in a sunny position to support its growth during the cold winter months. 

Kale is a hardy vegetable that usually grows from early spring until the start of winter. It can survive freezing temperatures.

That is why it’s also often referred to as winter kale.

Plant your Kale Before Winter

If you want to harvest your Kale during frost you have to have the timing right. To have a winter harvesting window, you have to plant it three months before the first frost. 

Kale that is exposed to cold temperatures have a sweeter flavor compared to those harvested during summer.

This is because frost can increase the amount of sugar in the leaves of the kale plant. 

Taking Care of Kale 

You do not have to be out of your garden and take care of your Kale during winter’s cool season frost. You don’t even need to feed or weed your Kale as you do during summer.

Since the ground is frozen, you don’t need to water your kale plant. Since Kale is a hardy variety, which means it can thrive in cooler temperatures.

You can leave the plant alone and harvest leaves when you need them. Although Kale can withstand cold temperatures, it may still need some form of protection to extend its life and harvest during winter. 

You can use cold frames, hoop houses, and row covers to protect your Kale from freezing temperatures. You can also use an old tarp and place hay on top to secure it. 

To pick your Kale leaves, simply open the frame or lift the row covers and harvest the leaves. Then you can enjoy the sweet flavor of Kale. 

Kale Harvest & Storage Tips

Storing Freshly harvested Kale is simple. You can store them like other leafy vegetables. You can do the following steps:

1. Immediately wash your Kale as you finish harvesting them 

2. Chop the Kale leaves so it would be easier to store and clean them. If you prepare them whole, you may do so also.

3. Keep the Kale leaves away from moisture by wrapping them loosely using paper towels.

4. Place them in an airtight container such as zip lock, etc.

5. Keep them in the crisper compartment of the refrigerator. 

6. Make sure you keep it away from onions and fruits. 

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Final Thoughts

Kale is inexpensive, easy to plant, and an excellent addition to your home garden. You can have a variety of types to choose from. 

With proper care, you’re always assured of a good harvest for the entire season. Freshly harvested leaves can serve as kale salads or be mixed with other vegetables for a hearty garden vegetable soup.  

You can also have a Kale and mushroom lasagna or a refreshing green smoothie. 

Related Questions

How do I cut Kale?

My preferred method is to grab a handful and cut them off one to two inches above the ground, using a knife.

How often should I harvest Kale greens?

Depending on your growing zone and the time of year, you can gather new greens every one to two weeks.

How do I know if my Kale plants are healthy?

If you see discolored or heavily insect-eaten leaves, make sure to remove these and discard them, or add them to the compost pile.

What do you do if your Kale plant is in distress?

If your soil is soft or your plants are newly established, you can use a knife or scissors instead of your hands.

Green Thumb Gardener
kale plant harvest tips
Jeremy Starke

We at Green Thumb Gardener provide tips and guides for both for beginners and advanced gardeners out there. 

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