mr.greenjeans
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How to plant Red Russian Kale

My wife wants me to grow a Fall crop of R R Kale. I've never grown kale before. I've done some research on it but I seem to be getting a lot of different opinions on how to plant it. We are about 70 days from our first average frost. I'm reading that the kale gets sweeter after a frost. The kale I bought matures in 55 days. Should I plant a full crop now or wait a couple weeks so it matures around the first frost? Is it best to stagger multiple plantings by a week or two? I will be seeding directly into the soil in a raised bed garden.


Thanks!

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Gary350
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

I am getting read to plant Red Russian Kale too but not until about Sept 1st. Our first frost is about Nov 1st. I planted this last year frost did not hurt it. My notes say it does good down to 15 degrees F. We had 15 degrees several times for 2 weeks it did fine then 20 degrees killed it, figure that out? I till a spot then sprinkle the seeds then water it for a week unless it rains. It comes up quick and grows fast in warm Sept weather. Plant it so it grows in full sun that keeps it warms so it grows. Plant in rows or a patch. You can eat it any time I have had plants 12" tall. When it gets cold below freezing it does not seem to grow it just sets there. The plants make several leaves that grow straight up sorta like rabbit ears. I cannot remember if it grows new leaves after several have been picked? It makes a great salad. I put it on sandwiches. You can cook it like spinach. I am going to plant all my seeds at once and hope for the best.

imafan26
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Kale is a long lived crop, at least for me. It can grow through summer, but it becomes bitter in the heat. It does taste sweeter after a light frost. I only need a couple of plants since I can harvest leaves repeatedly nearly year round. Kale just gets taller here if you pick off the lower leaves. Icing the plant the night before helps to keep the leaves sweeter for me. If the top is cut off, it suckers and produces smaller side shoots. Cutting off the top does tend to shorten the harvesting life. If your temperature is just freezing to about 70 degrees, it does best. It likes a lot of compost and does o.k. in alkaline soil.
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applestar
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Brassicas germinate easily around 80°F so there should be no problem starting them now. In my experience, White Cabbage butterflies are a problem until frost, so they will need to be protected. During the heat of the summer like now for this area, Cabbage moths and Harlequin stinkbugs will also continue to be a threat. Slugs will also strip a tiny seedling.

You may want to start them indoors under lights until they are a little bigger, or start them in small containers or cell trays outdoors and use some kind insect-excluding protection. Right now, I’m thinking about using an inexpensive dollar-store pop-up laundry hamper for my batch of fall brassica starts....

But if sowing directly in the ground, make a hoop tunnel over the bed. I have UV protected insect screen for low tunnels that can be used over and over, but I have also found tulle can be an useful option and will last one season. You can buy a large swathe (bolt) of it at a fabric store or on line like amazon.

BTW Red Russian Kale will get tall as mentioned previously, and they can become difficult to cover/protect. If this is a concern, you (she) may also want to consider more compact varieties of kale. In your area, they may survive longer into winter if protected with garden fleece/floating cover and later with plastic over the fleece. So even though the insects won’t be as much of a problem after frost, you may want to think about building a sturdier support structure (not collapse from rain or snow) and cover them.

They will be fine until mid-20’s to mid-teens without protection, however, and have overwintered in my Zone 6B garden which can get down to negative single digits — once leaves are freeze killed, no harvestable leaves until they start growing back. In the cooler season in the fall and spring, they are susceptible to the waxy grey cabbage aphids so watch out for those.
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imafan26
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

I forgot about the cabbage moths. I don't have them at my house, but they are plentiful in the herb garden. Caging them does work, you can handpick the cabbage worms under the leaves and net the butterflies, or use Bt.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

mr.greenjeans
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Thanks for the replies. I sowed a few seeds in the garden today. I think I'll start some in peat pots in a couple weeks, maybe staggering the plantings by a week or two, just in case I have problems with pests. I only have a 4'x4' space in my garden for this kale (raised bed with good soil). Any suggestions on how many plants would work in that spot. I'm trying to supply Kale for a family of 4. I read that you can freeze this kale. Is this true?

Thanks

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jal_ut
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

I think 16 plants in your 4x4 would work about right. Sprinkle a little DE on it as soon as it begins to appear. The darned bugs may eat it soon as it comes up. Good luck.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Yes, you can blanch and freeze kale, puree it and put the puree in ice cubes to make smoothies later, or you can wash and dry kale. Lay it out on a flat baking sheet in the freezer in a single layer and once the leaves are frozen, you can bag and freeze it. It won't be good for a fresh salad when it thaws but you can use it like frozen spinach in stir fries, omelettes, soups and stews.
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applestar
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

imafan26 wrote:Icing the plant the night before helps to keep the leaves sweeter for me.
So curious! What does “icing the plant” mean, @imafan?
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SQWIB
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

I planted Red Russian kale last fall in my front Hugelkultur was still growing in the summer, bolted then I cut it back, forgot about it and planted other things in the bed, Kale is coming back again and nicely.

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Gary350
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale I have grown did not spread out it grows mostly straight up. I sprinkle seeds in rows 4" apart with rows 4" apart. Last year I grew 6 rows in a 24" wide patch about 4 ft long. I had about 50 plants. I was eating the kale as the plants grew larger when plants got too large I pulled up every other plant. My larger plants were about 12" tall. If I could have eaten it faster plants would have never got 12" tall.

imafan26
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Re: How to plant Red Russian Kale

Icing usually means dumping the ice from the icemaker on the plant the night before you harvest to try and sweeten the leaves. Some people ice plants that are marginal for them like pears and apples to meet minimum chilling requirements to get fruit or sometimes just to keep them alive when they don't like the heat.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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