Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing Heirloom Kale in Kihei

Dwarf Blue Scottish

Kale grows best in Kihei during the fall and winter months. I've found that kale seeds have good germination and grow beautifully when planted from October through January.

Kale can be grown as individual plants or in baby green mixes. I don't recommend planting kale in a lettuce mix as kale grows larger leaves faster than lettuce but kale works well in a mix with mustard greens. There's a good assortment of heirloom kale seeds available and most can be used as cut and come again plants within 6 weeks.

Nero di Toscana is actually an ancient loose leaf cabbage but it's usually classified as kale. This kale is known by several names including Dinosaur, Lacinato and Cavolo Nero.

Kale grows well in regular and self-watering containers. For the Dinosaur types of kale I plant one per container as they're larger than most other varieties. Dwarf Blue Scottish, Dwarf Siberian, Red Russian and Red Ursa can be spaced as close as 6 inches apart.  

Nero di Toscana

In Italian, Nero di Toscana means Black Palm Tree. I let one plant grow through the summer and in August,it was 5 feet tall and had yet to flower. For Nero to grow beyond the winter season it's best to plant it in a 10 gallon or larger container to accommodate the root system.

For kale, I recommend full sun, daily water and twice-monthly applications of fish emulsion or a generous application of an organic or natural all purpose fertilizer once a month.

The biggest pest that affects the kale is the cabbageworm, a soft green caterpillar. It's the larvae of a white moth that mates from mid-November through February. I recommend covering the kale with tulle nets or a light row cover over hoops. For more information, see my post on Cabbageworms.

Dwarf Siberian

Ethiopian kale is classified as brassica carinata. It looks like kale and tastes like a spicy mustard green. It's the only kale I've grown that produced seeds in Kihei. For more information see this article in edible East Bay.

Rainbow Lacinato

Red Russian

Red Ursa


Kale is common in vegetarian, vegan and raw food cuisines. It's often used in green drinks. Kale chips have become one of the most popular raw foods - they're easy to make and so ono!


  1. Hi, Jane, Easy to see why the name Black Palm Tree arose. Those are huge! I did have some common kale that sprang up from the previous owner's planting, but it wasn't very good - did have quite a root system, though.

  2. Hi Pomaika'i! Kale grown in the cool Pukalani winters will probably be tasty and sweet. You might be able to grow all the varieties of kale year round in Pukalani.

  3. I always thought of kale as a cool weather crop so i was suprised to see how well it grows here. Do you find your kale has a stronger flavor in the summertime Jane?

    Chard with tangerine sounds delicious, thanks for the inspiration.

    Just amazing what you are doing with containers. Are they all self watering?

  4. Hi Julie! I can't believe I can grow kale in Kihei. The leaves are more blue grey than dark green but they still taste good to me. The flavor has been consistant all year but cool weather in Kihei isn't really cool weather.

    I have all the cucumbers and peppers growing in SWCs but the rest of my garden is an assorment of 15 gallon SmartPots, 5, 10 and 18 gallon containers from Lowes/HomeDepot. It was expensive initially but it's so easy to garden this way and such an efficient use of space.

  5. Thanks for the info! I have kale on my list for this fall-winter!

  6. Hi Susan! All of the chard and kale seeds I trialed last fall grew well through the winter months. If you like spinach - Matador (a Franchi seed) was the only one I was able to grow and it produced beautiful spinach all winter.

  7. I'm having a lot of whitish powdery mildew-looking stuff on my kale. I've tried spraying it with baking soda/water and apple vinigar/water, but it never stops it. Do you have a suggestion?

    1. Did you plant from seeds or seedling plants that were purchased locally? I haven't had powdery mildew on any of my kale but I grow it from seeds. Powdery mildew is an ever present problem here - it comes and goes and the time of year seems to be random. I've tried a number of remedies but haven't had very good results. I just keep planting more seeds and trying again. If you planted seedlings try seeds. Kula hardware usually has several different Kale seeds. ACE in Kihei restocked their seeds last month and maybe they have kale.