Kale was the first plant I started to grow in our Urban Potager 10 yrs ago.
I am planting more kale this spring. I have been experimenting with growing food in the winter months within our zone 5 garden for a decade. It keeps evolving as to what I do as I learn and observe what works for “my unique” growing environment. I can try what others do, but my microclimate is unique to my area I live in; an urban area so it is sheltered by many buildings which means I can grow earlier and later than people that live out in rural areas. I know several people that live out on farms outside our metropolis, and they are a month later ( or more) in starting crops outside.
This is one of the advantages of growing in a city for you have protection from high winds and extremes in both summer and winter. Often the soil warms up earlier in the spring and freezes much later in the winter. In your own small space, you have warmer and colder zones. I can push a stick in the ground even today and go down at least 5 inches and other places it is frozen solid! Know your growing area, and you can grow many crops longer than those that live out in open areas. Our kale this year has been surviving “breaking cold records” for Illinois.Maybe I should let some of my plants go to seed to have seed acclimated to these harsh temps. If I can keep the plants alive that long!
Today I am harvesting some Kale for my vegetable egg rolls. I was experimenting this winter to see which “types of Kale” would last through our winter unprotected in the garden beds. Our winter weather dips typically below zero but usually, it warms up after a few days, and our Kale thaws out.
Over the years, I have been looking for food sources that do not require a lot of work to keep going in the fall-winter. I don’t have the space to set up a greenhouse. I would lose too much-growing area. However, I can cover my winter crops with plastic. I just got busy this fall and did not get back to setting the beds up with protection. Well, out of my neglect, I decided to trial ALL of my kale without a cover! I have learned over the years how to utilize a situation to my advantage. LOL
Kale is a fantastic food source for late winter growing in our zone. It is still growing despite the extreme weather, but I did not plant enough plants to provide greens into early spring. I have left plants in the beds until early spring, and they start leafing out. I feel Dwarf ( curled) Blue Scotch and Scarlet open-pollinate kale re the best for winter growing. They can tolerate extreme cold and be snow covered. I am trying Redbor( not open-pollinated) this year. I like red kale types due to their healthy anthocyanins (read more about anthocyanins here)
The best part about Kale is it can be used in many recipes. At this time of year, most of our greens come from California or Mexico. I no longer have to depend on Kale being grown miles away. I can provide most of my kale throughout the year from my Urban Potager. Unlike lettuce, which I am trying to grow in my Urban Potager or source locally in our area or state. I have found several farms a few hours from my house that grow lettuce hydroponically or in greenhouses. I am planning to shelter space in our Urban potager where it might be possible to grow some lettuce greens year round. I have one area protected near our house and with southern exposure. I just need to figure out how I can make it happen after January. Previous years, I have been able to grow some winter lettuce until about early December. It will be something to explore this year and plan for next winter.
Right now, Kale is my go to green in the middle of winter. It is a workhorse when it comes to handling harsh winters. I hope to have more growing in our winter garden next year.
Time to get growing for 2018!!!! Happy Gardening Everyone. It will be a great year!