It seems that everyone is obsessed with this leafy green superfood, from kale smoothies and salads to kale chips and tacos. Kale is a delicious vegetable that’s packed with vitamins and nutrients your body needs. Even though you always see this vegetable in the supermarket, there’s something different about growing and planting your kale. It tastes better, it’s free from harmful pesticides, and it’s more sustainable.
If you’re planning to grow and harvest kale in your backyard, you need to know important factors, such as the different types of kale, companion plants for kale, and more.
Different Types of Kale and Its Benefits
Kale is undeniably one of the healthiest and most nutritious green leafy vegetables. It contains vitamins A, K, C, and B6 and calcium, copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. Kale can also help lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. It contains cancer-fighting nutrients like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbine.
If you’re looking to plant this superfood, it helps to know the different types of kale:
Curly kales are the most recognisable type of kale, best known for their wavy leaves. We often see this type of kale served at restaurants or sold in supermarkets. It has a pale to deep green colour and has large leaves with frilly edges and long stems.
Like other kale types, curly kales have a high amount of essential nutrients and antioxidants, including potassium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and vitamin C that’s higher than those in oranges.
As the name suggests, baby kales come from a young kale plant. It looks and tastes like curly kale, except that it has smaller and thinner leaves. It’s also one of the most common types of kales people find in grocery stores. Its mild and delicate flavour makes it ideal for eating raw.
Even though baby kales are smaller than other kales, they’re rich in vitamin C, A, and K1. They also contain calcium and iron, making them ideal for including in your daily diet.
Premier Kale/Early Hanover
The leaves of primer kale are smooth and have scalloped edges. Premier kale is rich in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, a plant pigment found in fresh fruits and vegetables. This antioxidant improves cognitive function, promotes good skin health, reduces macular degeneration, and prevents cancer.
Many people say that premier kale is the most flavorful type of kale. It’s used in different dishes, including fresh salads, sandwiches, and sautéed vegetables. Most people like to eat it raw because premier kales are not as strict as other kale types.
Walking Stick Kale
You can quickly identify walking stick kale because of its height. Unlike other kales, walking stick kales can grow over six feet tall! Also, it isn’t called walking stick kale for no reason. You can actually use it as a walking stick by properly drying its long stem, laminate it, and then use it as a cane.
While walking stick kales are impressively tall, growing this kale requires more care and attention than other types. The ideal overall climate has to be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the soil must be drained well, and there should be layers of organic compost.
Redbor kale is not only delicious to eat, but it’s also beautiful to look at. This type of kale can be both an ornamental plant and a vegetable plant. It has a deep red colour with dark purple undertones, and it has curly and frilly leaves.
This type of kale is usually grown in UK gardens because of its ornamental value. During cold weather, the reddish leaves turn to violet. Its deep hues make an incredible plate décor.
Aside from its beauty, red bor kale is also a great source of essential vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fibre, potassium, iron, calcium, proteins, and magnesium. It also contains an important antioxidant called ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) to help lower blood sugar levels and improve heart health. This can significantly benefit people with diabetes and heart problems.
Red Russian Kale
This kale is known for its unique flavour that many people describe as sweet and tender with a peppery kick. This unique combination makes red Russian kale one of the sweetest kales, especially after frost. It’s delicious eaten raw, tossed in salads, and blended with other fruits and veggies.
Just like other varieties, the red Russian kale is rich in vitamins and minerals. It even contains higher amounts of nutrients compared to other kales. It also improves bone health since this type of kale is exceptionally high in calcium.
This Portuguese kale is the least common type of kale.
It has thick, soft leaves that are perfect for juices and smoothies. Tronchuda kales have large, flat, and rounded leaves that look like collard. Its fleshy stems are edible as well. Compared to other kales, this one has a cabbage-like taste.
This Portuguese kale is loaded with nutrients, plus it has a low-carb content, making it a perfect superfood. This kale may not be as common as curly kales or baby kales, but it’s a great plant with heat-tolerant properties. It’s relatively easy to grow as well.
Chinese kale, also known as Chinese broccoli, is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family. This type of kale has a thick, flat, blue-green colour with small flower heads that look similar to broccoli. Additionally, Chinese kale tastes just like broccoli. However, Chinese kale has a slightly bitter and stronger flavour than broccoli. AS a result, you’ll find many recipes substituting Chinese kale with broccoli.
This kale variant is rich in nutrients like vitamins A, vitamins C, iron, and calcium. Because of its strong taste, most people pair Chinese kale with sweetened sauces.
Also called Tuscan kale and dinosaur kale, lacinto kale is the second most popular type of kale. You’ll most likely find it in the vegetable section in most supermarkets. Lacinto kales have long, dark grey leaves that look aesthetically pleasing when you grow them in your backyard, whether in your British garden or a polytunnel. It has a dark colour with a thin texture. Its bluish-green leaves are wrinkly, making them look nice when plated.
Benefits of Companion Planting
If you’ve been planting for a long time, then you’ve probably heard of companion planting.
Companion planting is a proven method of planting different crops near each other for various reasons, such as pollination, pest control, growth stimulation, habitat for helpful insects, and crop productivity.
Some of the benefits of companion planting include the following:
Improve Soil Nutrients
Your crops take essential nutrients from the soil to grow healthy. This is why UK gardeners take proactive steps to improve the soil’s nutrients. Companion plants like bush beans and pole beans can add nutrients, like nitrogen back into the soil, ensuring that the surrounding plants grow healthy.
Pests like carrot flies, cabbage moths, cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, Mexican beetles, and other types of insects can harm your plants. You can plant companion plants around your crops to repel harmful pests.
Attract Helpful Insects
While there are harmful pests, there are helpful insects as well. Pollinator bees and ladybugs can be beneficial when it comes to pollinating crops. You can encourage these insects to visit by planting attractive flowers near your crops.
Provide Ground Cover
Some plants that spread low across the ground blankets over the soil. This protects the surrounding crops from too much heat, keeping it cooler for plants that prefer lower temperatures. Oregano, ferns, mondo grass, and creeping juniper are some examples of low-maintenance ground cover plants.
Rows of slow-growing plants may be hard to spot while you’re waiting for the seeds to sprout. When you plant fast-growing plants near slow-growing ones, you can distinguish where the slow growers will be.
Faster Growth and Better Taste
Some companion plants release chemicals that help hasten growth and or help crops taste better.
Tall and leafy companion plants can provide much-needed shade from the sun.
Companion Plants for Kale
Now that you know the importance of companion planting, you’ll need to understand how to implement this method when planting kale. Be sure to avoid planting other brassicas near your kale, such as cauliflower, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and broccoli, because they may fall prey to the same pests and diseases. Here are some of the companion plants to plant near your kale:
Chives, leeks, onions, and shallots are some examples of alliums. Planting them near kale will help repel common pests like cabbage loopers and aphids that munch on your kale leaves.
People have mixed emotions when it comes to cilantro. But love it or hate it, cilantro is one of the best companion plants for kale. It attracts helpful insects like hoverflies that eat harmful pests like aphids.
Legumes like beans or bush beans can fertilise the soil around the kale by increasing the nitrogen content and helping your kale grow healthy and flavorful.
Other than pickling, dill also makes an excellent companion plant for veggies, including kale. It helps attract pollinators that can aid in your plant’s growth, as well as beneficial insects that kill pests. Dill can also help protect your kale seedlings as they grow.
Marigolds, sweet alyssum, and other flowers can attract hoverflies that eat aphids, harmful insects that can damage your kale plants.
Buckwheat is a ground cover plant that helps seal moisture in the soil and kills weeds that can hamper your kale’s growth. By planting it near your veggies, you can ensure that they grow in ideal conditions. Additionally, buckwheat attracts beneficial insects and enrich the soil with nitrogen.
Lastly, catnip is another excellent companion plant that can help different vegetables and flowers grow healthy. It protects your kale by repelling pests and attracting helpful insects.
Growing Plants in Greenhouses
Planting in greenhouses is a great way to plant vegetables and flowers. Growing kale indoors means you don’t have to worry about the changing season and the erratic weather. By planting in polytunnels in the UK, you can ensure that your plants are protected from harsh weather conditions they usually face by being outdoors, such as wind, drought, heat, cold, pests, and other critters.
Greenhouses allow you to create the optimal conditions for your kale and other crops. You can control different factors, such as temperature, light, moisture, humidity, fertilisation, and irrigation. Additionally, you can be sure that your plants aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals and diseases.
Growing Plants in a Polytunnel vs Growing Plants Outdoors
There’s a difference between growing your vegetables outdoors and growing them indoors. As mentioned, indoor planting allows you to control all the variables contributing to your plants’ growth, such as light, humidity, water, temperature, and soil nutrients.
When temperature, humidity, and moisture are controlled, this gives your plants a constant moisture supply, reducing water stress and allowing your plants to grow freely. Additionally, growing plants in a polytunnel will enable you to control the soil. Having the correct soil type can make or break your plants as it can prevent diseases and ward off pests compared.
The only downside to having a greenhouse is the costs that come with it. However, greenhouses are an investment. If you’re willing to shell out money and invest in a polytunnel, it’s a better option than growing plants outdoors.
However, planting outdoors has its advantages and disadvantages. With outdoor planting, your plants rely on soil moisture alone. Drought and other external factors may contribute to water stress, making it harder for your plants to thrive.
On the other hand, outdoor plants get more sun, allowing them to grow bigger and stronger. Planting outdoors won’t cost you much as well.
Greenhouses are a great way to plant kale and other types of companion plants for kale. If you’re looking for a low price and high-quality polytunnels, Krostrade offers affordable greenhouses ideal for people who want to grow their fruit and vegetables in their UK gardens. Our polytunnels are made with high-quality materials, so you can use them for years to come.
The polytunnel film is made with COEX-3 technology consisting of three layers. This creates a dense, heat-insulating dome that still allows 95% of natural sunlight. If you want to know more about our offer, don’t hesitate to contact us today.