Kale (Brassica oleracea) is classed as a superfood, and many gardeners want to grow it for use in the kitchen or for juicing.
While you may think your crop won’t last long, you can find that if you harvest your kale correctly, you can see you can pick leaves from the plant as it carries on growing.
It is much easier than you think and using this guide, you can learn how to cut kale from the garden, so it keeps growing more healthy leaves you can eat or make into juice.
Does Kale Keep Growing After You Pick It?
If you want to pick baby kale leaves, you can start harvesting kale 60 days after planting. For full-sized leaves, that is the size of your hand, wait three months after planting seeds or two months after planting a transplant. (Learn How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed)
As you pick kale, harvest outer leaves first, leaving smaller, inner leaves to keep growing. Never cut the stem off from the top, as this stops any more growth.
You have a right way and wrong way to harvest kale. Harvest kale correctly, and the plant continues growing and producing leaves. Harvest incorrectly, and the plant will stop growing.
Kale grows leaves on a stem, which grow from the top of the stem. From here, you will find that the stem continues to grow taller, and thus creating more leaves throughout the plant’s life.
When to harvest kale, make sure to pick the oldest leaves first from the bottom, and are often the most significant leaves. Avoid picking or choosing the center leaves on the plant as they induce new growth and produce new leaves.
Cut the plant off at the top or harvest smaller leaves that grow in the center, and you stand a chance of killing the plant. (Learn What Makes Cucumbers Bitter)
It needs the center area on the top of the stem so your plant can continue producing.
Besides leaving smaller, central leaves, you need to make sure you never harvest too much of your plant at once. Pick several leaves from each plant, and never harvest more than one-third of your plant.
When you pick the old leaves from kale as you harvest, it also means you can use the whole plant. Letting leaves sit for too long on your plant, and you will find that they turn yellow, and older leaves are tougher.
How Do You Cut Kale So It Keep Growing?
Kale is ready to pick at about 60 days after seeds are planted. From here, healthy plants have ten leaves and upward.
You have two ways to harvest kale, the first is baby kale, and the second is the full-sized leaves. To keep growing, you will want to be harvesting baby kale.
Baby kale is ready 25 days after planting the seeds or once your plants reach a height of four inches. All you need to do is gather handfuls and cut the stems.
Make sure to leave two inches of stem so the leaves can grow back.
How Do You Know When Kale is Ready to Harvest?
When kale is ready to harvest, all falls on how you planted it and how you want to use it. Baby kale is ready for harvest before mature kale leaves.
Plant kale seeds, and you can see full-size plants to harvest around 70 days from planting. Transplanted kale seedlings can be ready in 55 days from planting.
Kale plants are a cool-season crop that thrives in the spring and fall seasons when you plant in early spring.
Many experts recommend you wait to harvest until after a frost. A frost can kill lots of other crops, yet with kale, a frost can improve the taste as it increases the sugar content.
You will need to get the timing right and transplant around six weeks before the first frost for seedlings into your garden. Seeds and the timing are around 3-months before this first frost.
Harvesting kale before and after frost, and you can compare the difference in the taste of the leafy green vegetable.
Even with kale withstanding frost, if it is severe, it is best to protect the leafy veg with floating row covers at these times.
Will Kale Continue to Grow After Flowering?
You have seen how to harvest kale by picking small leaves and leave it to continue to produce more green leaves through the growing season.
However, kale plants cannot do this indefinitely, and there is a time all good things may come to an end.
A kale plant is biennial, and it is this that allows it to produce leaves after a frost and through the winter. However, in the second year of biennial plants, it is here where they flower.
You can leave the kale until it has larger leaves, as any new growth in the second year means the new leaves may be tougher, so eating raw isn’t an option.
Harvested larger leaves are best used for cooking. Besides this, growth will slow as the mature plants put effort into their flowers. (Find the Best Lightweight Garden Hose)
When you see your kale plant flower, it won’t be long before you see it die back. It has completed its life cycle and will die. Any leaves you to find on the plant at this time will be tough and bitter and best not harvested to the point where the plant dies back.