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Kale Companion Plants: Best and Worst Companions

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Good and Bad Kale Companion Plants

Kale, a cold-hardy crop, can thrive in mild winters. It also grows well in the spring and fall. Plus, the right companion plants can help kale thrive even better.

Companion planting can help ward off certain pests, attract beneficial insects, and more. Below are plants that you can grow next to kale, as well as those to avoid planting near it.

The Best Companion Plants for Kale

Here’s what to plant with kale:

  • Beets
  • Catnip
  • Celery
  • Chamomile
  • Rhubarb
  • Hot peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Hyssop
  • Mint
  • Nasturtiums
  • Marigolds
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rosemary
  • Artichokes
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Thyme
  • Potatoes

Some of these plants will keep away cutworms, aphids, beetles, moths, caterpillars, and other pests. Others enjoy the same growing conditions as kale or lend their own unique flavors.

What Not to Plant With Kale

When companion planting kale, be careful of the plants you choose. Some plants will stunt kale’s growth, change its flavor, or compete for soil nutrients.

Kale does not grow well with some plants, including other brassicas. Below are bad companions for kale.

  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Swiss chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Strawberries
  • Black walnut

Some sources also say tomatoes do not do well planted beside kale.

Growing Kale

When planting in the cooler months, kale needs full sun. However, in the warmer summer months, the leaves need shade from the sun. Fortunately, it is among the vegetables that grow well in pots, so you can easily move it around.

As long as the soil is nutrient-rich, loamy, and well-drained, you can expect healthy plants. Furthermore, including certain crops as neighbors can help make your kale plants healthier.

1. Planting

Start seeds in trays or pots indoors. They can be planted in the early spring or late summer.

While you can sow seeds directly into the ground, the growing time can be nearly cut in half by using starter plants. Also, make sure your plants will have plenty of room to grow in each planter.

Drop two seeds into a hole ½ inch deep and water well. However, if two seedlings appear, remove the weaker-looking one.

As the time to replant outside nears, begin placing the seedling trays outside. This is so that the young plants can get used to the temperatures by being left out a little longer every day, eventually leaving them out overnight.

If the soil where the kale will grow doesn’t drain well, add compost, manure, or peat moss before planting. If puddles remain after watering, it means the soil is not draining properly.

To plant, dig holes about 1 ½ feet apart. Additionally, firm the soil around the plant so it has a strong base.

Give the seedlings a good watering to start, and continue to water them regularly. If you intend to keep kale in planters, make sure the roots have plenty of room.

Moreover, by using very large planters, you can include various companion herbs and vegetables to improve plant health and stability.

2. Care and Maintenance

If growing kale from transplants, expect a 30- to 40-day growing period. If you sow seeds directly into the ground, you should see mature kale 55 to 75 days later.

Mulch around the base of the plants, especially as the likelihood of frost or snow approaches. Additionally, give the plants another dose of compost after about six weeks.

If you spot any unhealthy leaves, pick them off to protect the rest of the plant. Continue to add compost throughout the growing season. Also, make sure they get plenty of water, but don’t overwater.

3. Pests and Diseases

A number of pests and diseases can affect kale. Garden pests that affect kale include cabbage worms, aphids, flea beetles, slugs, and thrips.

Slugs are easily picked from plants by hand, but slug traps are a good idea if the pests are too numerous. Besides, there are other natural pesticides you can use on your plants.

Some birds also like kale, so if they’re causing a problem, protect your plants with netting or row covers. These barriers can also protect crops from whiteflies, aphids, and flea beetles.

Additionally, bacterial leaf spot and downy mildew are common plant diseases that affect kale [1].

4. Harvesting 

Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are the size of a hand. Harvest the lower leaves, leaving the rest of the plant to continue to mature.

Use a knife to cut away the leaves along the base near the stem. The smaller leaves are perfect for salads and eating raw. Larger leaves are better cooked in soups or like spinach.

Cooking tenderizes the larger leaves, but it’s a good idea to cut off the thicker ribs and stems. Moreover, kale will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Health Benefits

Besides adding colorful foliage to your garden, kale is full of vitamins and minerals.

It’s high in fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. Additionally, it is considered “heart-healthy” as it may help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease [2].

Where to Buy Seeds

Finding kale and other seeds can be as easy as buying them online from a reputable online seed store or heading down to the local farm supply store.

Some retail chains and grocery stores often carry seeds, but look for organic brands. Shopping online can save you the hassle of long check-out lines and travel time.

See also: What Grows Well With Spinach


While kale grows without a lot of work, it’s not foolproof. Too much sunlight and hot temperatures are the plant’s biggest enemies. Therefore, consider growing in partial shade.

Starting with healthy, well-drained soil and strong seedlings is the best start. Follow through by planting alongside what grows well with kale (good companions).

Image via Flickr

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

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