Dre Campbell Farm
Kale Companion Plants: Best and Worst Companions

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Good and Bad Kale Companion Plants

Often considered a winter crop, kale thrives in cool temperatures. Furthermore, the right companion plants can help it thrive even better.

Companion planting can help ward off certain pests, attract beneficial insects, and more. Below are vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that you can plant next to kale to boost its growth, as well as those to avoid planting near it.

Best Companion Plants for Kale 

Here’s what to plant with kale to help keep away certain pests and plant diseases. Some of these plants can also attract useful insects and improve the soil.

  • Beets
  • Catnip
  • Celery
  • Chamomile
  • Rhubarb
  • Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Hyssop
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Nasturtiums
  • Marigolds
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rosemary
  • Artichokes
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Thyme
  • Potatoes

Some of these plants will keep away cutworms, aphids, beetles, moths, and caterpillars. Others enjoy the same growing conditions and 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.

Fortunately, kale has very few plants that may be harmful to its growth and development.

  • Grapes
  • Rue
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Beans

Growing Kale

Kale grows from seeds. When planting in cooler months, it needs full sun. However, in 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 plants healthier.

1. Planting

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

While you can sow seeds directly into the ground, 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 sprout.

As the time to replant outside nears, begin placing the seedlings trays outside. This is so that the young plants can get used to the temperatures, leaving them 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 out, dig holes about 1 ½ feet apart, deep enough that only the leaves remain above ground. Additionally, firm the soil around the plant so it has a strong base.

Give them 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 veggies to improve plant health and stability.

2. Care and Maintenance

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

Mulch around the base of the plants, especially as the likelihood of frost or snow approaches. Additionally, give 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 over-water.

3. Pests and Diseases

Kale plants can get affected by a number of pests and diseases. 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.

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 and removes bitterness, but it’s a good idea to cut off 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-outs and travel time.

See also: What Grows Well With Spinach

Takeaway

Kale companion planting is a great way to ensure a good harvest. While it 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.

Moreover, starting with healthy, well-drained soil, and strong seedlings are the best start. Follow through by planting alongside what grows well with kale.

Image via Flickr

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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