Dre Campbell Farm
Kale Companion Plants: Best and Worst Companions

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Kale Companion Plants: Best and Worst Companions

Often considered a winter crop, kale thrives in cool temperatures. Furthermore, planting it with the right companions will help it grow even better.

Depending on the variety, kale plants could be white, deep green, red, yellow-green, or purple in color. However, all varieties do well with good neighbors.

Good Companion Plants for Kale 

If you’re trying to figure out what to plant with kale to keep bugs away, these companions will not only help to repel insects but also improve growth and flavor.

  • Artichokes
  • Basil (repels insects)
  • Beets
  • Bittercress (repels insects)
  • Catnip (repels insects)
  • Celery
  • Chamomile (improves flavor)
  • Chard
  • Cucumber (improves flavor)
  • Dill (improves flavor)
  • Garlic (improves flavor)
  • Hyssop
  • Lettuce
  • Mint (improves flavor)
  • Mustard (lures pest away)
  • Nasturtiums (lures pest away)
  • Onions (lures pest away)
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes (lures pest away)
  • Rosemary (improves flavor)
  • Sage (improves flavor)
  • Spinach
  • Thyme (improves flavor)

See also: Zucchini Companion Plants: Best and Worst Choices

Finding the best neighbors for kale to keep bugs away can protect your harvest in numerous ways. Some 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.

Fortunately, the vegetable has very few plants that are harmful to its growth or that compete for soil nutrients.

  • 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. Moreover, this veggie grows well in pots or planters.

As long as the soil is nutrient-rich, loamy, and well-drained, it typically grows to healthy maturity.

Including various crops, whose soil and light needs are similar, as neighbors will 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 per plant and water well. However, if two seedlings appear, remove the weaker-looking sprout.

As the time to replant outside nears, begin placing the seedlings outside to 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. When puddles remain after watering, the soil is not draining properly.

In the garden, 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 herbs and veggies to improve plant health and stability.

2. Care and Maintenance

If you’re cultivating kale from mature seedlings, expect a 30-40 day growing period.

If you sowed seeds directly into the ground, you should see mature kale a little later — 55-75 days after.

Mulch around the base of the plants to protect from warmer days and cool nights, 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 fares better than other cabbages when it comes to pests and disease, but they’re not invincible.

Slugs are easily picked from plants by hand, but slug traps are a good idea if the insects are too numerous.

Birds also like kale, so if they’re taking advantage, you can protect the plants with netting or row covers. These barriers can also protect crops from whiteflies, aphids, and flea beetles.

4. Harvesting 

Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are the size of a hand. The leaves should be cut away in layers, leaving the rest of the plant to continue to mature.

You can use a knife to cut the leaves away or pull them off using a twisting motion.

The smaller leaves are perfect for salads and eating raw. Larger leaves are better cooked in soups or like spinach.

The cooking tenderizes the larger leaves and removes bitterness, but it’s a good idea to cut off thicker ribs and stems. It 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”, so it can lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.

Where to Buy Seeds?

Finding kale and other seeds can be as easy as buying 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.

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 summer temperatures are the plant’s biggest enemies. Therefore, consider growing kale 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.

Maintain plant health with regular watering and mulching then enjoy all the healthful benefits and flavor this vegetable brings to the table.

Image via Flickr

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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