Kale is a super nutritious green that has grown in popularity over the last several years. Versatile in everything from soups to snack chips, your choices when eating kale are abundant. And what's more fun than eating food you've planted and harvested yourself? But what if you don't live where you can have a large garden and need to grow indoors? How can you grow kale indoors from seed?
Kale is a relatively easy plant to grow indoors in containers and easy to start from seed. It only takes a few simple steps:
- Choose the type of kale seed
- Fill your seed starting containers with a nutrient-rich vegetable potting soil
- Bury your seeds 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch deep
- Place in a sunny location with 8 hours of direct sunlight
- Thin the seedlings after they've come up in about 2 weeks
- Water to keep moist but not wet
- Transplant the seedlings to larger containers after 4-6 weeks.
Can Kale Be Grown Indoors?
The good news is that, yes, you can grow kale indoors or in containers on a balcony or patio. The main considerations will be your space and your available light.
Choose Your Type of Kale Seed
Some kale varieties that grow in outdoor gardens can get quite large, as much as 3 feet high with a span of two feet. But there are dwarf varieties that are super for container vegetable gardens. When picking out your seed, you should keep the mature size of the plant in mind.
Dwarf Blue Curl Kale
Dwarf Blue Curl Kale is a great choice for containers. It's easy to grow and a reliable compact variety. If you're just getting started this is probably a great choice for you.
Premier Kale is another great variety for container-growing. This smooth leaved variety is compact with leaves that only get up to about a foot long. This is also a high-yielding variety which is awesome for your pantry.
Red Russian Kale
Red Russian Kale seeds do get a bit larger, so if space is a concern, stick with the first two options. But if you have a balcony or patio then consider this lovely variety. The color is amazing and they grow to be about two feet tall. But despite their size, this is tender kale and will provide beautiful color outside of the spring flower season.
The best time to plant your seeds is from early spring to early summer which will allow you to harvest into the winter if you take care of your kale.
Choosing The Right Soil
Kale is an easy plant to grow and is pretty unfussy and pretty much any potting soil for vegetables will do. You can always add some perlite to the bottom of the pots to help with drainage.
When you put your seeds into the seed cups, be sure and bury them at least 1/4" deep and no more than 1/2" into the soil for best luck with germination. The best thing about this approach is that you really won't have to worry about pests like you would by planting kale outdoors. No aphids or cabbage worms to worry about if you've bought clean soil.
Here's a good neutral PH potting soil that has great draining properties. It absorbs 33% more moisture which helps prevent root rot and keeps your veggies happy in their containers.
Does Kale Need Direct Sunlight?
Yes, kale does like sunlight — specifically around eight hours a day. If you have south-facing windows with space for plants, you're in luck. But if not, no worries. There are tons of great full-spectrum grow lights available to give plants a chance indoors.
Moveable and adjustable grow lights can emulate sunlight for indoor spaces that might be a little dark. You'll need this additional light if you want to be successful in growing kale without access to natural light.
Thin Your Seedlings
The germination time for your kale seeds is from 7 days to 14 days. As your seedlings start to grow, you'll want to thin out the smaller seedlings and make space for those that are heartier to grow and thrive without crowding them out. This practice will give the ones you leave the best chance to turn into excellent kale plants for you.
How Often Do You Water Kale?
Kale likes to be moist but not soaking. Like any indoor plant, you'll want to check the soil on a fairly regular basis to make sure it's not gotten too dried out. Keep the soil moist and your greens will stay happy.
The Right Temperature For Growing Kale
Another consideration besides water and sunlight is the correct temperature for kale. Kale likes things a bit cool. Mid 60s during the day and in the 50s at night. If you live in a hot climate, you might consider growing kale from late summer through early spring. Or, if you have a cool basement and a grow light that might be a perfect spot for your containers of this plant.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Kale Indoors?
As we previously mentioned, the germination time for your kale seeds is from 7-14 days. At about six weeks you'll want to move your kale to larger pots (we suggest 8-12" pots). If you want micro-greens, you can start initial harvesting at this time, but for full-grown kale, you'll want to wait a couple of months.
Terra Cotta Nursery Pots like these are an affordable and easy way to get started with your indoor garden. Plenty of pots for transplanting your gorgeous little seedlings.
Don't forget to pick up some drip trays along with the pots so that you keep your floors clear of water and filtering soil. These are super affordable and come in a variety of sizes to make your veggie growing life easy as snap peas.
Harvesting Your Kale
When your kale is ready to eat, you'll want to cut what you need and leave some of the rest. Some people favor cutting off the newer growth because they feel it is more tender, but the larger outer leaves work great for soups and stews.
If you leave the outer leaves for too long, they may have a tendency to get too tough and bitter to be enjoyable. But you don't want to take more than half of the plant at any time so that it will continue to replenish. Toward the end of your growing season, go ahead and harvest it all so that it can go dormant before going to seed.
Eating Your Kale
If you're looking for great kale recipes, simply head to the web. Here's a great post from Bon Appetit with 47 different recipes to make from the kale that you've grown. You'll want to dive right into these delicious dishes. Happy eating!
If you enjoyed this leafy green post, please check out these others we think you'll enjoy below: