Friday, November 22, 2013

Kale Experiment

Down at our local community garden, the kale plants have grown into mini trees, some upwards of 5 feet tall. A that height, the plants are being blown over, plus they are getting awkward to harvest from. The community garden is presently growing replacement seedlings, thus the kale trees will soon be removed.
Something inside me wondered if perchance one could propagate new plants from those mightly kale stalks. Since kale does not flower here, purchasing seed from the mainland is the only way to grow it. Not very self sufficient, is it? So, if kale could be vegetatively propagated, it would be another small step towards self reliance.

This week when I harvested some kale for dinner, instead of just taking a few leaves, I chopped the entire top off the plant including a length of stem with it. 
After I took the leaves I wanted to eat, I then set about trimming up what was left, getting ready to try planting them. I removed most of the leaves (they would only wilt and die off anyway, sapping moisture away from the stem) and cut the stem into 6 inch long sections.
Down in the field garden I tilled and prepared a short section of bed, adding compost and removing any weeds. Once I was satisfied, I was ready the plant. I thought about using Rootone, but discovered that the bottle I had was empty. Thus this first planting attempt would be au rooting hormone.

I took each piece and pressed it down into the soil, leaving about 2 inches of stem above ground. With the leafless stem pieces, I needed to be sure to plant them the right direction instead of upside down. Luckily the leaf scar is crescent shaped making it easy to tell up from down. beds are 40 inches wide. Thus I opted to plant four cuttings across the bed about 10 inches apart. Each row of 4 was spaced about 12 inches apart. 
Once planted, the cuttings were watered in to make sure there was good soil contact around the stem pieces.

Now we wait and see what happens.


  1. I have never seen kale like that. What variety? I hope your experiment works!

  2. Looks like lancinato variety, also called dragon or Nero de Toscana, I think. I bet they grow, too. Maybe they could be started to grow, then transplanted? I water- rooted some cuttings of some mint with slow success, so that might work with kale, too. Hey, even the ones that don't root will join the compost bins, so you have to call this successful anyway. Maybe shade them a couple of days?

  3. Barry, you're right except that's its called dinosaur kale rather than dragon. Some people call it black kale. It is the mildest or sweetest of the kales and it pleasant to even eat raw. It's the only kale that my husband will eat. And it's very popular with the community garden volunteers.

    Leigh, I hope this works too. I'd like to find a way to propagate those veggies that won't go to seed here. If these cuttings root, especially without using rootone, I'll be thrilled. I've successfully rooted collards this way, so I have some hope for the kale.

    I planted these cuttings out in the sun section of the garden but I'm not concerned. Right now we are only getting clear sun until 10 a.m. Then it becomes overcast. So these cuttings are fairly protected. If we were in a full sun weather pattern, then I would have provided shade for them for a few weeks. So far they are looking pretty good. Time will tell.

  4. Hi, did the kale come up from the stalks you replanted? I'm asking because my kale looks just like yours and I would like to try this.

  5. Brittany, only the ones that were the tip cuttings rooted well. The ones that were just the stalks put out some roots but did poorly and eventually died.

    1. would it work if the kale was already flowering when taking cuttimgs?

    2. would it work if the kale was already flowering when taking cuttimgs?