Saturday, August 18, 2012

Growing Kale in a Balcony Garden

Kale was definitely the 'in' green last year. If it was in highschool, this would be the newly popular kid. probably slightly hipster but full of knowledge and oozing cool (if that is actually possible.) It is a nutrient rich powerhouse and very versatile for cooking. The leaves can be wilted over a hot pan like spinach, or even thrown in soup/stirfries for a more earthy taste. Although the balcony garden would squarely sit in the nerdy corner at school I decided it was time to embrace the kale. First off the block was this one (up the back of the picture below), planted in with some lettuce and broccoli.

It grew well, and lasted many months, generally looking bushy like this. Kind of like silverbeet, it allowed me to take the leaves as I needed them.

Eventually the stem grew long, and the top resembled something you would find in a florist (adding to its popularity and versatility, kale was even the 'in' addition to bouquets last year.)

Then, it was time to go, and the kale, in its final repose, looked like this. Quite a dramatic haircut really!

However, never fear kale lovers - for this is not the only kale ont he balcony. I also have a red kale, planted much later, which is the new addition to kitchen funtimes.

 So what are the pros, the cons, and any key pointers for growing Kale in a balcony garden:

Pro: Just like other brassicas it is super nutritious, including vitamin C and other goodies. Of course some of these can get lost in the cooking, but it's better than a burger for you, that's for sure.

 Pro: It grows quickly, and is reasonably hardy. I didn't fertilise much, but did place it in good soil to start witgh. Therefore it is good for a low maintenance garden and no staking or trellising required.

Con: The green variety is snail heaven, and they'll munch on this as happily as you. Aphids also thought the green and the red were the best buffet ever, so vigilence, and possible spraying or other methods will most likely be on the cards.

Con: The taste isn't for everyone. It it very strong, and while I tolerate it in soups, as a side dish it was a little over the top for me. I prefer my brassicas to be of the broccoli kind. However, for those who don't mind the taste, or like their greens to be super strong then this is your leaf.

Point: It looks pretty, has a reasonably compact shape though can grow quite tall. It isn't massive like a purple sprouting broccoli, but does grow to a decent enough size so you should take care considering pot dimensions and placement.

Point: It comes in a few varieties, so if colour is your thing, or you like your veggies to be as ornamental as they are edible, then this gives you a few options

So there you have it. I'll probably grow kale again next winter season, and if I do it'll be in multiple varieties. The lovely other half enjoys it and I like it in recipes where it is not the sole ingredient. It is low maintenance (and goodness knows with starting teaching next year I'll need a low maintenance garden) and it looks darn pretty in my view.

Do you grow kale? Any more tips, points, pros or cons for the readers on this green leafy popular guy?


A Tiny Garden said...

I've only recently started growing kale - so its no where near as big as yours got, but as I spend so much on it I decided it was time to start growing it instead. I mostly use it in green smoothies (the other "in" thing for 2012), kale chips but occasionally add it to soup. My kale is almost ready to start pinching some of its leaves so I'm getting very excited!

ps - I've only just discovered your blog and can really identify with so many of your posts... I think my tiny little courtyard garden looks about the same size as your balcony - so i'm hoping I'll be able to get it to be as productive as you've been!

Daphne said...

I brought two dishes to a gathering of about 30 in spring. Kale and maple glazed carrots. I was shocked they finished the kale almost immediately. The carrots took a while to go. Everyone ate it and liked it. Just plain kale with some balsamic vinegar. Nothing special.