Curly kale is a very cold hardy brassica, usually annual or biennial, that grows dense clusters of matte green leaves that fold inward on themselves in a fractal pattern. Some plants can reach up to a meter around, but many will stay at about half that size. The leaves are darker and thinner than those of sea kale.
Kale is very easy to start from seed, as seed will germinate over a wide range of temperatures so long as there is adequate moisture. They are not particularly picky about soil type, though good nitrogen content will help promote faster growth. Direct sun will produce the fastest growth, but partial shade will also produce good yields. Kale is very resistant to rabbit and deer forage, but can be subject to slug and caterpillar damage if not properly companion planted. Kale can be sown directly into the ground in early April as soon as the ground is thawed through the end of May, and can be harvested from July through March in many Zone 6. If you live more north, a cold frame or hoop house might be necessary for the deep winter months. When harvesting kale, use a sharp knife to cut the leaves off of the central stem, always cutting leaves off the bottom first and working up towards the terminal bud. Cutting the bottom leaves first encourages more growth from the top.
Kale is a tasty and incredibly nutritious vegetable that finds use in salads, soups, stir-fries, smoothies, and more; You can even bake them into crunchy and delicious kale chips! Kale is also a great way to get vitamins and minerals in the cold winter months when few other things can grow. Many kales are grown just for their ornamental value, and even the non-ornamental kales are a beautiful addition to any edible landscape.
Crimson clover fixes nitrogen that helps the kale grow, while also increasing the spider population, protecting the kale from slug and caterpillar damage . Shrubs like elderberry that attract birds also help manage pest damage.