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Try These Kale Varieties For Colorful, Edible Gardens

Nagoya is a long-lasting, cool-season bedding kale that also adds interest to fall containers with its colorful, highly fringed leaves. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

I’m continuing to catch up with my landscape and garden work after an extremely busy fall and early winter season. This past weekend was perfect to get some much-needed cool-season color planted.

I’m going to continue the theme of last week’s column on enjoying an ornamental and edible garden and landscape.

The kale varieties I wrote about -- Winterbor, Starbor, and Redbor -- are not the be-all and end-all in the world of pretty and fancy-leaved kale that can be planted and enjoyed.

These kale varieties have been bred for a vibrant display of dazzling colors that range from snowy white to reds, pinks and purples and have ruffled, textured leaves and feathered leaf edges. Many of the selections in garden centers may seem, well, a little green, and you ask where the color is. As the temperature drops, the colors will develop.

Varieties that have been good performers in Mississippi include Nagoya, Chidori, and dinosaur kale.

Nagoya kale has a uniform rosette growth habit and produces colorful, attractive, fringed leaves. Combination plant this colorful flowering kale for the autumn to winter season with pansy and viola. Nagoya is a long-lasting, cool-season bedding plant that also adds interest to fall containers with its colorful, highly fringed leaves.

Chidori kale grows with its frilly and striated leaves tightly wrapped in an open head. The center leaves are composed of rich and bold shades of red, magenta and fuchsia with the outer layers of leaves being more bluish green.

One popular type of kale is Toscano, often called dinosaur kale, which has deeply blistered, almost greenish-black-tinted leaves. You will likely agree the leaves really look reptilian. This variety is called Black Magic and is packed with healthy flavor and beneficial phytonutrients.

Some of the best growth and performance I get is by planting kale in an EarthBox, which is my favorite home growing system. I really like seeing the Red Russian kale, destined for a winter recipe, all lined up growing in my EarthBoxes.

Droughty weather can happen in the winter season. Kale likes consistent soil moisture. A layer of mulch can help conserve soil moisture. Don’t forget that kale plants don’t like “wet feet,” so good bed drainage is essential.

Kale is actually a fairly heavy feeder. I like to add a tablespoon of a good slow-release fertilizer into each planting hole to get the plants off to a great start. Then, on a monthly schedule, I like to use water-soluble fertilizer. These applications will keep the plants healthy and strongly growing.

Even though many of these kale varieties have been known for their ornamental attributes, remember they are also edible. Many have a strong flavor that is pretty close to cabbage, which shouldn’t be a surprise as kale and cabbage are closely related. In fact, they have the same botanical name: Brassica oleracea.

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