With all of north New Jersey in the deep freeze it may seem odd to be thinking about the vegetable garden, but hey; gardeners are like that. When one remembers that certain crops like kale - just to choose an example - can be seeded 6 full weeks before the last anticipated frost date and started indoors 3 to 4 weeks prior to that it becomes clear that it is time to get the first seed order in the mail.
Kale has been on the human menu for a very long time. This close cousin of the cabbage has been cultivated for well over 2000 years and was picked opportunistically in Mediterranean countries for thousands of years before that. It is kale’s ability to also thrive in cold weather that has led to its popularity in northern growing zones.
For a truly early spring kale crop simply locate the last frost date for your area using the charts to be found on any seed company website. Count back 9 weeks from that date. This yields the date when the plants should be started in 4” pots indoors in lightly fertilized potting soil. The seedlings will emerge in about a week, and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks after that. Average soil with lots of compost is an ideal medium.
Kale will tolerate partial shade.
One problem may arise – the ground may still be frozen, and the compost pile as well! Not to worry. Cover both the compost pile and the patch of ground where the kale will be planted with clear industrial strength plastic film and the sun will defrost both locations in a few sunny days.
When the soil may be comfortably worked simply install the seedlings in their garden home, water, and wait. 50 days later you and your family will be enjoying tasty, nutritious kale.
Oh, a word about nutrition. Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables available. Kale is rich in calcium, B-6 and magnesium and is a veritable powerhouse as a source of vitamins A, C and K. Kale is loaded with antioxidant phytonutrients and compounds like carotenoids, flavonoids, lutein and zeaxthin. These latter substances are useful in cancer prevention, lowering the "bad" cholesterol, and promoting healthy vision. This is one healthful veggie!
Rarely is a vegetable this tasty so good for one’s health. Why not plan on growing some of this early bird leafy green veggie in your spring garden?
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