With the right approach, you can easily harvest kale without halting its growth. To do that, just let the plants grow for 20–50 days. Then, cut the outermost leaves at the base. Don’t touch the central leaves. Repeat the process every week for continual harvests all season long. Remember to shield your plants from the weather. By doing that, there’s no limit to how many times you can harvest the leaves. Your kale will keep growing strong, too.
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5 Steps to Harvest Kale Without Killing the Plant
If you follow the correct process, you can continue harvesting kale throughout the growing season. You can then enjoy fresh kale weekly without having to reseed your garden. Want to harvest your kale without killing the plant? Here’s what to do:
Allow the Plants to Grow
Kale needs to grow for 20–50 days before you pick any leaves. The outer leaves will reach their full size in about 50 days. But if you want tender baby greens, harvest at 20 instead. Larger leaves work great for cooking. Baby greens make a fantastic salad.
Cut the Outermost Leaves at the Base
Only harvest the outermost leaves. Never pick more than 1/3 of the leaves off each plant. Cut each one at the base using garden shears. Avoid disturbing the roots while you cut. Always disinfect your shears after cutting your plants. Soak them in a 10% bleach solution for 30 minutes. Or wipe them down with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
Don’t Touch the Central Leaves
Do not touch the central leaves on your kale plants. The leaves grow outward from the center. Removing the terminal bud at the center of your kale will kill the plant. The plant also needs about 2/3 of its leaves to gather energy from the sun. Otherwise, it cannot properly complete the photosynthesis process.
Repeat Outer Leaf Removal Every Week
Remove the outer leaves on your kale plants once per week. Kale grows pretty quickly. So, the outer leaves should be at their full size at that point. Want baby leaves instead? Come grab leaves from your plants once every 5 days.
Protect Your Plants from the Weather
Protect your kale from the weather to keep it growing strong. Put mulch over the soil when temperatures rise above 80°F (26°C). The mulch will help keep the soil moist despite the heat. Cover the plants with row covers when the ground gets frosty. The covers help protect the leaves from frost burn.
Following these steps will allow you to enjoy healthy leaves without killing your kale plants. You can then enjoy fresh produce from your garden all season long.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Kale?
There’s no limit to how much you can harvest kale if you do it right. You must only pick the outermost leaves. Plus, keep your harvests to less than 1/3 of the plant. Never disturb the terminal bud or the roots either.
- There is no limit to how much you harvest kale plants—as long as you do it right.
- Only pick the outermost leaves, keeping 2/3 of the plant intact.
- Do not disturb the roots or any of the leaves in the center of the plant.
- Harvest your plants weekly to get fresh leaves to enjoy all season.
- Keep your kale fresh by properly preparing the leaves and storing them in the crisper.
You can harvest kale leafy greens weekly during the growing season. Keep your kale leaves fresh for up to 2 weeks by rinsing them off in cold water and allowing them to air dry. Then, wrap them in paper towels and put them in a zip-top bag. Store your kale in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.
Will Kale Keep Growing After Harvest?
Kale will keep growing after harvest if you leave the terminal bud intact. The terminal bud is the cluster of leaves at the center of the plant. The leaves grow outward from the bud all throughout the season.
- Kale will keep growing strong if you don’t disturb the terminal bud.
- The terminal bud is the small cluster of leaves at the plant’s center.
- Kale leaves grow outward from the center cluster all season long.
- Only pick 1/3 of the outermost leaves at each weekly harvest.
- The plant needs 2/3 of its leaves to properly complete photosynthesis.
Only pick the outermost leaves each week to keep the plant growing. The outermost leaves are the oldest on the plant. You can pick them at full maturity or as baby greens. Always leave 2/3 of the leaves on the plant. Otherwise, it won’t be able to get enough energy through photosynthesis.
What is the Best Way to Harvest Kale?
The best way to harvest kale is on an ongoing basis by:
- Allow your plants to grow for 20–50 days.
- Snip away 1/3 of the outermost leaves at the base.
- Leave the terminal bud intact to keep the plant growing strong.
- Repeat your harvests every week through the growing season.
- Protect your plants from harsh weather conditions.
By only taking a small portion of the leaves, you can enjoy fresh kale greens all season. You can keep your greens fresh in the crisper for up to 2 weeks. Rinse them thoroughly. Then, wrap them in paper towels and place them in a plastic bag.
You can then pull out the mature kale leaves whenever you want to cook with fresh greens. Or use the baby greens to create a delicious fresh salad on the fly. The sky is the limit in how you use your kale. So, keep the harvests going all season long and enjoy this versatile green every way imaginable.