Kale plants grow naturally as a biennial. In the first year, leafy greens grow. In their second year, kale plants go to seed. Most people grow kale as an annual, since it only produces edible kale leaf during the first year. You can harvest kale all throughout the first year of growth. Just don’t cut the terminal bud in the center. Kale plants will produce edible leaves until below-freezing temperatures arrive. Then, they come back the next year to produce seeds. In the second year, the plant bolts, which makes the leaves taste woody and bitter.
Table of Contents
How Long Can You Harvest Kale?
You can harvest kale all throughout its first year of growth by following our guide to harvesting kale so it keeps growing. Start picking the outermost leaves after 20 days of growth to enjoy baby greens. Mature greens are ready to pick after 50 days. Harvest your plants weekly to keep enjoying fresh leafy greens all season.
- You can harvest your kale plants through their first year of growth.
- Pick the outermost leaves at 20–50 days to enjoy baby or full-size greens.
- Repeat the harvests weekly to keep enjoying fresh greens all season.
- Do not bother harvesting kale leaves in the second year of growth.
- Second-year kale leaves will have a bitter taste and woody texture after the plant bolts.
Do not harvest kale leaves in their second year of growth. The plants start bolting right away to produce seeds. When that happens, the leaves get bitter and woody. They are not good to eat after that point.
Will Kale Grow All Year Long?
Kale can grow all year long in areas that do not get too cold. They can withstand temperatures below 28°F (-2°C) and heavy frost conditions. The plants will usually go dormant when snow covers the ground.
- Kale grows all throughout the year in areas that do not get too cold.
- These plants can withstand heavy frost conditions and temperatures below 28°F (-2°C).
- Your kale may go dormant when temperatures dip below freezing.
- You can harvest your plants weekly while keeping them growing strong.
- Remove up to 1/3 of the outermost leaves each week while avoiding the terminal bud.
You can still harvest your kale plants weekly while keeping them growing through the year. Just remember to only take 1/3 of the outermost leaves each time. Also, avoid disturbing the terminal bud as you cut the leaves.
Does Kale Grow Back the Next Year?
Kale will grow back the next year. As a biennial plant, it grows leaves for one season. Then, it comes back to bolt and goes to seed in the second year. After that, the plant naturally dies. In areas without snow cover or extreme cold, the plant may just keep growing for two years total.
- Kale will grow back after the first year.
- As a biennial plant, it grows for two seasons total.
- The first season produces leafy greens, while the second is for growing seeds.
- Kale leaves are not good to eat after the plant bolts in the second year.
- Only grow kale into the second year if you want to collect seeds from your plants.
Although kale comes back for a second year, its leaves are not good to eat after the first season. The leaves turn bitter and woody when the plant bolts. For that reason, many gardeners grow it as an annual plant. The only reason to keep it growing through the second year is to collect seeds. You can then use those seeds to plant more kale in the future.
Do Kale Plants Keep Producing Every Year?
Kale only produces tender, delicious leaves in the first year. The second year of growth is for producing seeds. The leaves turn bitter and woody after the plant bolts. Most people grow kale as an annual as a result.
- Kale produces tasty leaves in its first year only.
- The second year of growth is for seed production.
- After the plants bolt, the leaves taste bitter and woody.
- Keep harvesting the leaves through the winter if you can.
- The cold temperatures give the leaves a much sweeter flavor.
Growing kale in areas without snow cover will let you collect leaves through the winter. Don’t miss these frosty treats. The cold weather triggers the leaves to produce more sugar. So, kale leaves have a much sweeter taste after the first frost.
Does Kale Keep Growing in the Winter?
Kale only keeps growing through the winter in areas without snow. The snow cover causes the plants to go dormant. Then, they will stop growing leaves above ground. The roots will push up new leaves the next spring. After that, the plants will bolt and go to seed.
- Kale grows through the winter in areas that do not get snow cover.
- Snow on the ground causes kale plants to go dormant in the winter.
- Your kale plants will resume their growth in the spring after the last frost date passes by.
- Kale plants go to seed in their second year, and then die after the seeds mature.
- The plants grown from your seeds may differ from their parent plant.
Your kale plants will not live through the second winter. The plants die once their seeds reach full maturity. You can collect the seed at that point. Then, use them to grow new plants. Kale tends to cross-pollinate. So, the plants grown from your seeds may differ from the parent plant.
How Long Can You Keep Kale in the Garden?
You can keep kale in the garden for up to two years. The first year of growth will produce tasty leaves. The second year is for growing seeds. Expect your plants to bolt right at the start of the second growing season. When that happens, the leaves are no longer good to eat.
- Kale will grow for up to 2 years in your garden.
- The first year of growth gives you plenty of delicious leaves.
- In the second year, your plants will focus on producing seeds.
- Grow your kale as annuals if you just want leaves from your plants.
- Seeds produced by kale may end up cross-pollinated.
Grow kale as an annual if you only want delicious leaves each season. Otherwise, plan to just collect the seeds at the end of the second year. The seeds may not produce the same plant as their parent. Cross-pollination can result in a wide variety of interesting traits.
No matter what approach you take, kale is quite rewarding to grow. The leaves always serve as a tasty addition to all your meals. Plus, the seeds offer opportunities to grow plants unique to your garden.