Tuesday, 31 March 2009


One of the aims I have always had with this blog is to make it a kind of resource for anyone else who might want to grow vegetables in containers on a fairly large scale. I'm not sure if I ever will get round to writing my single 'definitive' guide to what I have found works and what doesn't, but I can at least add to it by talking about my kale.

I put five plugs of kale in one of my large planters back in September. At the time, I didn't have huge hopes of a great harvest, or even much confidence that kale could actually be grown in a container. What I did want was something to grow over the winter and occupy some compost that would otherwise just get waterlogged and mouldy. Initially, my kale experiment was a constant battle with cabbage whites and their wretched caterpillars (surprising, I know), who munched one plant into oblivion, but after the first frosts in October I stopped having to mount a daily counter-attack. Since then, the kale has been growing slowly but steadily until they reached a fairly respectable size. The lack of space meant that two plants of the four were clearly 'dominant', but even the weedy ones produced a reasonable number of leaves. We have had kale twice with dinner so far, and I reckon there are probably another two servings on the plants. Admittedly the leaves are more like 'baby' kale than the kind of whoppers generally seen on allotments, but hey, the last time I checked supermarkets were charging twice as much for 'baby' sweetcorn, carrots and beans as they were for the full-sized version, so why not do the same for kale

In summary, container grown Kale is clearly never going to reach the large size of a plant in the ground. There just isn't the space for the roots. On the other hand, kale does seem happy enough to grow to a medium-sized plant with perfectly tasty leaves in quite cramped conditions, and more importantly, will occupy a planter all the way through from September to March, a time when little else will occupy those expanses of compost outside the front door. At six portions of fresh veg for about £1.50's worth of plugs, I imagine that I broke even with the cost, but this doesn't take into account the pleasure of having something growing over the winter and the convenience of being able to space the harvest out, rather than buying a big bag and then having to eat kale every night for a week.

I would normally here include a photo, but we ate too many of the leaves before I thought of writing this post, and the remaining kale looks rather like it suffered from a visit from the Very Hungry Caterpillar and is consequently not terribly photogenic.

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