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Is there anything more satisfying at Christmas than some homegrown vegetables being served at the dinner table? There’s something wholly enjoyable about harvesting produce over the winter months, perhaps because there is less available, it makes the harvest all the more special. In the run-up to the festivities it can be hard to find the time to get outside into the garden and if the weather is a bit glum, it’s much more tempting to stay inside and enjoy decorating the Christmas tree, but there are so many reasons to still get outside and one of them is if you have winter vegetables growing.
Pulling up leeks from the winter soil, digging up cabbages and popping sprouts off the stalk are some of the most enjoyable times on the allotment for me. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the chill on my face and blowing away the cobwebs is a great way to get prepared for the Christmas feast. Cold as it is, it can be invigorating too! It’s also the perfect time to pick Kale leaves and add them to just about any dish.
Kale is a superfood and it’s one of the easiest leafy green (or purple) veggies to grow. If you sow throughout the year, it’s possible to be harvesting it from January through to December. Kale tolerates sun and part shade, it handles a frost pretty well and once matured, needs very little attention.
Sow at intervals between March to the end of June either outside or undercover in the Rhino Greenhouse. If you have the space, seeds can be sown into a well-prepared seedbed directly where they will grow or if you have less space, sow them somewhere out of the way and transplant them when they are bigger. They are slow to grow so if you don’t want to waste any space in the meantime, that's a good option. I always start mine in modules in the greenhouse from early spring, they grow strong and get hardened off before planting out. Ultimately they do need space of about 45cm between plants which allows good airflow and helps to prevent mildew problems. A mulch of organic matter will help to retain moisture in the soil as they grow.
Don’t forget if you sow them outside, to use the thinnings in your cooking - no need to waste any at all. Kale ‘Cavolo Nero’ is a popular choice and one of my favourites is ‘Redbor’ which is particularly reliable and strong. A particularly pretty looking Kale is ‘Red’ Russian’ with crinkly foliage and purple veins. It’s a little softer than some cultivars and can be eaten in salads when the leaves are young.
Enjoy your greens this Christmas!