How to grow African kale


IT is every farmer’s hope that after toiling in the fields, harvesting and marketing time brings forth full benefits for all the hard work.
As winter approaches, horticulture farmers are now preparing for winter cropping.
One vegetable that can be grown during winter is African kale which comes in two varieties, namely covo and chomolia.
These two main varieties are grown in different ways.
Chomolia has a shorter growing season and is grown from seeds yet covo can easily be propagated by cuttings and side shoots.
These vegetables form an important component of local households’ diet.
Below are points to consider when producing African kale:
Planting and site
African kale needs to be grown on fairly free draining soil with good soil fertility.
Manure should be applied beforehand.
For chomolia, sow seeds into modules or trays in May then transplant in June or July.
Plants should be spaced at 60 to 70cm both between and within rows.
Covo can only be grown from cuttings.
July and August is a good time to plant covo.
Small side shoots of about five to 10cm should be broken from a mature plant.
Stems should be trimmed back to a node, and any excess leaves removed so that there are two to three small leaves remaining.
Pests, weeds and diseases
African kale will succumb to all the normal pests and diseases that afflict brassicas.
At an early stage, the plants are tempting bird feed, so should be kept covered.
In a dry season, leaves may become infested with cabbage aphid, especially from August.
The plants should not be grown in an area where brassicas have been grown in the last four years to reduce the risk of club-root infestation.
Pest and disease prevention tips
Slugs: These chew smooth-edged holes in outer leaves.
Aphids: Sometimes feed in groups between the folds of leaves.
Try rinsing them away with a spray of cool water.
Natural predators such as syrphid fly larvae often bring the problem under control.
Prevent soil-borne diseases by growing African kale in the same spot no more than once every three years.
Watering and feeding
African kale have shallow roots, so it is important to keep the soil where they grow moist but not soggy.
Light, frequent watering will help the leaves develop quickly and produce a high-quality plant.
If you’re using fertiliser or compost in your garden, you will want to add more once the kale has grown to a few centimetres high.
Apply it to both sides of the rows where plants are growing.
This is called side-dressing.
Ideally, fertiliser recommendations should be based on the results of recent soil analysis done on representative soil samples.
Where vegetable crops are to be grown for the first time, or only sporadically, or on virgin soil, the importance of submitting representative soil samples for analysis and recommendations has to be emphasised.
Analysing soils before planting each crop, or at least annually, is recommended.
Obvious or serious nutrient deficiencies or imbalances may then be corrected before planting and any lime required could be applied.
Where vegetables have been grown intensively for some time with heavy fertiliser dressings, the soil nutrient status is likely to be more satisfactory.
While annual soil analysis would still be beneficial, submitting soil samples for analysis every two or three years may be adequate.
The objectives of such analyses are to correct imbalances of the major nutrients and to economise on fertiliser costs by applying only what is required.
In the high rainfall areas, soils tend to be inherently infertile and more acid.
Liming should be considered in these areas.
Because of leaching or non-availability of fixed elements, fertiliser requirements are also likely to be high, unless intensive cropping with adequate fertilisation has been practised for some time
In drier areas, lime and potassium are less likely to be needed in large quantities, if at all, but phosphorus will probably be deficient in virgin soils.
Where this inherent phosphorus deficiency has been corrected by high phosphate dressings, the fertiliser requirements are expected to be relatively low.
Obviously, on very poor soils, crop results would be improved by even higher fertiliser application rates.
Harvesting and storage
Leaves of both chomolia and covo can be cut when required, and will store for a few days under cool conditions.
Covo will continue to produce leaves over an extended period.
Leaves can be boiled and sun-dried for later use.
The leaves are commonly cooked in a sauce with peanut butter.
Additional information: