Time to Mow Down Your Kale

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman
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Is your kale patch looking like a breeding ground for Japanese beetles? A gardening friend was looking for organic solutions to this problem. I surprised him with my response: mow it down. Not the most assertive kind of pest management, but sometimes it does not make sense to fight. Come August, it might just be time to let go of your kale patch. Kale is a lovely spring crop, with a mild flavor and full, tender leaves. It is good to us in early summer too, replacing clipped leaves with young new ones at an impressive rate. It makes you feel like it could keep going all season long. You start to rely on your kale patch, expecting it to always be there for your green smoothies and kale chips. By now though, the plant is mature and losing its ability to fend off the pests. With a weakened over-the-hill plant, the pests are able to dominate with an infestation. As for your kale, it was good while it lasted. But nothing is that easy for long. Except maybe chard.

Chard will go through the summer hot months like nothing changed. We grow a chard called Perpetual Spinach. Confusing, right? My opinion: It is wrong to name a chard variety “spinach”, as if nobody noticed it is chard. Isn’t that like using the word “butter” in the name for your margarine? It should be illegal. There is valid inspiration — it is a chard that is more delicate than usual, more like spinach than the average chard. But do not be misled, it is not spinach. It is chard. Granted, a spinach-like chard that keeps going and going. Thus, entitled Perpetual Spinach. Most years, our chard patch will prevail to cover the month of August between kale plantings.

So if your kale patch is looking like a breeding ground for Japanese beetles, consider mowing it down and planting a new fresh fall crop. We plant trays and then transplant seedlings. But you could start the seeds directly in the ground too. Do this in early August for a September crop. You will have young tender kale leaves in September that will take you through the frost and beyond. And meanwhile, eat chard.  

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and House in the Woods, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to House in the Woods.

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