Nero di Toscana or otherwise known, Cavolo Nero, is another excellent old Italian heirloom that has been much loved for its cultivation and cuisine and has stood the test of time since the 18th century.
Deeply savoyed, long, dark green leaves in an architectural upright form, look fantastic interplanted with flowers, herbs and other vegetables. It's legacy and versatility in the Italian and modern kitchen are well known, and its ease of growth and ability to crop through the early spring “hunger gap” makes this kale a must-have. Cavolo Nero are open-pollinated so save your seeds for next year!
- Pack size: 100 seeds
- Time to germination: 7 - 14 days
- When to sow: February - May
- When to plant out: March - June
- Spacing: 45cm
- Soil preference: Fertile, firm and moisture retentive
- Light preference: Full sun, part shade
- When to harvest: September - May
How to grow Kale Cavolo Nero or Nero di Toscana from seed
Kale is best sown in 3cm coco pots rather than directly in the bed. Poke a hole 1cm deep and sow two seeds, gently covering and watering in. Kale germinates anywhere between 5 and 30 degrees, so room temperature is sufficient.
Place pots on a windowsill or under grow lights to establish and bulk up, then thin to one plant and transplant outside when they are 10cm or have 5 or 6 leaves. This usually occurs 6 weeks after sowing. All plants suffer transplant shock, however kale somewhat more so, therefore avoid root disturbance by burying the coco pot with the plant The roots will easily penetrate the walls for a faster establishment.
Once growing, Cavolo Nero needs little attention. Water during dry periods, remove yellowing leaves and weed a little, early on, as kale will quickly shade these out.
Harvest this easy-going leafy green as a microgreen, baby leaf or when mature. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller leaves are more tender than larger ones, so aim to harvest when they’re the size of your hand.
To ensure your kale grows back all season long, pick the lowest largest leaves first and avoid the central bud. Always leave enough foliage, so the plant has the means to regrow as well!
What to feed your kale plants
All kales are heavy feeders, however, are tolerant of less fertile soils. It is said that aphids are attracted to weaker pants and growth is faster and larger if well-fed, so we suggest amending the area before transplanting with a good mix of rotten farmyard manure for nitrogen, as well as fish, blood and bone meal with some volcanic rock dust and kelp powder to give them a rich, balanced and diverse diet released over the season for strong organic growth.
Keeping pests away
Compared to others in the brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and so on), kale suffers slightly less from pests and diseases; however, they aren’t without predators.
Garden pests enjoy kale seedlings. As such, we recommend starting them off indoors and under lights to ensure a compact, healthy seedling that is large and sturdy enough to survive an encounter with a slug or pigeon.
The other pest worth a mention is the caterpillar. Pleasant white butterflies dance around your summer plot dipping onto brassicas to lay their eggs. Their offspring can decimate a crop if left unchecked. If you have a healthy resident bird population, these are less of a problem. Limit infestations by means of physical exclusion, or scatter plant single kale plants in different garden areas.
Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural soil born bacteria 100% safe to insects, bees, fish and other aquatic organisms and mammals including humans. Diluted in water and sprayed onto the underside of your cavolo nero kale leaves, it is deadly to caterpillars. While this organic remedy works effectively, we recommend avoiding planting kale in blocks and rows to keep this easy-going veg low maintenance. Grow Sow Greener is a regenerative gardening company advocating back to the roots tried and tested methods. We don’t advocate the use of or sell any extremely profitable pesticides, herbicides or inorganic fertilizers. They are detrimental to the health of your entire garden ecosystem from microbe to mammal.
Rather, encourage birds, hedgehogs and toads to take up residence, all voracious predators of snails and slugs. Provide a water source, shelter and winter food for birds as well. When ordering Cavolo Nero seeds from Grow Sow Greener, you will receive free sunflower seeds loose in the pack. Plant a handful of seeds into a sunny corner to attract beneficial insects during the summer months, and then their seed heads will provide a great source of food for your overwintering feathered friends.