Kale – Red Russian



Kale – Red Russian is a very attractive and frost hardy kale.  Crops over a long period with purple/green leaves.  Can be harvested throughout the winter.  Highly recommended by Fionnuala Fallon from the Irish Times.


April to June.

Sow one seed per module about 1.5cm deep and about 4 weeks later plant out.


Between rows: 50cm

Between plants in the row: 50cm

Approx. seed count: 50

Growing Kale – Red Russian
Latin name:  

Brassica oleracea Acephala Group


Brassicaceae (also known as Cruciferae)

Related to:  

Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, radish, turnip, swede.

Botanical classification: 

Brassica derives from the Celtic bresic, the name for cabbage.

Oleracea means ‘as a herb’ – the wild cabbage.  Acephala means ‘without a head’.


Kale – Red Russian is one of the hardiest winter vegetables and one of the easiest to grow.  It seems to be much less plagued by all the brassica pests and diseases.  I just wish we could like it more.  Some varieties of kale, such as Redbor F1 and Nero di Toscana, are so attractive looking that they would deserve a prime place in your flower garden.


The kale is the most similar plant to the wild ancestor of so many cultivated brassicas – Brassica oleracea – which still grows wild on the western coasts of Europe.

It was already grown in Roman times.

Soil and site:

Kale – Red Russian prefers a fertile, deep soil with high moisture retention. The soil should be free draining and kale will tolerate poorer soils than most brassicas.  The ideal pH is 6.5-7.0.


Kale can either be raised in a seed bed as bare root transplants or in modular trays.  If raised in modular trays it is essential that they are planted out before they become pot bound.  I find that modular grown plants establish much easier.  I sow one seed per cell 2cm deep.

Sow early varieties in mid April until June.


Between plants: 50cm

Between rows: 50cm


It is absolutely essential to keep kale in the brassica section of your rotation to prevent a build up of the numerous brassica pests and diseases.

Plant care:

Apart from keeping the soil well hoed and weeded you should    remove any discoloured lower leaves from the plant to improve the air-flow through the crop and thus minimise pests (aphids) and diseases (moulds).

 Harvesting and storing:

Kale is such a forgiving plant.  With kale you could neglect it for months and still get many dinners out of it.  Therefore, you should start harvesting the bottom leaves first.  You can take a good few each time but you should always leave the top 8 leaves to grow on.

Potential problems:

Kale- Red Russian is the easiest and healthiest brassica you can grow.  It will suffer from all the common brassica problems but generally to a much lesser extent.

How much to grow?

If you eat kale regularly three plants are sufficient, if you want them for the occasional meal 1 or 2 plants will do.


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