Fall Planting of Kale and Mustard Greens

David Trammel's picture

ClareBroommaker said in said in my Tiny Flowers, Tiny Bees thread:

"Many mustard family plants do well started from seed in mid-summer for a fall harvest. I think my mother always grew kale for autumn, rather than for spring or summer. Maybe your kale seed can sprout right away. I know I plan to sprinkle some mustard greens (Florida Broadleaf is my easy cleaning favorite) for fall this year. They grow much cleaner for me in fall-- no mildew problems as in spring."

She was pointing out the many seed pods in this photo:

Since I have 6 two gallon planters with kale and mustard greens in flowers. I decided to try her suggestion for a Fall harvest of both plants.

I cleaned out the old plants in 4 planters, keeping the old drier seed pods on stalks. I kept them separate and I am going to plant the seeds that were in each planter, in that planter, so that any earlier seed fall, won't be outliers once the new seeds sprout.

Here is one cleaned planter with seed pods.

(picture of my toes thrown in for free)

There are about 40 or so seed pods, normally way more than you would want to seed in such a small planter BUT, given my experimentation with micro greens, I think I will use them all, and wait until the seeds sprout. I'll let them go to about micro green height, then harvest all but 3-4 plants. Those I'll let grow to maturity.

Here are the seeds in the planter with the empty seed pods thrown in as future organic compost:

Since I had problems with surface sowing in my micro green flat, I took a moment and lightly stirred the soil, hoping this gets some of the seeds deeper.

Here's the new planters:

I'll post pictures when they sprout.

I am pretty sure that the monthly alternating harvest is based on the application of fertilizer and the perfect soil temperature for rapid germination. You might be able to achieve it if you use black plastic buckets which will trap more solar heat and the soil is not wanting for any nutrients.

David Trammel's picture

The containers initially had about a third of their dirt replaced by a high quality compose I get at the local nursery before i planted the seeds, so they should have plenty of nutrients. Its also Summer here and they have been getting plenty of Sun and good watering from both rain and me.

I'm hesitant to go to black plastic pails, just because they might trap too much heat.

I could try an experiment with one container white and one black, with a fixed watering schedule. Then get both themometers and moisture gages, to see what kind of differnece it makes. I'm not sure if the information would be that valuable, since its easier to just allow a 6 week rotation by adding a couple of more containers to the mix.

I've been running a similar experiment indoors with green house flats.


The seeds there were surface sown, not stirred into the dirt but they ended up with very slim tall stems. With the early results so far, I'm leaning towards ditching the flats and using the 2 gallon containers instead.

For one thing, they can live outside much better than the flats. They have the weight to ignore a brisk wind and I doubt anyone passing by would mess with them. I've had containers in the garden the last two years with no theft or vandelism.

I do think I would need to only fill the containers to within 4-5 inches, rather than the 1-2 I do now. That extra space would allow me to cover the tops with some clear plastic sheeting to keep humidity high while the seeds sprout and enough room for the plants to get more robust before removing the plastic.

David Trammel's picture

So the seeds were planted on the 29th of July, it is now the 16th and here's what we have so far.

As you can see quite a bit of growth so far. They are packed in there pretty tightly but that's what we want with microgreens.

Remember these have been outside getting sunlight for 12-14 hours a day and natural rainfall (and some additional watering by me if it goes too many days without rain.

Here's the container with the older plant still in it.

The new plants are from self seeding, aka any seed pod that opened and dropped a few into the container.

I'll keep everyone informed as we get towards the one month marker. Ideally by Labor Day (September 2nd), we should be able to harvest some leaves. Tutorials I've read imply you can rotate and harvest on a monthly basis but I am starting to think its more likely a 6-8 week cycle.

David Trammel's picture

Ok its been a month since I planted the containers and here is what we have so far.

A good start and alot of plants but still too early to do a harvest.

And it looks like the plants in the third container were Mustard Greens. They have the distinctive look of their leaves that the Mustard Greens I planted in the Spring looked like.

They came up very fast compared to the Kale so they may be a plant to pick for fast germination and growth.

One problem I do see is accidental visitors, that is seeds that get blown in and might not be the kind you want to eat. I think seeding and germinating inside for the first week, with a plastic covering over the container might be the best way to go. That and replacing the top inch or so of dirt with fresh soil out of the bag, to prevent unwanted seeds.

I'm going to wait another two weeks and then see what a harvest of the Kale produces.