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Flowering Cabbage or Kale: A Unique Way of Welcoming the Fall and/or Spring

Written by Mindy on October 24th, 2011

This plant has several different names. Both of these plants can be found under the name ornamental or flowering cabbage or kale. Genetically both the flowering cabbage and kale are the same and scientifically are known as Brassica oleracea var. acephala.

USDA officers discovered these plants in Asia in 1929. These officers where sent to this country to search for new and unique plants. In 1936, the seeds of these plants begin to appear in gardening catalogues.

While both the flowering cabbage and kale are genetically identical, there does exist a difference in appearance. Flowering cabbage has wavy edges while kale has ruffled edges. Both of these plants start out green but as chlorophyll production decreases with the reduction of sunlight, the color changes. The “bloom” or the center of the plant can change from green to white, pink, purple and red.

Both of these plants love cool weather and will thrive down to 20 F degrees. In area of the country that does not receive a “killing frost”, flowering cabbage and/or kale can be grown year-round.

Flowering cabbage and/or kale can be started by seed. To begin the process, count back six to 10 weeks before the frost date. Once you have a date, you can decide if you want to directly plant or start indoors.

Direct sowing of the seed consists of creating rows that are shallow in depth and 18 to 24 inches apart. Once this is done, deposit a seed every six inches but do not cover with soil. Flowering cabbage and kale seeds need light to germinate.

If starting indoors, calculate the date as above and seed in pots that are six to eight inches in diameter or in flats. If a flat is used, keep in mind that neither flowering cabbage nor kale does well when transplanted as seedlings. Once the container has been chosen, fill with an all-purpose potting soil mixed with compost. After the container has been seeded, place in the refrigerator for three days to speed up germination.

If you choose to purchase flowering cabbage and/or kale, pick the biggest that you can find. Most of the plants grown in containers have already reached their mature size.

Both of these are very flexible in their placement and use. They are at home in the landscape as a border plant and in container gardens. When deciding on placement, make sure that the soil is rich in compost, drains well and is in a sunny location.

A very unique aspect of both flowering cabbage and/or kale is the fact that it is edible. Both of these plants are high in vitamins A, K, C, B6, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and fiber.

A unique way of using flowering cabbage and/or kale is through the creation of a salad bowl planter. This is easily done and can be used as a unique way of presenting a salad course. To begin the process, one must first chose the right plant material. If any plant is going to be consumed, it needs to be grown organically. Your local home improvement center or garden store may not carry organically grown seeds or plants. So take the time to find a local source or grow your own from organic seed.

The next step is in the choice of your container. Since this is going to be a short-lived type of planting, one can literally chose a large salad bowl or mixing bowl for the container. There is no need to worry about drainage since the purpose for this project is to create a living and edible salad bowl not a long-term arrangement.

flowering cabbageAfter you have chosen your container, the next step is to get your soil. A good, all-purpose potting soil mixed with compost will work if the container garden is going to be around for one month or longer. If it is going to be used within a week, a different technique can be used.

Once the soil has been purchased or you have created your own, the next step is to create your design. When planning your design, think about the greens that you like in your salad bowl during the spring and fall. This includes Bibb lettuce, which comes in both red and green varieties, turnip greens, and mustard greens.

After you have an idea of what you would like to add to your salad bowl planting, the next step is to get the seeds or plants. Again, they need to be organic. If you do not have the time to grow the seeds, consider raiding your own garden space for these plants. Many gardeners plant Cole or cool season crops in the spring and/or fall.

Take advantage of these plantings by simply digging them up to add to your container garden.Another consideration that one may not consider is the fact that there are edible flowers that like thecool weather and can add color to your container garden. Some of these are herbs, such as chives, while others are more traditional flowers, such as pansies. Again, if you use these plant materials make sure that they are organically grown.

Once you have decided on plant material and have assembled all your supplies, it is time to begin planting. Fill the container half way with the potting soil mixture; remove plants from their containers and place in salad bowl planter. Fill in around the plant material and gently firm down. Water the container slowly until the soil is uniformly moist.

If the salad bowl planter is going to be used in one week’s time, there is no need to “plant it.” Instead try this trick. Assemble all your plant material except the soil. In place of the soil, you will need sphagnum moss. To begin the process, first place a stone in the bottom of the salad bowl container. This will add weight to the container and create a platform that you can build upon. Arrange the plants in their containers inside the salad bowl container. Once you have the plant arrangement the way you like it, fill in with sphagnum moss. This will help conserve moisture in the design while giving it a finished look.
To use this design, simply place on the serving table with bowls. Supply several pairs of scissors and allow your guest to “pick” their own fresh salad.

Once all the salad material has been picked, do not throw the plant material in the trash. Instead, place any leftover plant material in the compost along with the soil.


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